View a selection of implementation strategies from educators who are successfully using ALEKS to achieve dramatic learning outcomes.
Wings Park Elementary School, Oelwein Community School District
Grade(s): 3 - 5
Scenario: Computer Lab, Computers in Classroom, Laptop Carts
Purpose: Improve State Test Scores
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: 35%
Time Spent in ALEKS: 1.75 hours per week, 8-9 hours per term
ALEKS Course: Mathematics - LV 4 (with QuickTables)
Terry Rex, Fourth Grade Teacher
Wow! I have been using ALEKS for several years now, and got it implemented into our fourth grade curriculum so that all of our fourth and fifth grade teachers use ALEKS. We all agree that it is the best math program we have ever used. It addresses the need for differentiated instruction better than any program, and it is our number one math priority each year to make sure we have subscriptions.
What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
Meeting the needs of all of the students is a major challenge. The varying levels you have in one classroom can be tremendous. It was never a good feeling to think you were holding a student back because your pace had to be slow enough to accommodate other students.
How many days per week is class time dedicated to ALEKS?
2 days per week.
How do you implement ALEKS?
We started using ALEKS years ago as part of a grant project through our area education agency where the focus was on improving math through technology. As part of the grant, we were required to use ALEKS for a certain amount of time per week and our progress on our standardized tests were monitored. We worked closely with people from ALEKS Corporation to help us address the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) concepts.
Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
Not necessarily, but I do set Intermediate Objectives that focus on what we currently are working on and then update those occasionally.
How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
After the students log in, they work 10 minutes on QuickTables before going to their pie skills. The rest of the period is spent working on their skills. Before exiting they check their report to see their progress. I have set Learning Rates to indicate whether they are "On Goal", "Above Goal", "Below Goal", or "WOW"!
How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
I try to use more differentiated instruction in my regular teaching. I still have to teach math, but do more pre-testing to modify the concepts the students and/or class need to work on based on the results.
How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
The students aren't required to work at home simply because they do not all have Internet access. Those that do are encouraged to do so, especially if they are "Below Goal." I have also set up the computers at our public library so that ALEKS may be done there.
How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
I send a note home about our ALEKS schedule and ask for parents that are willing and available to come in and help. On most days that we go to the computer lab to work on ALEKS, I have a parent volunteer and sometimes two. We have an online grading system where the parents can track their child's progress, and I report ALEKS progress for each student. It is updated weekly. Also, at the end of each quarter I send home the ALEKS report to be signed by a parent.
Is ALEKS assigned to your students as all or part of their homework responsibilities? If so, what part of the total homework load is it?
No, but sometimes we print worksheets for extra practice at home.
How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
The students' ALEKS progress is 25 percent of their math grade. I set the percentage (through Learning Rates) that the students should be at in order to be "On Goal." This goes up two percent each six-day cycle. For example, right now the students need to have 26 percent of their pie filled in to be "On Goal." If they have 24 percent, then they are at 92 percent for their grade. I make ALEKS worth 10 points, so they have a 9.6 out of 10 score in the grade book, which accounts for 25 percent of their total math grade. If they are above the "On Goal" level, then they are over 100 percent and are getting extra credit in a sense.
Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
Once every six-day cycle (we work on ALEKS two days per cycle), I run a progress report. I then compare their progress to the previous report. I expect at least a two percent growth. If not achieved, then those students are given assigned seating so that I, or a volunteer, can monitor them better. If it becomes habit that they are not making progress goals, then extra time is made available for them to work. I have volunteers work with students who are behind in the morning before the school day begins officially.
Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
Through the grant we were involved in, a study was done by Iowa State University, and the results were clear that students who use ALEKS do better on the ITBS than those who don't use ALEKS. We have seen that trend with our local scores, i.e. scoring better on the ITBS than before we used ALEKS. The students love ALEKS! They like being able to see their progress each time they finish a session, even if it's only 1-2 percent.
Are there any best practices you would like to share with other teachers implementing ALEKS?
I really believe, and stress to my co-teachers, in the Learning Rates settings of "Below Goal", "On Goal", and "Above Goal." It lets students and parents easily track the progress that they are making when they check their reports. I also firmly believe in setting Intermediate Objectives to help focus the students' skills choices even more.