Mastering the Multi-Grade Classroom with IXL

A Case Study of Freeman Academy in Freeman, South Dakota

Karla Rupp, an elementary teacher at Freeman Academy, faced a challenge in effectively teaching her multi-grade classroom. She wanted to meet the needs of her first, second, and third graders, but it was difficult to cover all of their curriculum while still meeting each student’s individual needs. Her solution was IXL, which allowed her to differentiate instruction and navigate a myriad of standards – and, within months, Karla’s students were thriving and showed considerable academic growth.

Juggling Standards for Multiple Grades

Teaching multiple grades provides Karla’s students with many opportunities to collaborate. However, addressing varied skills and covering grade-level standards for all students in her classroom was a daunting task. Karla explains, “I calculated the number of standards for each grade in math and ELA and the hours of instructional time I have available over the school year, and realized I would have to cover seven standards an hour to get through them all!”

At first, Karla tried working with each grade individually while other students were completing independent assignments, but this ultimately wasn’t feasible. Karla needed an approach that would allow her to teach multiple grade levels and address individual student needs, all at the same time. IXL turned out to be the key to making this happen.

Moving to Mastery-Based Learning with IXL

When Karla started using IXL Math and IXL English Language Arts, it quickly became a core component of her instruction. “It really helps that IXL is aligned with the same standards I am expected to teach and that my students are tested on in the state tests,” she says. Using this standards alignment, she is able to identify core skills that appear across all three grade levels, and plan lessons that accommodate the needs of each grade.

Each day, Karla teaches a whole-group lesson that spans similar standards across all three grade levels. After the whole-class lesson, she lets students work together with hands-on activities and then students practice skills individually within IXL. If students have mastered the skill at their own grade level, they can work ahead, while students who are struggling may go back and review foundational skills before progressing. With the help of the Real-Time Center report, Karla can monitor student progress and immediately identify students who need one-on-one or small group support.

Accelerating Learning Across the Grades

Since adopting IXL in her classroom, Karla has found it much easier to deliver personalized lessons tailored to each student, and her students are flourishing across all three grades. This year, her third graders showed eight months of academic growth in just 3.5 months, and her first graders showed six months of academic growth in the same time period.

Karla attributes these gains to the individualized instruction students get in IXL and the reports from IXL Analytics that allow her to target her instruction to student needs. “With a paper worksheet, students may practice a skill the wrong way 30 times without getting corrected,” she says. “With IXL, they know immediately. Reviewing IXL’s reports in real time allows me to intervene on the spot before misunderstandings become ingrained.”

Karla’s students have also been more motivated since they started using IXL; they love to see their progress on their reports and share the new skills they’ve learned with their parents. “You can’t expect growth if kids aren’t motivated,” Karla explains. “With IXL, they are part of the process. I never hear a student say they don’t want to do it.”


Karla’s commitment to using IXL in her classroom led to her being recognized as part of the IXL Elite 100 for the 2016-2017 academic year. This program honors the top teachers worldwide based on their students’ time spent on IXL.