Zuckerberg, Powell-Jobs fund ESL startup

Ellevation, a software company that supports educators and English Language Learners – including those in the Central Islip school district – has landed $6.4 million from funds established by Steve Jobs’ window and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Emerson Collective, the venture fund established by Laurene Powell Jobs, and Zuckerberg Education Ventures, funded by Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, were joined by the Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

English Language Learners, or ELLs, are the fastest growing population of K-12 students in the United States, representing more than 10 percent of students in U.S. public schools, according to the National Education Association. Historically, ELLs have lagged behind their English peers, posting a 62 percent graduation rate in 2014, versus the national average of 82 percent.

Educators who work with ELLs are faced with ensuring that they learn English while simultaneously mastering normal content standards. District administrators, ELL specialists and classroom teachers in districts across the country are struggling to meet these responsibilities, and have few tools designed to support their needs.

“We are thrilled to have the support of mission-aligned investors that care deeply about helping ELLs achieve,” CEO and co-founder Jordan Meranus said in a statement. “The new funding will help Ellevation extend our reach to new school systems, support more educators in their work to personalize instruction, and deepen the instructional impact on students.”

Boston-based Ellevation currently serves more than 450 school districts and helps track progress for over 1.2 million ELL students. The inspiration for creating the product grew out of frustrations that many educators experience every day: a fast-growing population of ELLs, a widening achievement gap, overwhelming administrative burdens, communication obstacles and a lack of tools to help.

Meranus was also a co-founder of Boston-based Jumpstart, a national nonprofit organization that provides early intervention to preschool-age children in low-income communities.