Getting the Most out of Independent Learning with IXL

A case study of Sanger Elementary School in Hobbs, New Mexico

Sanger Elementary in Hobbs, New Mexico, serves a diverse population of students—and Travis Fisher’s 5th grade class is no exception. His students come to him with a range of skill levels in math and English language arts (ELA), so addressing all abilities, all the time can be difficult. In 2013, Travis turned to IXL to help his students improve mastery on grade-level skills, challenge themselves academically, and prepare for high-stakes testing.

Independent Learning—or Just a Game?

Before trying IXL, Travis was using another computer program for extra math practice but found that it was more game-oriented than he liked and didn’t connect well with his curriculum. “We use a spiraling curriculum for math, which means that after we introduce a topic it may be a couple of weeks before we spiral back around to it in the curriculum,” he explains. “My students needed an opportunity to continue to work on the skills I was teaching and get extra practice in areas where they were struggling.”

Travis wanted a program that was engaging, but not in a way that detracted from learning. He also needed to be able to easily map the skills covered in the program to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and his classroom curriculum, so he could assign appropriate activities and monitor student progress.

A Better Use of Independent Learning Time

Travis first tried IXL Math on his own and was impressed with how easy it was to match the IXL skills to the CCSS and his curriculum. When his 30-day trial was over, he purchased the program for his entire class.

Travis gives students time on IXL Math four times a week, in two different formats. During small group rotations, students work on skills Travis has introduced in class; during computer lab time, they work on skills at their own level. “With IXL, it’s really easy to see which students have mastered the skills and which ones need extra work,” Travis says. “I can let students who are struggling work a grade level or two behind, while students who are advanced can work ahead on high-level skills without having to wait for the rest of the class.”

Travis also uses the reports in IXL Analytics to drive his instruction. “IXL tells me where I need to do more reteaching. I may reteach a lesson to the whole class or pull out a group of students who are struggling for extra remediation,” he says. IXL Analytics has even been helpful when it comes to keeping his administrators informed on student progress against standards.

Measurable Results on High-Stakes Tests

Travis says that his students appreciate the immediate feedback they get through their SmartScores on IXL. “They really enjoy seeing their progress as they move through the program,” he says. “They can visually see on the screen that they are getting better and moving towards mastery and when they see their scores improving, it motivates them to keep pushing.”

“I believe my class this year is more prepared for testing than any of my classes have ever been. The skills they are getting from IXL really make a difference.”

– Travis Fisher, 5th Grade Teacher, Sanger Elementary School

Those results have transcended IXL to impact standardized test scores as well. Travis says there was a noticeable jump in math test scores last year and, while he does not yet have results from the most recent assessment, he believes that this year’s class is even better prepared.

Travis has now started using IXL English Language Arts in addition to IXL Math. His administrators are fully on board as well. They are beginning a district-wide implementation of IXL so all Hobbs students can get the extra practice and support they need for math and ELA success.