Education Tech company, Thinkgate LLC, shut its doors this past week.
The company was located in Charlotte, North Carolina and provided a number of services to the North Carolina and other states. The company moved their headquarters to North Carolina just over a year ago.
My gut reaction to this news — is this the start of an education version of Solyndra?
According to Washington Post, Thinkgate was paid by some states with Race To The Top funds:
An education technology company has folded after receiving millions of dollars in federal Race to the Top funds to provide online assessments and other services to school districts.
Charlotte-based Thinkgate LLC shut down last week, according to state education officials in Ohio and Massachusetts, two states that used Race to the Top money to contract with the company.
Their joint contract with Thinkgate does not expire until the end of the school year, leaving some schools scrambling to fill the void left by the company’s closure and some parents concerned about the security of student data in the company’s systems.
The company also had statewide contracts in North Carolina and Illinois, and altogether served more than 500 education agencies and 3 million students, according to its Web site.
What does this mean for North Carolina Schools? Charlotte Business Journal offers this bit of information:
N.C. Department of Public Instruction spokeswoman Vanessa Jeter says the agency has been working through issues related to Thinkgate’s closure this week. Thinkgate has been the state’s software vendor for career and technical education assessments. The department is working on a transition plan with the Thinkgate system now shut down.
Thinkgate was a finalist for a North Carolina Technology Association Use of Technology Award in the education category in October.
For more on what the “career and technical education assessments” mentioned above are, hit CommonCoreDiva’s archive on the topic.
I hit Recover.gov and found that Thinkgate’s ARRA recovery fund grants total: $6,568,028
I then dug further into Thinkgate and pulled all the financial data I could find with ties to North Carolina.
The information for North Carolina is all over the place on multiple websites, but I located a few districts that seem to rely on Thinkgate which are Anson, Gaston, Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Mooresville. The latter two, CMS and Mooresville, more so than the first two.
With regard to Mooresville, it is worth noting that Superintendent Mark Edwards has a number of appearances on the Thinkgate blog. This goes hand in hand with Mooresville Graded School District (MGSD) attempts to convert all teaching to an all digital based format.
It is worth nothing that in 2013, President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited a Mooresville Middle School during their “Jobs and Opportunity” tour, which in part promoted the White House Initiative, ConnectED.
Follow the NC Thinkgate Money
NC Open Book lists two contracts. Total: $3,703,255.50.
- 5/7/10: $3,203,255.50 for On-Line Assessment Tool for Local Assessment
- 10/20/09: 500,000.00 for Soliciting a Computerized Instructional Management System
Looking through the contracts via the NC State Board of Education, these were the multiple listings that I found. Total: $8,764,492.43*
SBE Meeting 8/3-8/4/2011 – Total Cost of $3,668,045.00 (Federal )
SBE Meeting 3/2-3/3/2011 – Total Cost of $2,218,045.00 (Federal)
SBE Meeting 2/2-2/3/2011 – Total Cost of $2,218,045.00 (Federal)
SBE Meeting 10/6-10/7/2010 – Total Cost: $160,357.43 (Federal)
SBE Meeting 12/1-123/2009 – Total Cost: $500,000.00 (Federal)
*note: two of the contracts above appear to be identical dollar totals, but the purpose descriptions differ.
So What Now? What Happens to Thinkgate and the Data?
According to the NC Secretary of State, Thinkgate is an LLC.
I might be wrong, but as an LLC, this means Thinkgate can’t use the remedy of filing for chapter 13 bankruptcy. The two other options available to Thinkgate would be liquidation or reorganization.
The amount of student and teacher data that flowed through Thinkgate spans multiple states and potential impacts hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of kids and teachers.
What will happen to this data now that Thinkgate has gone under?
Will this data be sold like it was when ConnectEDU filed for bankruptcy as Missouri Education Watchdog reported?