Achieving Educational Equity for Migrant Students

Coachella Valley Unified School District, California

Migrant students face special challenges when it comes to meeting grade-level standards, including both language proficiency and missing instructional time. Coachella Valley USD is using IXL Math and IXL English Language Arts to help migrant students fill academic gaps and catch up with their peers. Students in a summer school program moved from the lowest proficiency level to “meets” or “exceeds” for all targeted standards in just four weeks.

The Challenge: Filling Instructional Gaps for Migrant Students

Coachella Valley USD is a sprawling rural district in southern California serving a predominantly Hispanic population. Forty percent of students are classified as English language learners, and all schools qualify for whole-school Title I programs. They also have a large population of migrant families who follow the crop cycles throughout the school year. Students from migrant families often join the classroom in October, after the fall harvest. Other students may be pulled out of the classroom mid-year and return later in the school year. Their educational experiences during the harvest season are varied, with some students attending school in multiple districts and others receiving limited or no formal instruction during this time.

To help these students succeed, Coachella Valley USD has created after-school and summer school programs for migrant children. The programs provide targeted instruction, practice, and tutoring to help students from migrant families fill in learning gaps and catch up on grade-level standards. Coachella Valley implemented IXL to provide individualized skills practice for students and help teachers identify learning needs and monitor progress.

For Patricia Lopez, a 5th- and 6th-grade dual language teacher at Saul Martinez Elementary, IXL is all about educational equity. In addition to her regular classroom, Patricia teaches in both the after-school and summer school programs for migrant students. A former migrant student herself, she understands the challenges these students face first-hand. “They feel like they don’t belong here, and they don’t belong there. They need someone to believe in them,” she says.

Building Language and Academic Skills Through Targeted Practice

Patricia says, “IXL helps me target the essential standards students need to master. It helps me see where students are struggling and where I need to focus individual attention or small group instruction.”

During the school year, Patricia uses IXL for her after-school migrant education program, which meets three days a week for an hour and a half. During this time, Patricia provides one-on-one tutoring and small group instruction. Instruction focuses on a limited number of academic standards that the district has identified as essential for success in the next grade level. The 2020-21 school year was especially challenging due to the COVID-19 shutdowns and switch to distance learning in the spring of 2020, which hit this population of students particularly hard.

The IXL Real-Time Diagnostic allows Patricia to quickly determine each student’s skill level and identify learning gaps. Students can practice targeted skills in IXL at their own pace and level. “Sometimes it’s just small things that prevent students from progressing,” she says. “IXL really pinpoints where they are struggling, so students know what they need to work on. Students like it because if they get something wrong, they get an explanation. It allows them to be more independent with their learning.”

Patricia uses the reports in IXL Analytics to monitor student progress and plan her individual and small group instruction. She uses IXL’s Live Classroom to keep tabs on what students are doing and provide immediate intervention for students who are struggling. During small group instruction, she often has students bring their iPads so they can all work through problems in IXL together. She says her students are highly motivated by seeing their progress and earning certificates for problems completed and skills mastered in IXL.

Patricia also teaches a summer school class for 4th and 5th graders in the migrant education program. Her summer school students love IXL, too, and often ask if they can do more work in IXL when they have finished their other work. She says, “They are competing against themselves to try to get the best score and master more skills. It’s a big motivator for my students.”

Dramatic Improvement on Standards Proficiency

IXL is helping students in the migrant education program fill in learning gaps and master the essential skills they need to progress to higher grade levels. It’s also helping them build a growth mindset.

At the beginning of summer school, Patricia gave her students a pre-test that showed that all students were at the lowest proficiency level (Level 1, Standard Not Met) for all of the targeted standards. The students then practiced the four essential standards targeted by the program on IXL. On the math post-test, after just four weeks of the summer school program, two students achieved the highest level of proficiency (Level 4, Standard Exceeded) and all other students tested at Level 3 (Standard Met). She says, “When they saw their scores, their smiles were like little twinkling stars!”

Additionally, Patricia’s students are building confidence in their ability to learn. Patricia says, “I had one kid with very low self-esteem. He didn’t think he was smart. At the beginning of summer school, he was doing horrible with multiplying fractions. We went back and started with multiplying fractions by a whole number. We practiced in IXL and with manipulatives until he understood the concept. After more practice in IXL, he eventually worked up to a SmartScore of 100 in multiplying fractions. Now, he wants to use IXL all the time at home to keep learning because he can see that he’s getting better each time. He’s doing amazing now because he believes in himself.”

Patricia says, “Being able to give each student what they need is so powerful. When you see how easy it is to use and how excited students are when they see their progress, you know it’s a tool that you need in your classroom.”

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