ALEKS - Assessment and Learning

Implementation Strategies

View a selection of implementation strategies from educators who are successfully using ALEKS to achieve dramatic learning outcomes. 

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Shawnee Mission South High School, Shawnee Mission School District
Overland Park, KS

Grade(s): 9 - 12
Scenario: Computer Lab
Purpose: Supplement, Improve State Test Scores
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: 18%
Time Spent in ALEKS: 1.5 hours per week; 18-19 hours per term
ALEKS Course: Foundations of High School Math

Brendan Curran, Teacher
I have worked with ALEKS for the past four or five years in my Algebra 1A class (similar to first semester of Algebra spread over a year). Twice a week we meet in the computer lab and students log onto ALEKS for 45 minutes. Students earn a grade in two ways for their time on ALEKS: they earn daily points for their journal entry documenting the problems they completed that day and also for the total amount of time they have logged. It has worked out great.  While I can sell it to the students as getting a break from the classroom, they are engaged just as much on our computer lab days. I believe it is a great way to supplement the students' computational and algebraic skills.


Scenario

What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
The biggest challenge that Algebra 1A students faced prior to using ALEKS was homework completion, which unfortunately still occurs. But because of ALEKS we have fewer homework assignments and this is not necessarily a bad thing. I believe the students are more engaged with math on our ALEKS days because they are working independently for 45 minutes and trying to figure things out on their own, with a little assistance at times.

How many days per week is class time dedicated to ALEKS?
2 days per week.

What is the average length of a class period when ALEKS is used?
45 minutes.


Implementation

How do you implement ALEKS?
I use ALEKS as a supplement to our district curriculum and state assessment preparation. While most of the students are freshman and don't take the state assessment until their sophomore year, it is a good way to introduce a lot of assessment topics that are not in our textbook (i.e. geometry topics). We also feel that ALEKS is good way for students to become comfortable with online assessments, which we now use for our state assessment.

Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
No, I allow the students to choose their topics.

How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
Twice a week my class meets in the computer lab and they log onto ALEKS for 45 minutes. They are required to keep a daily journal to document the problems they've worked on and receive points daily for this.

How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
We stopped meeting in the classroom 5 days a week, even though we are on a traditional schedule. I think it provides a nice break from the classroom.

How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
I only ask my students to work at home if they have been absent on an ALEKS day.

How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
Good results make it an easy sell. A few years ago a colleague of mine researched the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) scores of Algebra 1A students who had used ALEKS throughout the year versus those who had not. The results showed that student who used ALEKS improved more than those who had not. This year I started a spreadsheet of all my students hours logged and assessment scores. I was a little surprised when I realized that the average increase in assessment scores was over 30 percent. I will certainly share this with my students' parents next year! I've never had a parent question why we use ALEKS.


Grading

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 makes up about 20 percent of their homework grade.

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
Their ALEKS grades end up being about 18 percent of the grade. Each quarter they receive 30 points for their daily journal entries and 30 points for hours logged on. They earn six points a day for their journal entries. At the end of the quarter I will scale their total (about 72 points) to 30 points. For hours logged, as an example, if they are supposed to have 19 hours at the end of the semester, they will earn 30 points for 19 hours, 25 points for 18 hours, 20 points for 17 hours, etc.  I will also do a linear regression and calculate points on my spreadsheet.

Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
This year, my students ALEKS assessment scores have increased about 32 percent per student! I was quite pleased when I realized the improvement we made as a class of about 50 students. I'm not sure I can say this has translated to a better grade in math class, but it certainly shows that learning has occurred. Our school has made AYP in mathematics each year and we are hopeful that ALEKS has helped some the lower achieving students improve. When we look at the progress students have made on their ALEKS assessments, I can tell that they are pretty pleased. I have even seen a few students become motivated to complete their pie!


Learning Outcomes

Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
I think it's very important for the students to know that you are documenting their progress on both assessment scores and hours logged, so that you can communicate with them on how well they are doing. This helps hold the students accountable for what they accomplish on our ALEKS days. I have also found that iPods and monitoring programs are helpful. As long as students are staying caught up with hours logged, my principal has given me permission to allow students to listen to their iPods on our ALEKS days. It's something I think the students appreciate.  I think they are more willing to sit and work on these days if you allow them to listen to their music. We also use a monitoring program that allows me to see all student monitors at once AND control what programs they use. The only sites they can visit on the Internet is our district website and ALEKS - that's it. It won't allow them to go to any other site. This is a tremendous help.