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The Power of Perseverance: New Study Finds IXL's SmartScore Plays a Key Role in Helping Students Achieve Greater Learning Gains
[February 01, 2024]

The Power of Perseverance: New Study Finds IXL's SmartScore Plays a Key Role in Helping Students Achieve Greater Learning Gains

Research shows that students who achieve skill proficiency after experiencing temporary SmartScore setbacks demonstrate greater learning gains in math and English language arts

SAN MATEO, Calif., Feb. 1, 2024 /PRNewswire/ --  IXL Learning, developer of personalized learning products used by millions of people globally, has released new research revealing the powerful impact of IXL's SmartScore on academic outcomes. The study, "How the Dynamic Nature of IXL's SmartScore Supports Student Learning," found that when learners persevere through temporary setbacks on IXL, as evidenced by a fluctuating SmartScore, they ultimately achieve greater academic growth in math and English language arts.

The Impact of IXL's SmartScore
Findings from studies across 70,000 schools in 45 states show that students using IXL outperform students using any other learning platform. The secret lies in the SmartScore, an advanced algorithm and core feature unique to IXL, that measures students' true understanding of a concept while reinforcing learning in real time. Unlike traditional scoring systems, the SmartScore is highly dynamic and constantly adapts to students' performance: It recognizes how well students understand a skill and automatically adjusts to offer targeted practice that challenges them at the right level.

Correct answers boost the SmartScore, while mistakes temporarily lower it. If the SmartScore decreases, for example, IXL presents easier questions so that learners can build confidence and continue to grow. Additionally, the SmartScore takes into account question difficulty, recent answers, and consistency when aligning with students' learning trajectory. This innovative approach offers students a real-time assessment of their progress and motivates them to persist even in the face of challenges.

Conventional scoring methods deprive students of the opportunity to score 100% after making a single mistake. However, with IXL, students can still achieve a SmartScore of 100 by answering more questions correctly. This approach ensures that students learn from their mistakes and cultivate a growth mindset, understanding that mastery of concepts is always within reach.

SmartScore is also a valuable tool for educators, delivering more accurate information about students' achievements and current level of understanding. This enables educators to make informed, data-driven decisions when individualizing day-to-day instruction.

Growth Through Grit: The Positive Impact of a Fluctuating SmartScore
The study examined SmartScore progressions from students in grades 1-8 within a large, suburban school district as they practicd math and English language arts skills. Researchers compared two types of progressions: 1) Fluctuating, characterized by the increase and decrease in SmartScore points before students reached proficiency; 2) Increasing, marked by a steady rise in SmartScore values until learners reached proficiency.

The findings revealed that students who pressed on through temporary SmartScore setbacks achieved greater learning gains later. Reaching skill proficiency through a primarily fluctuating SmartScore progression had a stronger impact on students' academic growth than reaching skill proficiency through a steadily increasing progression:

  • For each skill in which students reached proficiency through a fluctuating progression, their end-of-year diagnostic scores in math and ELA were predicted to increase by approximately 60 and 113 points, respectively.

  • By contrast, for each skill in which students reached proficiency through an increasing progression, their end-of-year diagnostic scores were predicted to increase by approximately 3 and 9 points in math and ELA, respectively.

These findings suggest that struggling with challenging material and making mistakes can be beneficial for learning, as long as students receive appropriate feedback and support.

"Taking a step back isn't the same as failing, but it can be difficult for students to recognize that their productive struggles are incredibly important building blocks toward growth. This new research clearly demonstrates that when students persevere through temporary SmartScore setbacks, they ultimately achieve greater academic gains than when they have a steady, upward trajectory, " said Christina Schonberg, Senior Research Scientist at IXL Learning. "IXL's SmartScore is a precise measure of progress and a powerful motivator that helps cement knowledge, build grit and determination, and show that mastery is always attainable."

The Science Behind SmartScore
The design of IXL's SmartScore incorporates key principles from learning sciences research, including:

  • The perfect challenge: Summiting a mountain without any struggle may bring a sense of accomplishment, but it doesn't guarantee the development of hiking skills. Grappling with difficulties is essential for growth. For students, making errors during practice indicates that they are pushing themselves by learning new concepts at the edge of their understanding.

    As a student's SmartScore fluctuates, IXL adapts to their knowledge in order to provide the right balance of challenge and support so that when faced with adversity, they can always succeed. A steadily increasing SmartScore provides a clear signal to students that they are ready for a new challenge.

  • Productive struggle: Embracing mistakes is a vital part of the learning process, leads to greater retention, and is a key indicator of perseverance. When students practice skills on IXL they engage in activities grounded in productive struggle. IXL provides learners with immediate support after each answer, helping them build lasting knowledge. This support encourages learners to become more comfortable with making mistakes and seeing their SmartScore fluctuate.

  • Motivation and mastery orientation: The SmartScore is designed to motivate students to achieve mastery. Even when learners miss questions and their SmartScore decreases, they can always reach their goal by answering more questions correctly. Success builds on success, creating positive momentum toward their SmartScore goal and instilling a sense of pride in overcoming temporary setbacks. This process taps into students' intrinsic motivation, propelling them forward in their learning journey and demonstrating that they always have an opportunity to master skills.

About IXL
Currently used by 15 million students and in 95 of the top 100 U.S. school districts, IXL is an all-inclusive educational platform that provides a comprehensive PK-12 curriculum and instructional resources, actionable analytics and a state-of-the-art assessment suite. IXL's end-to-end teaching and learning solution supports personalized instruction in math, English language arts, science, social studies and Spanish. With more than 140 billion questions asked and answered around the world, IXL is helping schools and parents successfully boost student achievement. The IXL Learning family of products also includes Rosetta Stone, TPT,, inglé, Wyzant,, ABCya, and Emmersion. To learn more about IXL, visit, and

Press Contact
Eric Bates
IXL Learning
[email protected]

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