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Irving High School, Irving Independent School District
Grade(s): 9 - 12
Scenario: One-to-One Laptop Program
Purpose: ESL Students
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: 100%
Time Spent in ALEKS: 3-3.75 hours per week; 60-70 hours per term
ALEKS Course: Mathematics - LV 3 (with QuickTables), Mathematics - LV 4 (with QuickTables), MS RtI Tier 3, Pre-Algebra
Marcia Niemann, ESL Specialist
We are using ALEKS for students who arrive in middle school or high school as a new immigrant with a gap in prior education. For example, we would use ALEKS with a student who completed grade 6 in another country, then left school, arrived in the USA at age 16 and was put into high school. After the Initial Assessment, most high school students are put into Pre-Algebra or MS RtI Tier 3 with QuickTables. At the middle school level, most students are put into Mathematics - LV3 or LV4 with QuickTables. At the high school level every student has a laptop and ALEKS is used as the primary math resource. Because our ELL students mostly speak Spanish, ALEKS' bilingual capabilities are crucial, as is the highly individualized program. The middle school classroom has six desktop computers for nine students and the teacher rotates. In both cases the teacher is highly involved, moving from student-to-student to help when they become confused.
What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
Our students arrive at any point during the school year, come from several different nations, do not speak English, and have widely varying backgrounds as to prior education in math and other topics. Individualizing instruction for these kinds of classes is extremely difficult without a program like ALEKS. Having an accurate diagnostic indicator of where students are starting and the progress they are making has been very difficult because of the language issues, cultural issues, etc. Grading the students has been very difficult for all these reasons prior to ALEKS.
How many days per week is class time dedicated to ALEKS?
5 days per week.
What is the average length of a class period when ALEKS is used?
How do you implement ALEKS?
A teacher saw the program at a conference and showed it to district administrators. A representative from ALEKS met with a district administrator and campus ESL specialists and we decided on a pilot. We then found out that our Special Education department was on the same track. The two departments combined efforts and set up a spring pilot program that is expected to lead to a full year implementation for some ESL and special education students next year. One point person for the Special Education and ESL departments was created to work with ALEKS and the coordinators on campus. In our classrooms for ExcELL (a program for immigrants with interrupted prior education), the teachers watched training videos online and then started the students. It took us a few weeks to figure out the correct courses for our students, but now that we have some experience we will be able to move students into the correct courses fairly quickly.
Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
We let the students choose.
How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
At high school level, students arrive in class, open their laptops and log in to ALEKS. Students turn in scratch paper to teachers at the end of class as part of the teacher's record keeping and analysis of what students are working on and what they need more help with. The teacher and ESL Specialist also check ALEKS progress reports at least once a week, usually more often. The teacher also circulates around the room giving individual assistance and students raise their hands and ask for help as needed. At the middle school level, some students are working on the desktop computer while the teacher works with others in a small group or while the teacher circulates.
How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
At the high school level in ExcELL, ALEKS became our primary math resource. The teacher no longer does whole class teaching in math, but provides individual or very small group support to each student as they work at their own level. The teacher also pushes the students to move a little faster, and many kids are able to do so. We are told that 4-6 topics per hour is a "typical" pace, but for our students with interrupted education, 2-4 topics per hour seems to be more typical so far.
How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
They are encouraged to use it outside of class, but most of our students do not have Internet access at home. They can use it before and after school, during lunch, etc., anywhere in the school building.
How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
We included ALEKS on the agenda for an ESL parent night and explained to the parents what the program is and why we are using it. The students can also go to a place with wireless Internet access and show their parents what they are doing.
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?
ALEKS is not usually required for homework.
How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
The high school teacher is using the ALEKS grades as the majority of the grade in this class, since ALEKS with teacher support is the primary resource for the ExcELL class.
Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
So far, we have not set a specific amount of required progress, but now that we are developing some history in seeing what these students typically can do, we expect to move towards that. It is very clear that there is a close correlation between amount of time spent in the program and the amount of progress made.
Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
Once we get each student into the appropriate course, all high school students are making progress and student engagement in math has increased dramatically. Most of these 15 high school students have seen 18-42 points of growth in mastery of their course, in 26-64 hours of use. Some students are happily using ALEKS outside of class, while others use it only in class. We are very excited about the progress we are seeing and these students will continue use ALEKS during summer school in order to be ready for Algebra I ESL next fall.
Are there any best practices you would like to share with other teachers implementing ALEKS?
Figure out how you want students to signal you when they need help and how you will make sure you have time to check on all students while giving the most help to those who need it. Some students have to be closely monitored while on the Internet to be sure they aren't switching to another site, but we have found this to be a very limited problem. Have a notebook, folder, or other system for keeping the daily scratch paper as a record of student work. We also recommend that teachers just get started! ALEKS is remarkably easy to use and you don't need to wait around until you feel fully trained; the students figure it out very quickly and so do the teachers! Based on our first seven or eight weeks of use, we are very happy with this as an appropriate way to teach highly individualized math to kids with widely varying prior education levels and very beginning English skills.