2017 Top 25
State of New York
January 1, 2017
New York

Cell-ED is a pilot program to provide free English-language training via mobile phones to hundreds of immigrants in New York State who may lack regular access to a classroom, a computer, or the internet. Learners will gain access to self-paced audio and text lessons through their personal cell phones. Despite record state investments in English language education, there are more than 900,000 limited English proficient immigrants in New York State. A lack of transportation, fear of being deported when outside of their work or home environments, or a demanding day of work serve as barriers to attending an English-language class. To address this issue, the New York State Office for New Americans partnered with social impact venture Cell-ED to provide free English-language training via mobile phones to hundreds of immigrant in the state. Participants call the program from a cell phone and listen to lessons, and once the lesson is complete, they are asked questions they answer via text messages to demonstrate comprehension. If the learner answers the questions correctly, they will move on to the next unit. If the learner is having difficulty, a coach calls to clarify the lesson. The program is free (excluding minutes and texts billed at the rate of the user’s cell phone plan). Though it was initially difficult to reach the target population through the state agency staff and outreach, office staff increased the program’s reach by working with community-based partners, faith-based groups, immigrant advocates, and the farming community to open access to the program to immigrant farm workers and low-wage Latino workers. Since its inception, more than 220 have completed the 45 units, with 730 currently in the learning pipeline.

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