The Early Days
In the 1960s, Victoria Porras attended Melrose High School in Massachusetts as an exchange student from Bogotá, Colombia. She was far from home. Her host family, teachers, and new schoolmates were friendly and eager to help, but the everyday English spoken in the Boston area is accented, idiomatic, and studded with acronyms.
Victoria decided then that she would find a way to help other exchange students navigate spoken English. The idea of Victory Productions grew from that experience.
When Victoria established Victory Productions in 1995, its mission was to develop educational materials to teach English as a Second Language (ESL), but she found that what the market wanted was Spanish translation. Only later did the market recognize the need for materials dedicated to English Language Learners (ELLs).
The ELL market has certainly changed since those early years. Most early programs focused on teaching English language skills so students could learn in the mainstream classroom. The products offered to the market were Spanish student editions, bilingual student editions, and supplemental programs designed to build English reading skills. Today’s market, however, is different.
Today’s Market for English Language Learners (ELLs)
The U.S. Department of Education recorded 4.85 million English language learners (ELLs) enrolled in public schools in the academic year 2012–2013. ELLs attend public schools in all 50 states, so the market is national. As shown in the map below compiled by the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA), the greatest populations of ELLs (by percent of total enrollment) are in southwestern states. In 2012, there were six states with a 10% or higher density of ELLs: California, Texas, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, and New Mexico. On the east coast, only three states—Florida, New York, and Virginia—ranked in the top fifteen states in ELL student density.
Growth of the ELL Market
Overall, the number of ELL students in U.S. public schools is increasing steadily. According to the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), ELLs are the fastest growing segment of the student population. Growth in grades 7–12 is the highest and now comprises 10.5% of the nation’s K–12 enrollment. The number of ELL students in elementary grades is also increasing.
Although the overall percentage of ELL students in the U.S. is growing, the OELA map below clearly shows how widely the rate of growth varies across the country. In fact, there was a decrease in the ELL population in thirteen states, most importantly in California. Massachusetts was the only state in which the ELL population doubled during this time span.
Unique Characteristics of the ELL Market