RHS is Divided When it Comes to IXL Learning

Radian Hong, Intro to Journalism Staff Reporter

Matt Kennedy
“If you miss like a negative or a parenthesis, or if you don’t type it right in the submit button, then it just gets it wrong. And then you’re confused on what to do.”

Students, staff and administrators have mixed feelings about IXL learning at the close of the program’s first full year on campus including concerns about the program’s practicality and efficacy.

“Is this a short-term thing or is it a long-term thing?” said RHS math teacher Ehsan Taghavi. He expressed concern that the district would simply drop the program as soon as funding ran out rather than invest in it for the long run. “It’s not worth modifying all of your lessons to accommodate it and then just have it disappear in a year,” he said.

District leadership plans on collaborating with teachers and site administrators on whether or not to continue the program beyond the one time funds provided to address COVID-19 learning loss, said RUSD Program Specialist Amanda Bannister. “If it’s a short term it does require an investment to get familiar with,” she said. “As the previous teacher, I understand that sentiment.” Teachers have discretion as to how they implement IXL in their classroom and if and how they modify their lessons to include it, she said.

“The way we teach math at Rocklin High school and the things that we do in our program don’t necessarily jive well with IXL,” said Mr. Taghavi. “And given that we’re already short on instructional minutes it’s difficult to find time to do the various assessments and things of that nature that are required to really do the programs.” RHS math teacher Craig Waechtler also cites instructional minutes as a reason for not implementing IXL in his classroom. Standardized content is available within IXL that directly correlates with the textbooks adopted by RUSD, said Mrs. Bannister. The diagnostics themselves however do not directly relate to that content.

Offering a different perspective, RHS ELA teacher Adrienne Tacla said that IXL has been useful in determining where students are at and

Saphyre Nofuente
“The skills that they have us do are super not related to anything that we do in class that does actually help in class. We don’t write in that class either. So there’s nothing with my writing skills that are helping to improve me.”

practicing those targeted skills as a class. “So for example, if I wanted to work on parallel structure, I could give the student in the past, give students a worksheet or something to work on versus now I can see kind of real time where they’re struggling,” she said. She uses IXL as a supplemental resource to her teaching as it allows her to target individual skills in ways she hadn’t been able to before and to help prepare her students for CAASPP testing.

“IXL can be much easier for a teacher because from my end, all I really have to do is click a couple buttons and it assigns homework to students,” said Mr. Taghavi although he does not use the program in his classroom.

According to Mrs. Bannister, RUSD staff were asked to regularly use IXL in the majority of Math and ELA courses, regularly defined by the district as students answering a minimum of fifteen questions a week based on IXL Learning’s own findings on student progress. A brief anecdotal survey on the Rocklin Media’s Instagram page revealed that most students rarely use IXL. Mr. Taghavi said that few teachers he knows of in the math department use the program at all.

“This is only my first time doing it and I wasn’t super consistent,” said Mrs. Tacla. “So I think if they actually helped us, you know, sit down and look at it and everyone in the department was using it, it would be much more helpful.”

Although CAASPP scores are not yet available, “We have been able to see student grow and proficiency in targeted skills,” said Mrs. Bannister. “I don’t know that we can say that for every single student, but we have seen growth.” IXL is designed as a diagnostic tool that then recommends skill plans to bridge student knowledge gaps as well as to reinforce current skills. All this data is available to teachers and can be used to better meet the needs of individual students and the class as a whole. Theoretically, an individual student using IXL should still reap the full benefits of the program regardless of overall application. Since IXL was purchased for the school’s enrollment, the school is charged around 15 dollars per student regardless of whether or not they use it.

Kennedy Owens
“It’s very stressful and the fact that they put a smartness score to keep track of your score, it’s insulting.”

Targeted implementation of IXL for particular student groups is to be considered after consulting staff members. “I also use it with my English learners because we do focus on a lot of skills,” said Mrs. Tacla. “A Lot of them are not high school level because some of these kids are beginning speakers, and so that was helpful. So that makes me a little bit different than some of the other teachers.” Likewise, Mr. Taghavi said that there is room to implement IXL in everyday math or math support classes if the program is to be used in the long term.

Mr. Taghavi also has had mixed experiences when it comes to the IXL diagnostic with the school’s first attempt at administering it a stand out failure. “It was a very disappointing day for many teachers,” he said. “We’re here for the kids and I have kids in tears. That’s never something you want as a teacher.” Teachers were told no calculators were allowed and it wasn’t until more than halfway through that word came that they were in fact permitted.

“I remember vividly walking into Mr. Martinez’s room, his kids were testing and he tells me how are they supposed to solve this? He puts a basically calculus problem in front of me without a calculator and I was thinking, I have no way of solving it. How is this poor student supposed to?” Mr. Taghavi said. “So I have honors level kids in tears because they’re being told that they tested fourth grade level. It’s something completely out of their control.”