Bridging the Achievement Gap in 4th Grade Math

A case study of Twin Hills Elementary in Willingboro, New Jersey

October 8, 2019

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In the Classroom, For Admins

Nicole Gregory, a fourth-grade math teacher at Twin Hills Elementary, needed a way to support students who came to her classroom with significant gaps in their math skills. After looking at the results achieved by neighboring schools using IXL, she knew she wanted to give it a try. The program ended up being a core component of her students’ success!


Helping Students Who Start from Behind


Twin Hills is a Title I school; its student population is primarily African American, with more than 50% of students considered low income. “Most of our 4th graders are one to three grades below grade level in both math and English language arts,” Nicole says. “My co-teachers and I have struggled to find resources to help us bridge those gaps.”
After using a free trial of IXL Math in the fall of 2016, Nicole quickly realized that IXL was exactly what she needed to help students build their knowledge and reach their full potential.

 

“I love IXL because it’s not busy work. There is a purpose to everything students do. Every time they log in, they are reinforcing the things we are doing in the classroom or catching up on skills they are missing.”

Nicole Gregory, 4th grade math teacher

Targeted Instruction and Practice with a Purpose


Each day, Nicole assigns IXL skills that align with the lesson she is teaching in class. For most skills, students are expected to achieve a SmartScore of 85 or higher—and Nicole keeps a checklist of skills students have mastered. “If my students are struggling, they have the opportunity to go back and practice foundational skills from prior years,” Nicole explains. “When they have mastered those, IXL brings them back up to 4
th grade skills.”  

Nicole’s students love the immediate feedback they get with IXL. They are also highly motivated by earning awards and certificates individually and as a class. Many students go beyond the minimum goal that Nicole assigns, working on skills until they achieve a SmartScore of 100. 

Students can even continue their practice at home, which has been especially useful for snow days. “I use the Real-Time Center to monitor what my students are doing both in the classroom and at home,” Nicole says. “I can see right away if a student is off track or needs additional one-on-one support.” Nicole also uses IXL Analytics for day-to-day instructional planning. “The reports show me whether instruction has been effective and where I may need to go back and reteach.”

Dramatic Gains in the Classroom—and on the PARCC 


Nicole saw measurable gains in her students’ performance the first year she implemented IXL in the classroom. After using IXL in 2017, 68% of her students were proficient or above in math on the PARCC assessment—up from just 45% the year before. The state average for African American students who were proficient or above on the PARCC was 26%. 

The results for 2018 were even more impressive: 73% of Nicole’s students achieved proficient or above in math on the PARCC. 

Those math scores inspired Twin Hills to purchase IXL Language Arts for Nicole’s co-teacher, Christina Bookhart, in 2017. After just one year of use, Twin Hills’ 4th grade students rocketed from 56% passing to 81% passing on the ELA section of the PARCC. “We haven’t made any other significant changes in our curriculum or instructional approach,” says Nicole. “IXL has helped our students close the achievement gap and do their best on the state test.” 

IXL has also boosted her students’ confidence. “Math can be scary for those who don’t think they are very good at it,” she says. “IXL puts students in charge of their learning. They can work on skills on grade level, above, or below. It has not only helped them master specific skills, but has really given them confidence in their math abilities.”

After Nicole and Christina’s successful experience, Twin Hills implemented IXL as a school-wide pilot—and teachers expressed overwhelming support for the program. “IXL was a perfect fit for our instructional needs,” says Twin Hills Principal Sonya Nock-Lemons. “We believe IXL has proven itself to be an invaluable learning resource for all students!”

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

To try out IXL in your classroom, visit www.ixl.com/membership/teachers/trial for a free 30-day trial!

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