Intensive Math Students Exceed Growth Targets with IXL

A case study of Pacetti Bay Middle School in Augustine, FL

Risa Byrd teaches Intensive Math at Pacetti Bay Middle School in Augustine, FL. Her students come to her needing extra support to fill in skill gaps and achieve grade-level mastery on the Florida State Assessment (FSA). With the help of IXL Math, Risa’s students have been able to achieve growth rates of 300% or more on benchmark assessments in a single year, far exceeding their projected growth trajectories!


Filling in Skill Gaps for Struggling Students 

Middle school students in Florida who score Level 1 or Level 2 in math on the FSA can take an Intensive Math course in addition to their regular math class. Many of Risa’s Intensive Math students struggle with grade-level math standards because they are missing foundational skills from prior grades. 

“When they struggle with a particular standard in class, often it’s not the math they are working on right now that is the problem. It may be a more fundamental skill that they don’t know how to do, like multiplying fractions. I knew that filling in these underlying math skills would lead to the fastest growth and help them succeed in their regular math classes.” 

Risa had used IXL successfully in previous teaching positions, and recognized that her current students would also benefit from the targeted, personalized practice and support provided by IXL. After seeing impressive gains during a trial period, her principal purchased IXL Math for all students the following school year. 


Targeted Instruction and Practice for Every Student 

Risa’s students use IXL daily in their Intensive Math class and at home. Students start the year by assessing their knowledge with the IXL Real-Time Diagnostic, which uses adaptive technology to determine each student’s grade level proficiency in key math strands. The diagnostic provides each learner with personalized skill recommendations that will help them grow from where they are. Students complete new diagnostic questions each week, so Risa and the regular math teachers have a continuously evolving picture of student knowledge levels. 

Students spend about 30 minutes a day on IXL using iPads. Sometimes they work on standards that are assigned by their regular math teachers. After completing those assignments, they start working on areas of need identified by the Real-Time Diagnostic. Students may work independently or in small groups with peers working on the same skills. 

Risa says her students benefit from the targeted skill practice and instant feedback in IXL Math. If they get a question wrong, they know immediately and receive on-the-spot remedial instruction so they can correct their mistakes. Students are expected to achieve a SmartScore of 80 or above on skills they are working on for their regular math class (the SmartScore is IXL’s proprietary scoring system that measures how well a student understands a skill). They aim for a SmartScore of 100 on all of the remedial skills they are working on by the end of the grading period. 


Two Years of Growth—or More!—in a Single Year

All of that hard work is paying off. Risa’s Intensive Math students have far exceeded projected gains based on school-wide benchmark assessments. Many of her students have more than doubled the “stretch goals” set by the benchmark, making more than two years’ projected gains in less than a single school year. She says, “Some of my students have seen 300% or even 400% growth! IXL is the only difference we have made in my classroom this year.” Risa expects to see the benchmark results mirrored in FSA performance. “The skills they are working on in IXL line up with what they need to do on the FSA,” she says. 

Next year, the school hopes to replace its current benchmark assessment with the Real-Time Diagnostic. “The IXL diagnostic gives us longitudinal data across all grades and gives us better information about their skill gaps,” Risa says. 

Risa highly recommends IXL Math for all students. She says, “It’s a fabulous, inclusive tool. I’ve used it with higher-performing and gifted kids as well as with at-risk kids. If you’re thinking about implementing it, I say just find a way to make it happen!”   

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!