Kindergarten through fifth grade students in Pflugerville ISD have logged over 3,000 hours of reading practice on Amira Learning, an artificial intelligence reading program that has led to higher reading comprehension levels since its inception in the district in 2022.

About the program

According to Pflugerville ISD Elementary Language Arts Coordinator Jenny Olsen, Amira Learning is a first-of-its-kind artificial intelligence reading program. Amira provides reading passages in English or Spanish to kindergarten through fifth grade students, listens to them read, and provides in-the-moment intervention if they make a mistake.

“[Amira] helps the students fill all the gaps and deficits they have in their foundational skills—basically what everyone calls phonics instruction,” Olsen said. “The pandemic has really amplified all of these gaps and deficits they have. Unfortunately, when we went virtual, a lot of our students in Pflugerville, as well as nationally, were not reading.”

Students are recommended to use the program, which can be accessed on their student Chromebooks, for 10 minutes a day, three times a week.

“Usually, students are just clicking through skills or they're playing a game, and they spend most of the time not really learning the skills,” Olsen said. “But with Amira, there's just straight reading to [the program] and [it is] providing those interventions, and it improves their accuracy and their fluency. ... It’s just amazing [seeing] the growth that these kids are making. It’s really impactful for these kids that are not reading at home.”

Students have logged the following number of practice minutes on Amira Learning:
  • 7,584 minutes in kindergarten
  • 11,502 minutes in first grade
  • 43,963 minutes in second grade
  • 39,314 minutes in third grade
  • 57,351 minutes in fourth grade
  • 25,201 minutes in fifth grade
How we got here

The program was first implemented during the 2022-23 school year. Olsen procured the first 2,000 licenses—or individual Amira Learning accounts—through a grant with Dell. Within one month of presenting information on the program to principals in the district, 15 campuses were interested, Olsen said.

Another 6,000 licenses were purchased in February following approval from the board of trustees. Chief Academic and Innovation Officer Adelaida Olivarez approved a Texas COVID Learning Acceleration Supports grant for the purchases, and another part came from the English/language arts budget.

What’s next?

The first 2,000 licenses are set to expire this October, so Olsen said she is looking at getting another grant or using the ELA budget to purchase more.

“[With] the usage we're definitely going to need more than the 6,000,” Olsen said. “We need to keep our 8,000 and possibly buy more.”

While teachers are not required to use Amira, Olsen said that all 8,000 licenses are currently being utilized.

“I do have a few campuses where it’s every grade level and every teacher [using it], and then I have campuses where it's one or two teachers,” Olsen said. “This is our second full year using that where word of mouth has been spreading, and so it's just really exciting seeing the uses of it.”