English-learners are focus of expansion
The Arizona Republic
Jul. 7, 2006

Jane Larson

Pearson Digital Learning will expand into the English-language-learner market with its acquisition of a Utah company.

Pearson Digital, a Scottsdale-based business unit of publishing giant Pearson PLC, plans to add Ellis Inc.'s English-training programs to its portfolio of e-learning software for kindergarten through 12th grade.

Operations for Ellis will remain in Salt Lake City, Pearson Digital President Bob Roliardi said. The 16-year-old Utah company has 40 employees and annual sales of $7 million. Terms of the June deal were not disclosed.

The acquisition combines Pearson Digital's national sales force with Ellis products aimed at U.S. students who are not native English speakers.

Pearson Digital plans to begin marketing the new software nationwide to its customer base of public and private schools.

"The market is growing, and it is very difficult to serve," Roliardi said of English-language learners. "There aren't enough teachers to deal with the diversity of children we have."

Ellis' products support more than 35 languages, he said, so schools can use the software to train students who speak a variety of languages.

Pearson Digital's top products include NovaNET, which helps high schools offer classes online, and SuccessMaker, which elementary schools use for individualized math and language lessons.

Its Arizona customers include the Scottsdale Unified School District and districts in Mesa, Gilbert, Phoenix and Tucson. It also has customers in the other 49 states and six other nations.

The Ellis deal will take Pearson Digital into more nations, especially Mexico.

Pearson Digital moved its headquarters to Scottsdale from Sunnyvale, Calif., in 2001.

It has since grown from 30 Valley employees to 200. They include curriculum content specialists, programmers and artists who develop its new products, and a call center that supports teachers and administrators using the products.

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