A District-Wide Approach to Personalized Learning with IXL

A case study of Distinctive Schools in Chicago, Illinois, and Twin Cities, Minnesota

November 15, 2017


In the Classroom, For Admins

Distinctive Schools, a network of charter schools in Chicago and the Twin Cities, faced a challenge when they implemented the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in 2012. They wanted to find tools that would support their diverse population of students and track progress towards new learning goals. The solution came in the form of IXL, which helped them transition to the CCSS while empowering teachers and meeting individual student needs.

Building a Flexible Learning Environment

The Distinctive Schools’ research-based learning model is built on the four principles of personalized learning: flexible learning environments, use of learner profiles to plan instruction, mastery-based learning, and individualized learning pathways.

As Anthony Claypool, the Director of Curricular Programs and Data for Distinctive Schools, explains, “Our vision is to get to know students really well and help them know themselves, [including] learning styles, aptitudes, and preferences.” When the schools switched to CCSS, there was an opportunity to move toward using adaptive practice materials that would accommodate students’ individual needs—and it was an opportunity tailor-made for IXL.

One Goal, Many Pathways

IXL Math and IXL Language Arts made the transition to CCSS easier for students and teachers. The schools use short-cycle assessments from NWEA to formally monitor progress towards CCSS skills. IXL provides targeted, personalized practice and actionable data that help teachers drill down to better understand where students are struggling.

“We don’t just want to teach to the test,” Anthony says, “but we need to make sure students are making progress in the skills they are expected to master.” He appreciates that IXL is already mapped to the CCSS so teachers don’t have to do their own alignment. Plus, Anthony says, “IXL can be used to provide evidence for standards-based report cards or when building a learner profile for a student.”

While all teachers are moving towards the same goals, Distinctive Schools does not prescribe a specific classroom model of how to use IXL. “Teachers have shown that they can use the software in different ways,” says Anthony, “from whole-class, grade-level content practice, to small group remediation and extension, to personalized pathways for students to practice skills.”

“IXL holds students accountable and encourages them to give their best effort.”

Nicole Swick, 5th grade teacher, CICS West Belden

Empowering Teachers with Flexible Classroom Models

Teachers are free to incorporate IXL into their classrooms in the way that makes the most sense for their students. Nicole Swick, a 5th grade teacher at CICS West Belden in Chicago, counts on IXL to help determine whether students have really mastered what they are working on in the classroom. Her students are expected to earn a certain number of ribbons or medals each week, but each student works on skills tailored to their needs.

At CICS Bucktown, Kate O’Gara’s students work on targeted skills until they receive a SmartScore (IXL’s proprietary scoring system that measures how well a student understands a skill) of 90 or higher. She uses IXL Analytics to track mastery towards CCSS skills and assign specific skills to students. She says, “[IXL] is great because I can see if students are understanding a skill or if I need to pull them to work more with me before they can be successful independently.”

Dina Tartan at CCIS West Belden also relies on IXL Analytics to drive classroom instruction. She uses the real-time reports to monitor what students are doing in class and see who might need extra help. She also uses the reports to group students for small group instruction and identify students who need targeted intervention. Dina says her students are “engaged, focused, and on task” when using IXL and are highly motivated by looking at their own progress data. In fact, she states that her class answered 187,000 IXL questions in just a four-month period!

While each of the teachers uses IXL a little differently, they all say that the program has helped their students progress towards mastery of the CCSS. IXL has been the perfect match for a district focused on maintaining high standards in a flexible, personalized environment.

A copy of the full case study is available for download here.

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All Comments (2)

Gordon November 21, 2017 at 1:08 am

Do you work with schools in China? Are you able to incorporate your system into our school system?


The IXL Team November 21, 2017 at 10:57 am

Hi Gordon–We’d be happy to chat with you about how IXL can best meet your students’ needs. Feel free to contact us at support@ixl.com.


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