Case Studies

Case Study: Buzz-EAA

Educational Achievement Authority (EAA) of Michigan: Disrupting education in persistently low achieving schools

At Stake

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder created the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) in June 2011 with a mission to turn around failing schools.  At the time, the college readiness rate across the state was 16%, and according to Governor Snyder, over 60% of students who had received a high school diploma needed to take a remedial course in order to enter community college.  Clearly a new approach to K-12 education was required.

The EAA initially focused on fifteen Detroit schools representing the bottom 5% of persistently low-achieving schools across Michigan.  Across the selected schools, only 12.5% of third graders were reading at grade level and 0% were at grade level in math.  The EAA wanted to turn the existing system on its head and move away from an obsolete approach to learning.

“The mission of the Education Achievement Authority as a catalyst for change is to disrupt traditional public schooling and provide a 21st century prototype for teaching and learning.” John Covington, Ed.D, EAA Chancellor

The EAA’s goal was to implement a Student-Centered Learning (SLC) model based on five principles:

  • Students are grouped by readiness, not by grade.

  • Students create and assume ownership for their respective personalized learning paths and are able to communicate their progress relative to their individualized learning goals.

  • Students are allowed to work at their own pace using a blended delivery system to master rigorous standards aligned to next generation readiness.

  • Students provide evidence of mastery through relevant performance tasks and common assessments.

  • Continuous feedback is provided to students, teachers, administrators and parents.

This revolutionary approach required both an organizational restructuring as well as a technology infrastructure to support a truly mastery-based individualized learning model.

Powering Education

In partnership with EAA and the School Improvement Network, Agilix was tapped to deliver the technology infrastructure to support EAA’s ambitious goals.  At a high level, Agilix needed to build a platform that allowed students to be able to select and manage their own personal learning plans, demonstrate the ability to apply their knowledge in a teacher-graded activity as well as by completing a common assessment to advance to the next unit, and provide instructors with the ability to monitor their students and provide strategic intervention quickly and effectively.  The Agilix team developed a custom implementation of the Buzz Personalized Learning solution built on Agilix eXtensible Learning Infrastructure (xLl) to deliver the following core functionality:

Student Selected Learning Path: The system organizes the curriculum into 18 levels as opposed to by grade, allowing for more accurate performance grouping among students.  Each unit or learning level is populated with core content mapped to local, state and common core standards.  New students are placed at appropriate learning levels based on initial assessments, and can be at different learning levels for different subjects.  For instruction, students are directed to select a learning path that suits their own interests, and learning objects are pulled from a rich digital content repository of open source, licensed and teacher created resources which may include videos, online text or other types of materials.  Once students have chosen a path, they can largely set the pace at which they learn new material, however teachers and curriculum specialists also have the capacity to accelerate learning in a given area by finding and directing students to other content or activities.

Mastery-Based Progression: To advance to the next unit, students must demonstrate the ability to apply their knowledge in a teacher-graded activity as well as by completing a common assessment.  Students see the options for rubrics that will be used to assess their application of their learning – an application might mean completing an assignment online, creating a diorama, writing an essay, or participating in a project. When students feel that they have mastered the skill in the unit, they ask for a conference where teachers formally assess their work to determine if they are proficient and ready to move on to the next unit.  Students must present three forms of evidence for each learning target.  A 1-4 grading system is used for this mastery-based system. Students are required to score a 3 (proficient) in order to move to the next unit. Students scoring a 4 (advanced) are eligible for peer coaching other students.

Tracking Progress

The system allows teachers to know where students are on their learning progression.  Rather than a paper grade book, teachers have a radar report that allows them to track students’ progress and pace across the learning targets in each unit.  Clicking on a student in the radar report allows teachers to deep dive into the student’s learning path, content choices, progress, and community wall.  A selector tool allows teachers to easily group students and send notes or assign resources or activities.

Rapid Intervention and Response: Teachers are able to identify opportunities for immediate intervention with students who are struggling using both progress tracking data and daily student self-reporting on their comprehension, effort and interest level.  Teachers can pinpoint students who may be having difficulties on their radar screen and respond quickly by editing or authoring new content for specific students, redirecting them to other materials or types of content, and sending notes and explanations of why they included the new content.

Peer-to-Peer Coaching and Mentoring: Cognitive understanding of any subject is strengthened by explaining concepts to others.  The system allows students who have exhibited mastery in a given unit to be identified as available to mentor other students who may need additional peer coaching.


During the 2012-2013 school term, 59% of students achieved 1.5 or more year’s growth in Reading  (64% 1+ ) and 58% of student achieved 1.5 or more year’s growth in Math  (68% 1+).  All six direct run K-8 schools ranked in the top 20 out of 124 K-8 schools across governance models in Detroit (Detroit Public Schools, Charter, Archdiocese and EAA schools).

Case Study: Course Choice

Louisiana State Department of Education:
Expanding Academic Choices for All Students

At Stake

In 2012, the Louisiana State Legislature enacted the Course Choice Program so that all Louisiana school children could have access to the type and format of education that best meets the needs of the individual student, expanding access to high-quality education across the state.  This pioneering program allocates public funds from local and state sources to fulfill “the state’s right, duty and obligation to accomplish the objective of a quality, individualized education for all Louisiana children.” (Louisiana Administrative Code, Title 28).

The intent of Course Choice is to create experiences for students that the traditional system wouldn’t be able to create.

–John White, State Superintendent, Louisiana Dept. of Education.

In Course Choice, public money pays for online and in-person classes taken by students in C-, D- or F-rated public schools, while other students may participate at their own expense.  The goal of Course Choice is to allow students to accelerate their academic progress, earn college credits, obtain industry-based certifications and/or gain relevant, real-life work experience.

Powering Education

The Louisiana Department of Education had released an RFP to numerous technology vendors, but the responses that came back did not meet schedule or budget targets set by the LDOE. Proposed solutions were over a year in duration and well exceeded budget targets. Upon learning of the challenge that the project represented, Agilix was able to respond with a solution that could be delivered in four months and well within the budget constraints. The resulting system is a scalable and secure platform that provides students with access to thousands of high-quality core academic, college-preparatory and career-oriented online, face-to-face or blended courses.  Public and private approved course providers include five public school districts, every public college and university in Louisiana, Louisiana-based course providers and virtual schools.

 Course Choice is powered by Agilix’s eXtensible Learning Infrastructure (xLi).  The Agilix-designed intuitive user interface provides a best-in-class experience for students, teachers, providers and administrators.  Students and/or parents are able to search for courses using What, Where, When parameters on the Course Choice landing page and receive a list of matching courses from the system database.  Users can then filter the results based on location and other qualifiers.


Implemented in March of 2013 for statewide consumption by public school students, participation reached 1,500 at the start of July. By August, $2 million in alternate public funding was used up, covering about 2,000 students with more than 1,000 students on a wait list.  New funding was allocated and the program was able to cover all wait-listed students.  To date, over 3,400 participants have used Course Choice, and the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has approved additional funding to be allocated for the 2014-2015 school year.