In late 2023, Adam Lownik was introduced to a new project that aimed to change how the school approached reading intervention – a partnership with Amira Learning, a program that uses artificial intelligence to help students improve their reading fluency.

As the Director of Intervention with eleven years of teaching at Tubman under his belt, Adam has plenty of experience rolling out new educational programs, but the Amira program was different. The A.I. reading tutor “Amira” uses speech recognition technology to listen to students as they read stories aloud. When students experience difficulties, Amira is able to recognize which skills they are lacking and chooses a micro-intervention (from a list of 60) developed by literacy specialists to provide in-the-moment, personalized tutoring. 

The partnership between Tubman and Amira grew out of conversations between Crescent City Schools CEO Kate Mehok and the Louisiana Department of Education. Initially, the program was intended mainly for English Language Learners (ELL students), but the scope quickly broadened when Tubman saw how effective it was.

“We realized the program could be more broadly applicable than just for ELL students,” Lownik said. As a result, the program expanded to include students with a 504 plan (students who have additional needs that do not necessarily require specialized instruction) and those requiring tier-three interventions. In total, approximately 100 Tubman students have participated in the Amira program.

The program’s daily operation was particularly innovative due to the role of in-person tutors. While Amira can be downloaded and used like any other educational software, Tubman went the extra mile. “Amira is just a software program, and so any school can buy it and just kind of put their kids on it,” Lownik said. However, Tubman enhanced the program’s effectiveness by incorporating three in-person tutors into the process. “What makes our implementation of it unique is that we’re working with a group called Metaconnected Tutoring, and their model for Amira is that they have in-person tutors that facilitate the program for kids,” he added.

These tutors were crucial, not just for supervising but for actively engaging with the students as they used the software. This setup allowed for a personalized touch that software alone could not provide. “There’s a person who is monitoring their use of the program, giving them feedback, and helping them be able to use the program effectively,” Lownik described. Each tutor worked with small groups of three to four students, ensuring that the instruction remained individualized and attentive.

The primary goal of incorporating Amira was to mimic the benefits of one-on-one tutoring using A.I., making efficient use of school resources while maximizing educational outcomes. “It’s able to give a more individual support structure for kids,” Lownik pointed out. Over time, as the program was integrated more smoothly into the regular school schedule, students began to see the extra help as a regular part of their day. 

The feedback from students has been increasingly positive, especially as they saw improvements in their reading skills. “I’ll tell a student, ‘Hey, I saw on your last Amira session you did this,’ and they’ll get excited about that,” Lownik shared, reflecting on the moments when students recognized their progress.

Through the implementation of Amira, Tubman has set an example of how cutting-edge technology can be integrated effectively into in-person learning to enhance student learning outcomes.