Meet ‘Ed,’ L.A. Unified’s new artificially intelligent student advisor

The AI chatbot will be responsible for telling parents about their child's grades, attendance and test scores, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced.

Less than one year after ChatGPT’s release, the second-largest district in the country is embracing artificial intelligence in ways unimagined pre-November 2022, the month generative upended K12 education for good (and some might argue for the better). This year, the Los Angeles Unified School District has even greater plans for AI than simply using it to streamline classroom instruction. It’s quite literally reached employment status.

Meet “Ed,” the AI chatbot that will serve as the district’s new student advisor responsible for telling parents about their child’s grades, attendance and test results, the Los Angeles Times reports. LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho made the announcement during a flashy back-to-school speech at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Carvalho first introduced the idea in December, according to the Los Angeles Times, and is part of their Individualized Educational Program, which seeks to give appropriate education and support to every student who has a disability.

“Imagine the power of artificial intelligence and comprehensive data working together to personalize an action plan for the benefit of our teachers, our students, our parents,” he said.

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Before it’s available for every student in the district, the chatbot will be used at the 100 schools LAUSD has identified as having the greatest need for improvement.

Families will be supported with “real-time updates on grades, test results and attendance—empowering them to monitor and support progress and immediately address the concerns.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, the district initially invest $4 million in the technology, which may later be cut in half thanks to an expected donor or other grants. Carvalho explained that the app could later be marketed elsewhere in partnership with the district.

“If you are listening to this and wondering if Los Angeles Unified will accept every part of you, the answer is unequivocally, unapologetically yes,” said Carvalho. “And if you’re wondering whether our schools, our classrooms, would be a safe space for your child, whomever that child may be, your answer is yes.”

This decision comes at a time when numerous studies have sought to uncover educators’ perspectives of AI and whether it has a place in K12 education. Despite the initial warnings and headlines screaming “doomsday is near,” teachers have reported appreciating ChatGPT more than students, according to a recent survey from the nonprofit Walton Family Foundation. The data suggests that more than eight in 10 teachers say ChatGPT has “positively impacted” their classes.

The U.S. Department of Education also recently issued new guidance ahead of the 2023-24 school year for education leaders who are unsure of how to implement the technology in their schools. But like any new edtech tool, administrators must do their research and tread lightly.

“Everyone in education has a responsibility to harness the good to serve educational priorities while also protecting against the dangers that may arise as a result of AI being integrated into edtech,” the briefing reads.

Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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