Helping Special Education Students Soar with IXL

A case study of Black Canyon High School in Emmett, Idaho

Annette Lutes, a high school special education (SPED) teacher at Black Canyon High School, needed to find an easier way to assess student learning and deliver personalized instruction in a classroom with a broad range of ability levels. She turned to IXL, which helps her meet students where they are and empowers them to work independently. As a result, Annette’s students are achieving multiple-grade level gains and are dedicated to learning and making progress.

Finding a Flexible Solution for the SPED Classroom

Annette’s students in her self-contained SPED classroom face highly individual learning challenges. She explains, “Not one student is at the same level. I have students operating anywhere from a pre-K level to a sixth or seventh-grade level, depending on the subject.”

After implementing a one-to-one tablet program for her students, Annette saw this as an opportunity to look for digital resources that could help her differentiate instruction for all of her students and automate some of the required assessment, grading, and tracking. After some research, she discovered IXL.

“IXL has revolutionized my classroom. Even my lowest-level students are able to be successful when working in IXL. And the skills they are mastering and the rate at which they are learning is truly amazing.” — Annette Lutes, High School Special Education Teacher

A Personalized Curriculum for Every Student

IXL allows Annette to deliver truly individualized instruction to her students while simplifying planning, data collection, and classroom management. Each student can access IXL on iPads and work in IXL at his or her own level and pace.

Annette uses IXL Math and IXL English Language Arts as a core curriculum in her classroom and she relies on the IXL Continuous Diagnostic to find each student’s current mastery level. Each day of the week, students focus on a different set of skills, working on practice problems in IXL that are targeted to their skill level. And with reports from IXL Analytics, Annette can monitor student progress and intervene before students get frustrated.

Annette says IXL challenges her students without frustrating them. “If I teach a whole-class lesson, I’ll have some on board but it will be over a lot of their heads. I can never reach the right level for every kid,” she says. “IXL does that for me.”

Watching Students Achieve More with IXL

Annette has seen her students’ hard work pay off. “They are learning things that I never would have even tried to teach a few years ago,” she says. “IXL definitely has pushed them to tackle more advanced and complex skills.” She is seeing the proof in her students’ scores in IXL and on other tests. One of her students started at the preschool level in math four years ago and is now working on sixth-grade skills. That’s why Annette says she’ll never go back to worksheets. “In special education, you usually feel lucky if you can just help students get a full year’s growth each year and not fall further behind,” Annette says. “Seeing them actually close the gap is really phenomenal.”  

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

To try out IXL in your classroom, visit for a free 30-day trial!