Unlocking Student Success: Inspirational Breakthroughs in Urban and Rural Schools Nationwide

Unlocking Potential: Harnessing Technology for Individualized Learning

In the ongoing aftermath of the pandemic, students’ state test scores continue to lag behind pre-Covid levels. Simultaneously, district administrators grapple with the challenge of meeting the substantial student learning gaps with fewer teachers and limited learning resources.  

How can we best harness human resources to meet the evolving needs of children today? Moreover, is there untapped potential in leveraging tutoring resources to foster reading growth among students?

The solution lies in harnessing the power of digital technology to facilitate individualized, adaptive learning experiences akin to those provided by a tutor. While no technology can replace the invaluable presence of educators in the classroom, it can certainly bolster learning outcomes. 

Digital learning tools tailor instruction to meet the specific needs of students and provide teachers with valuable data to help them provide targeted instruction for each student. As technology continues to expand its role in supporting individualized instruction, it emerges as a promising solution for many. However, amidst the vastness of available options, pinpointing the most effective tools for students at large can be challenging.

At MindPlay, we firmly believe that supplemental technology should not only aid teachers in providing targeted interventions but also complement in-class instruction. By integrating technology seamlessly into the learning environment, educators can enhance their ability to address the diverse needs of students and foster their academic growth in a 1:1 setting.

We’ve found incredible success across the nation as we’ve helped solve these challenges for educators, making a tangible difference in students’ lives. Let’s take a closer look at two inspiring success stories that exemplify the transformative impact of our approach to education.

Success in Rural Texas

For over a decade, MindPlay has played a pivotal role in supporting Texas educators and aiding them in addressing the diverse needs of their students. In recent years, particularly following the upheaval caused by the pandemic, we’ve witnessed remarkable growth among students returning to traditional and hybrid classrooms.

One such success story unfolded in Shepherd Independent School District (ISD), a small yet mighty community comprising nearly 2,000 students enrolled in grades K-12. During the school years of 2021/22 and 2022/23, Shepherd ISD made significant strides in helping students regain years of unlearned reading skills by utilizing MindPlay Reading Coach. 

As the 2020/21 school year began, Shepherd ISD had a new board of managers, driving improvement decisions following the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) intervention. The school district had fallen below standardized test performance requirements for the previous five consecutive school years (2020). Roughly 70% of students in Shepherd experienced reading gaps of 1+ year or more (2024). 

The district confronted a daunting challenge when student performance on standardized assessments did not reflect the educators’ hard work in aiding their students. Superintendent Justin Hewitt and Director of Teaching and Learning Tammie Hewitt led this turnaround. They recognized the urgent need to address academic disparities and provide targeted support to students. After reconnecting with a Partnership Account Executive at MindPlay, Tammie Hewitt piloted MindPlay Reading Coach, recognizing the shortcomings of the existing supplemental curriculum.

In a recent interview, Tammie Hewitt shared, “In our first year, we started seeing significant progress and decided to implement the program district-wide in our second year, reducing the use of other software,” (2024). Among students with reading gaps of two or more years, those who engaged with MindPlay for at least 20 hours saw significant improvement. 80% closed their reading gap by an average of 1.6 years, and nearly 25% of them moved out of critical range (2024). This intervention led to substantial growth in student proficiency levels, equipping them with essential literacy skills for academic success.

Building on the initial success, the elementary and intermediate schools have seen consistent growth and more robust implementations, with teachers utilizing the reporting and data outcomes provided by MindPlay.

Shepherd ISD remains committed to its motto, “Every Student, Every Minute, Every Day,” and is seeking innovative ways to incorporate Reading Coach into its literacy schedules.

In the same interview, Hewitt highlighted how MindPlay has impacted the district, stating, “Programming-wise, the gap-filling component and knowing that it’s individualized is helpful. Outside the program, teachers and instructional coaches are incorporating data rooms to measure student assessments tied to student’s use of MindPlay,” (2024). 

Hewitt highlighted the program’s reading instruction, noting that on-screen coaches demonstrate correct pronunciation, sound production, and phonics instruction, contributing to critical literacy components like fluency and comprehension. With lessons administered by these on-screen coaches, students effectively acquire skills with a virtual reading tutor by their side.

20 Minutes of MindPlay Helps Students Achieve Their Potential

Continuing our journey towards student success, let’s delve into the transformative impact of MindPlay in urban Ohio, where a substantial student population is experiencing remarkable progress in building and mastering foundational reading skills.

In Dayton, Ohio, students are witnessing significant advancements using MindPlay Reading Coach for supplemental reading intervention. Despite the demographic differences between Dayton Public Schools and the rural areas of Texas, the need for intervention in reading skills is evident.

Dayton Public Schools cater to approximately 11,000 students from Pre-Kindergarten to 6th grade, with 3,444 students accessing MindPlay during the 2021/22 academic year. Among these students, 13% were identified as having Limited English Proficiency. Encouragingly, a majority of students (74%) utilized MindPlay’s online reading program to fidelity.

An independent correlation study conducted by Schechter, Robinson, and Teki in 2024 revealed that students exhibited significant growth in reading skill acquisition with just 60 hours of MindPlay usage throughout the school year. Even more impressively, students engaging in individualized reading instruction for just 20 minutes a day consistently surpassed the growth norms set in 2023 across grades 2 to 6.

As educators continue to develop targeted interventions and integrate technology into their classrooms, providing resources like Reading Coach proves to be immensely beneficial for students. It’s akin to having a personal tutor guiding them towards mastering essential reading skills. Notably, as shown in meta-analyses, the focus of tutoring interventions predominantly lies within the elementary school levels, with only 7% of interventions involving sixth-grade students and above. Additionally, almost half of all studies involve first-graders, reflecting the disproportionate concentration on early reading interventions due to the foundational nature of reading instruction at that stage.

Moving Forward: Accelerating Learning for Tomorrow’s Students

The evidence shows how important technology like MindPlay Reading Coach is for helping students learn better on their own. As we face post-pandemic challenges, like low test scores and not enough teachers, using digital tools to help students learn becomes very important.

We’re committed to making sure every student can learn quickly and do well. By giving students the skills they need for work and college, it’s important to make sure everyone can use technology to learn.

Looking at the success stories from rural Texas, urban Ohio, and beyond, we see how technology can help students of all ages and backgrounds improve in school. As education changes, using tools like MindPlay in classrooms helps teachers bring out the best in each student, helping them succeed in today’s changing world.



  • Kealey, M., PhD, Kanzlemar, S., & Brandon, M. (2024, April 17). From Reading Gaps to Growth: Leveraging MindPlay Reading Coach for Enhanced Performance on Texas STAAR Assessments [Research Brief].
  • Santiago, D., & Brandon, M. (2024, April 5). Interview with Tammie Hewitt [Personal Interview].
  • Schecter, R., Robinson, A., & Teki, M. (2023). Examining the Correlation of MindPlay Use and Outcomes on NWEA MAP Fall 2021 – Spring 2022, Grades 2-6. Efficacy Study
  • Texas Tribune. (2020, March 14). Shepherd ISD steps out of limbo and closer to state takeover. Click2Houston. https://www.click2houston.com/news/texas/2020/03/14/shepherd-isd-steps-out-of-limbo-and-closer-to-state-takeover/.