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IES Grant

Title: Reading Together: Building Family Literacy Through AI-Enabled Tutoring
Center: NCER Year: 2021
Principal Investigator: Angel, Mark A. Awardee: Amira Learning, Inc.
Program: Transformative Research in the Education Sciences Grants Program      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (08/01/2021 – 08/31/2024) Award Amount: $2,994,649.87
Type: Efficacy and Development Award Number: R305T210038

Purpose: The Reading Together project team will develop and test the impact of a scalable, personalized program designed to tackle the intergenerational cycle of reading difficulties and substantially improve the reading abilities of young students. COVID-19 disruptions to schooling have made this need to improve the reading skills of emergent readers even more urgent. Reading Together (1) enables parents or other primary caregivers of kindergarten-aged children to help their emerging readers develop strong early reading skills based on the science of reading, (2) enhances the important relationship between child, teacher, and parent, and (3) facilitates intelligent reading error detection capabilities for emerging readers. Reading Together is guided by the Simple View of Reading Framework (SVRF)and the Dual Capacity Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships. This project will leverage the technological capabilities of Amira — the first Intelligent Tutoring System (ITS) able to listen to students read aloud, assess mastery, and deliver one-on-one adaptive coaching.

Project Activities: The Reading Together program includes three components. The first, Parent as Reading Teacher modules, are eLearning mini-courses designed around a scope and sequence and delivered as three-way sessions between students, parents, and the ITS. The second component is a family-school partnership platform designed to foster family collaboration with schools in support of student development. The third component is the Amira ITS for early readers and teachers, enhanced for emergent readers: AI-powered, personalized, scaffolded SVRF ITS, expanded to serve emergent readers beginning at kindergarten. Working with partners from the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE), the Reading Together team will engage in a three-phase research program to develop the intervention technology and materials; examine the feasibility and costs of a Reading Together prototype for use with kindergarten students, families, and teachers; and conduct a pilot randomized controlled trial (RCT) examining program impacts of Reading Together on children and families. In phase 1, the Reading Together team will engage in a co-design process with 8 NYC parents of kindergarten-aged children to identify how intervention services can build on family strengths to address parents' learning goals for their children. In phase 2, the team will conduct two short-cycle feasibility studies of the intervention prototype. Working with 16 NYC parents and teacher pairs, the study will identify usage patterns, software bugs, and other challenges that may decrease implementation fidelity. In the final phase, the team will conduct an experimental evaluation of the intervention with 500 NYC kindergarten children, their parents, and teachers. The study will be designed to meet What Works Clearinghouse standards and examine impacts on children's reading skills, teacher/parent relationships, parent home literacy practices, and self-efficacy of parents and teachers in supporting reading skills. The study will also examine how study participation improves the literacy skills of a subset of parents with low-literacy skills.

Products: The products from the project will include a prototype of the Reading Together program. The platform will feature literacy development Parent as Reading Teacher modules for students and parents and a teacher/parent information sharing system to improve family-school partnerships. As an enabling technology innovation, the project will also uplift speech recognition capabilities for emerging readers. The team will produce a short report describing the co-design activities, a publicly available final report with findings from the pilot RCT, and an article for publication in a peer reviewed journal documenting project findings.