Innovative project leverages AI to boost kids' reading skills

Jan 11, 2024Articles

Literacy Pittsburgh takes an exciting step into the future of education with the launch of an innovative tutoring project in collaboration with Clairton City School District for children in grades K-2. What sets this project apart is its integration of cutting-edge technology – Artificial Intelligence (AI). The power of AI will augment in-person tutoring to create customized lessons, catering to the specific reading needs of each participating student. This groundbreaking pilot project showcases Literacy Pittsburgh's leadership and commitment to educational excellence and holds promise for shaping the future of tutoring programs.

"We're excited for the opportunity to increase the impact of volunteer-led, in-school tutoring," said Carey Harris, CEO of Literacy Pittsburgh. "The successful application of Artificial Intelligence could have profound impacts not only on the lives of the children involved but on how other volunteer tutoring efforts are implemented and what they can accomplish."

With support from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, Literacy Pittsburgh will partner with OpenLiteracy to utilize its systematic, sequential literacy curriculum. A key aspect of this program will be the use of an Artificial intelligence platform that will generate lessons tailored to each student's precise learning needs and skills learned in each tutoring session. Significantly, this means that little planning time will be required for the volunteer tutors who meet weekly with students.

To pilot this new project, Literacy Pittsburgh will partner with Clairton Elementary, where approximately 76% of students are low income and 79% of elementary students are not proficient in reading based on Pennsylvania English Language Arts assessments.

"I am thrilled about our partnership with Literacy Pittsburgh, where the community becomes the driving force as tutors for Kindergarten through second-grade students," stated Dr. Tamara Allen-Thomas, Superintendent of Clairton City School District. "Our staff and students are excited as we unite with the community to propel academic success and shape a future filled with the joy of learning."

 The AI-powered tutoring lessons will be developed by Resilient Cognitive Solutions using OpenLiteracy's existing lessons as the foundation. Resilient Cognitive Solutions has developed numerous AI and algorithm-enabled decision support systems over the past 15 years. This AI curriculum tool will generate personalized, easy-to-use materials for tutors based on student assessment and exit ticket data provided after each tutoring session. These lessons will allow tutors to maximize the impact of the time spent in 1:1 tutoring. Literacy Pittsburgh will evaluate the effects of the program changes by monitoring data generated from formal and informal assessment tools, tutor experience surveys, and school data regarding student demographics.

Literacy Pittsburgh expects to expand the program to additional schools in the 2024-25 school year. Their goal is to increase literacy among at least 100 elementary students from schools with high concentrations of low-income students and low levels of proficiency on the PSSA exams.

Volunteer tutors are sought to work with students during the pilot phase, which spans January through May 2024. Tutors will meet with students twice weekly for 30 minutes during the school day and should expect to commit 2-3 hours each week for tutoring sessions and lesson prep time. Tutors must attend a hands-on training and will receive ongoing support and coaching from a literacy specialist. A high school diploma or equivalent is required to volunteer.

To get more information about volunteering or to sign up for a training, please visit or contact Caitlin at 412-857-8213 or

Literacy Pittsburgh (formerly Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council) helps create better lives through learning. Recognized as a national leader in adult and family literacy, Literacy Pittsburgh is the largest provider of adult basic education in Allegheny and Beaver Counties. Last year, Literacy Pittsburgh helped more than 4,000 individuals acquire the skills needed to reach their fullest potential in life and participate productively in their communities. Literacy Pittsburgh provides free, personalized instruction in workforce readiness, high school diploma test preparation, digital literacy, English language learning, math, reading, and family literacy through one-to-one and small class instruction. Founded in 1982, it serves local adults through numerous neighborhood locations and its Downtown Pittsburgh Learning Center.       

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