Not every child learns the same way, or even at the same speed, which is why Craig Bishop focuses so hard on individualized education in the classroom.
And for his efforts, the Mountain Meadow Elementary fourth grade teacher has been included in IXL Learning’s sixth annual Elite 100 list, which recognizes teachers around the country for their commitment to the learning program.
IXL bills itself as the solution for bringing personalized learning in the classroom through its products and the use of modern technology. According to its website, one in seven students use an IXL program — whether it be for math, science, social studies, language arts, or Spanish — and boasts that 95 of the U.S.’s top 100 school districts have implemented IXL into its curriculum.
Bishop utilizes IXL to help his students solidify their math skills.
“It breaks the standards down by skill… and it really digs down into what students need to do to be successful in each grade level,” he said in a recent interview. “The problems, as you work through a skill, either increase in difficulty or decrease in difficulty — it tailors it to the student’s ability level.”
IXL doesn’t change the way Bishop teaches math, but it gives his students the practice and repetition necessary to learn everything from addition and subtraction to multiplying fractions and even begin to understand probability and statistics, according to IXL’s website.
“There will be missing add-in problems, missing solutions problems, there will be word problems, naked number problems — it really exposes students to every kind of question they may encounter on a standardized test. It really sets them up for success on the state tests really well,” Bishop continued. “My class last year, 100 percent of the class passed math and reading, [and] that was something I’ve never had happen before.”
He added that IXL is not used solely for preparing students for standardized tests, and that most of the time, his students just use IXL for homework — 10 minutes on whatever skill the class is currently working on per night.
But Bishop said the learning program can be extra helpful when his students use it in class, since the program’s real-time updates can help him intervene quickly when a student is struggling.
Instead of worksheets that Bishop then has to grade and give back to students, both he and his students are working on laptops; as students are working on their math assignments, Bishop is using his laptop to see how each student is performing as they work.
“It tells me whether students are getting questions right or wrong, and it’ll flag them as needing extra support, and I can call them over and assist them in the moment and give them immediate feedback,” he said. “It’s incredibly valuable in that way.”
Bishop also said IXL will attempt to show students where they went wrong during a problem they’re doing for homework so they can get the next question right.
“When I grew up, it was a worksheet I would fill it out. I’d never know if I got it right or wrong. I’d hand it in, and I never got feedback on my homework,” he recalled. “This is immediate feedback for every question that you answer.”
According to Dr. Steve Leifsen, White River’s Director of Equity and Achievement, the school has been using IXL for the last four years; three of those years, the learning program was funded by Mountain Meadow’s PTA, but this year, the district took on those financial responsibilities, a sign that IXL is making a positive difference in the classroom.
“Craig is a model for how we’re looking for teachers to use the program,” Leifsen said, adding that Bishop doesn’t let IXL lead with what skills his students should be learning, but instead diagnoses what technical knowledge they lack himself and uses the learning program to fill in those holes. “Craig has done a really effective job in pinpointing… a skill that you don’t have yet, and we’re going to have you practice it with IXL.”
Leifsen said the district doesn’t have enough data yet to be able to determine exactly how much IXL is affecting student learning and knowledge retention, but it’s clear that the combination of Bishop’s teaching style and IXL is performing well.
“He provides excellent instruction every single day, and puts the right tools in front of kids at the right times, and IXL is one of those key components,” he continued.