As a partner at NewSchools Venture Fund Jordan Meranus didn’t see anything entrepreneurial in the English Language Learning (ELL) space to invest in despite the persistent achievement gap experienced by ELLs. With co-founder Teddy Rice he started a company to build new tools to drive better outcomes for English Language Learners.
Jordan calls Ellevation. “a mission-driven software company.” They focus exclusively on the needs of English Language Learners and the professionals that serve them. Ellevation has built a software platform that organizes all ELL student data and information in one place, helping school districts to much more effectively manage ESL programs. Ellevation enables educators to create individualized student plans aligned to English language proficiency standards, collaborate with other teachers about goals and progress, communicate with parents in 20+ languages, and automatically generate time-saving reports to increase productivity.
Jordan investigated the ELL space. It’s got its own federal program (Title 3) so every urban district has a program manager, staff, and some budget, but a weak toolset. He learned from watching Wireless Generation and PresenceLearning about the importance in K-12 markets when the buyer is also the user.
He was able to start and incubate Ellevation for a couple months at NewSchools. Jordan and Teddy found a North Carolina-based ELL program manager, Carrie Hill, with a head start on a management tool. They raised a little money and rebuilt a platform that “helps users organize their ESL student data, supplementing and enhancing the role of a district SIS, much as other district software applications do for other sub-populations.”
ELL coordinators and teachers have embraced the student plans, progress reports, and productivity tools quickly and with little marketing. Ellevation gained 120 paying districts as customers in 16 states. And they are just getting started.
“Starting with management and collaboration tools” was the obvious starting point,” said Meranus. From there Ellevation will develop professional development tools and then move to instruction. That’s all good news for millions of kids trying to learn English.