Meeting Diverse Needs—In Class and at a Distance

A case study of Tara Hills Elementary School in San Pablo, California

Addressing individual needs for a highly diverse student population isn’t easy. But Tara Hills Elementary is meeting that challenge by using IXL to pinpoint student strengths and knowledge gaps, provide targeted practice and instruction aligned to their core curriculum, and help teachers make more tailored instructional decisions. 

Helping All Students Master Rigorous Standards 

Tara Hills Elementary draws its student body from diverse neighborhoods in San Pablo and Richmond, CA. Fifth-grade teacher Ian Keough describes the school as “a nice melting pot of students with many different cultural and language backgrounds.” A majority of their students are low income and the school qualifies for a whole-school Title I program. The community has a large number of Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese speakers, and about 50% of their students are classified as English Language Learners (ELLs). Tara Hills also has a Special Education (SPED) program that serves severely handicapped and medically fragile students from across the district. 

With such a wide variety of needs, teachers at Tara Hills needed tools to help them individualize instruction and help all of their students meet grade-level standards. Initially, they started with IXL Math. Ian explains, “We were looking for a way to improve math scores on our district benchmarks and standardized tests. We wanted a program that would promote a deeper understanding of the standards and prepare our students for testing.” 

After a successful year with IXL Math, they decided to add IXL English Language Arts, Social Studies, and Science. 

“Stepping into the Arena” for Individualized Skill Development

Ian says that personalized instruction and reinforcement of academic skills are the keys to IXL’s success with their students. “IXL is really helping to reinforce students’ areas of need,” he says. The IXL Real-Time Diagnostic has given Ian deeper insights into individual student needs and skill levels. The diagnostic does this by pinpointing each learner’s overall skill level, identifying areas where a student requires extra support, and generating recommendations for which skills a student should work on next to improve. Throughout the year, students are invited to “step into the Diagnostic Arena” to keep their levels and recommendations up to date. This individualized approach ensures that each student gets the right amount of support and challenge. 

A Tool that “Makes Me a Better Teacher” 

Ian says that using IXL has elevated his instruction. He uses the reports in IXL Analytics to group students for targeted small-group instruction and to identify those who need additional intervention. IXL also gives him instant feedback, so he knows whether a whole-class lesson has been effective. If the entire class is still struggling with the IXL skills he had previously assigned to accompany a lesson, he knows that he needs to go back and teach it another way. Ian says, “IXL has transformed my teaching. It’s a different way of looking at data. It gives me concrete information so I know exactly what each student needs and how I should adjust my instruction. It’s like night and day, teaching with and without IXL.” 

Supporting Diverse Needs from a Distance 

COVID-19 forced Tara Hills, along with schools across the country, to move to a remote learning model in the spring of 2020. IXL proved to be essential during their distance learning experience. Ian had his students spend 20 minutes in the IXL Real-Time Diagnostic each Friday. He then used that information to plan his video lessons for the next week. 

Ian loved being able to monitor what students are working on from home in real-time with Live Classroom and see how much time they were spending in the program. He says, “With everything going on in the world, it was nice to have one thing that made life a little easier.” 

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!