SoapBox Labs will bring speech recognition AI to leading literacy tech developer Imagine Learning

Child-focused speech-recognition startup SoapBox Labs will integrate AI-based reading ability assessment into literacy tech developer Imagine Learning’s curriculum. The new Fluent Reader+ tool will allow teachers to accurately assess their students’ reading ability and where they need help without having to manually score tests.

Learning voice

SoapBox will bring Fluent Reader+ to Imagine Learning’s language and literacy curriculum used by over 20,000 teachers starting this summer. The program tests students on their ability to read text correctly, scoring results based on their level and the difficulty of the text they are reading. Normally, a teacher must sit with a student while they read and determine their grade by hand. SoapBox Labs offers automated analysis of their fluency, student difficulties, and other information. A three-month pilot with 15,000 students using SoapBox’s technology rated oral reading fluency and language as accurately as students with long-time teachers. Educators raised speaking scores more often than those not in the pilot and said they found better ways to improve student literacy. Unlike many standard speech recognition engines, SoapBox specializes in understanding children, applying its deep learning technology to thousands of hours of children’s speech to develop models that can understand what children say much better than the standard models for adults.

“We’ve long imagined the possibility of voice recognition technology to help teachers make the most of their time in the classroom,” said Jeff Pendleton, senior vice president of Imagine Learning and general manager of complementary programs and intervention. “But most voice engines were designed primarily for adults and don’t work well for children. Our pilot’s results with SoapBox’s speech engine show that it not only works accurately for children, but also for a diversity of accents, dialects, and learning abilities. This is exciting for us and for educators around the world.

SoapBox spread

The Imagine Learning arrangement is the latest in a series of significant partnerships for the Ireland-based SoapBox. More recently, the company integrated its technology into the Lexile Framework of oral reading tests developed by MetaMetrics. Corporate relationships follow SoapBox’s deal to create a literacy test for Florida State University’s Florida Center for Reading Research, and partners with educational institutions like McGraw Hill and Amplify, with other current agreements.

“At SoapBox Labs, we pride ourselves on developing voice recognition technology for children that is accurate, inclusive, and fair. We are thrilled to have been selected by Imagine Learning to serve their user base of students, educators and classrooms across the United States,” said Martyn Farrows, CEO of SoapBox Labs. “This partnership was born out of a constant drive for innovation and improvement, and we are excited about the opportunities for work together in the future”.

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