Chatting it up with the leadership behind a veteran firm serving one-third of U.S. schools.
INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero
After joining a three-decades old education technology company used by more than one-third of U.S. schools, “One of my first steps was to meet the members of our purpose-driven team,” says Daniel Hamburger, who became CEO of Renaissance in July of 2017.
“I‘ve already visited all Renaissance North American locations, learning more about what makes this a great organization and listening to ideas from the team on how to advance our solutions to support educators,” he says.
“I’m truly inspired by the passion my colleagues demonstrate in delivering on our purpose of ‘accelerating learning for all.’
I firmly believe that no single educational technology provider has all the answers. Therefore, the best way to deliver educational tools and service is through openness and strong collaboration among the industry.
With more than 20 years of education experience, Daniel has served as CEO of Adtalem Global Education (formerly DeVry Education), and before that, CEO of Indelia, an Accenture-backed firm. He earned his MBA from Harvard, with a bachelor’s and master’s in Industrial Engineering from the University of Michigan.
After traveling from location to location (the Renaissance home office is in Wisconsin, but they have 10 offices worldwide), Daniel quickly learned “we have a team that is committed to the success of teachers and students—as well as to each other—and I look forward to working alongside such exceptional, supportive individuals.”
He also looks forward to continuing to get to know the educators they serve.
“I’ve been learning firsthand about their needs and opportunities—determining areas of focus where we can continue to help support them in improving student outcomes,” he says.
In this far-ranging interview, Daniel shares his thoughts on a winning approach (his company’s Star 360 and Accelerated Reader 360 are 2017 Cool Tool Award honorees), the state of education today, and technology’s role among students, teachers, and administrators.
What’s your vision for the company?
Daniel: Renaissance is an organization with more than 30 years of delivering proven educational technology results that help educators measure improvement in student achievement and growth. My vision for the organization is centered on expanding our solution set to continue to provide teachers with the data and insights they need to put their students on the right track for success.
I also firmly believe that no single educational technology provider has all the answers. Therefore, the best way to deliver educational tools and service is through openness and strong collaboration among the industry.
How do you see your solutions evolving in the next five to 10 years?
Daniel: In the next five to 10 years, I anticipate that we will be adding to the family of Renaissance Star Assessments®. There is an expectation that the assessment portfolio will grow over time, especially as we expand our global footprint. For example, we see exciting opportunities for expansion into Latin American countries with the growth of our Spanish Language assessment capabilities.
In addition, we will also realize the vision of the newly launched Renaissance Flow 360™ by continuing to work with school districts on implementing this assessment-driven solution. The solution connects assessment, planning, instruction, and practice in one place, allowing educators to drive and monitor growth for every student in their district.
What role do you play in helping teachers teach better and students learn better?
Daniel: To help teachers teach better, Renaissance gives them student educational insights. These learning analytics amplify their effectiveness and allow them to know how to help students grow to their full potential.
In addition to helping students learn better, we provide teachers with a feedback loop between students’ current skills and mastery levels and where they need to be in the future. This personalized learning solution identifies which resources can best help each student attain his or her academic growth goals.
What’s your leadership philosophy?
Daniel: My leadership philosophy is rooted in the belief that high-performance organizations are a product of strong cultures. What has become very clear to me over the past few months, and even prior to coming on board at Renaissance, is that the organization has a strong culture.
My leadership philosophy is rooted in the belief that high-performance organizations are a product of strong cultures.
Quality, accountability, and commitment—both to teachers and to one another—are the pillars upon which this strong culture is formed. We will continue to foster this culture to deliver the innovation and growth that we envision for Renaissance.
You have extensive leadership experience in higher education. What areas of overlap do you see between higher education and K-12?
Daniel: Yes, I have nearly 20 years of experience in, and a great passion for education. While I have more experience in professional and higher education, I do have experience in pre-K-12, particularly in bridging students from high school to college.
For example, while I was at Adtalem Global Education (formerly DeVry Education Group), we started the DeVry University Advantage Academy, which enabled high school students in select cities to enroll in college courses and earn an associate’s degree while still in high school. We also offered online K-12 programs via Advanced Academics.
These experiences gave me some perspective on the similarities between pre-K-12 and higher education.
Noteworthy in this regard are the matters that surround the classroom—questions that all educators are asking.
For example, how do you serve teachers, administrators, and school leaders with data and insights to improve student outcomes?
In my opinion, these matters of psychometrics and pedagogy apply across elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education.
What do you believe is the state of education these days?
Daniel: I believe educators have made some remarkable strides in recent decades. We are in a period of time in which the focus of assessments is on gathering data and results that point to student mastery, rather than testing solely for proficiency.
This pervasiveness of data can lead to outstanding student outcomes, and it’s exciting to see where this can lead.
We are in a period of time in which the focus of assessments is on gathering data and results that point to student mastery, rather than testing solely for proficiency.
For many years, education technology companies worked in silos. But today, we’re seeing vendors come together to help educators improve student outcomes.
These open, flexible environments give teachers access to the insights they need to provide a personalized learning experience for every student—bringing together assessment, instruction, and analytics to drive student growth.
What is technology’s role in education? Why?
Daniel: At Renaissance, we believe that the ideal approach to educational technology supports teachers rather than supplanting them.
We strive to provide teachers with the most time-efficient, effective assessment possible to drive classroom instruction and give them time back to focus on what they do best—creating energizing learning experiences in the classroom.
Teachers are faced with the extraordinary responsibility of growing and shaping young minds and preparing students for future success. Giving teachers access to data-driven results supports them in this effort.
These insights can serve as a road map to differentiated instruction, helping teachers quickly decide on strategies that increase learning, close gaps, and ultimately lead to student mastery.
Anything else you care to add or emphasize concerning education, technology—or anything else, for that matter?
Daniel: However academic standards and practices evolve in the future, educators can be confident that Renaissance will remain a committed partner, accompanying them on their journey every step of the way.
We will continue to invest in technology architectures and infrastructure to advance academic excellence.
Victor Rivero is the Editor-in-Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org