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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Washington Park High School, Racine Unified School District
Racine, WI

Grade(s): 9 - 12
Scenario: Laptop Carts
Purpose: Intervention, Core Curriculum, At-Risk Students
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: 100%
Time Spent in ALEKS: 3 hours per week
ALEKS Course: QuickTables, Foundations of High School Math

Richard Miles, Teacher
I have enjoyed using ALEKS as a tool in the pilot program we have used it in. Students who had shown little to no interest in mathematics in a regular, traditional classroom have shown a markedly increased motivation during class. The students have enjoyed being able to pick what they are learning and the ability to spend as long as they desire doing as many examples as they feel are warranted to master the concepts. I like the multiple explanations and the dictionary features that allow the students to self-discover the material in a fashion that makes sense to them. The students like QuickTables as a method to build the basic underlying facts of math and the games that go along with that feature. I think the real strength of the program is that it is "smart" enough to accept mathematically correct answers, even if they are not the obvious answers. The reporting and information provided on the students progress and learning is great and helpful.


Scenario

What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
Prior to the ALEKS implementation, our district had a large population of students who came to high school up to seven grade levels behind. Many of these students did not know their basic math facts and struggled with even our remedial math courses. As teachers, we struggled trying to meet the varied needs of these students because, as a group, they were not homogeneous in the weaknesses and strengths they brought with them.

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?
35 minutes.


Implementation

How do you implement ALEKS?
We implemented ALEKS as a pilot program for those students whose skills, as measured on a Northwest Evaluation Association Measures of Academic Progress (NWEA MAP) test were far below the norm for our remedial math class. We placed these students in a new class where they would be allowed to use ALEKS to bring their skill levels up so they could transition back to a traditional class and be able to achieve success.

Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
No.

How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
The students retrieve their laptop from the storage cart, log in, and spend the entire class period working; although many students are already working in ALEKS by the time the class bell rings. During the period, I wander around the classroom assisting students as needed to understand topics or vocabulary that is confusing to them. Additionally, I watch over their shoulders and when I notice a student struggling with a concept, and I offer tips and hints of where their process derailed. I also work with them to get through the current example and then watch as they go through another example.

How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
With the ALEKS implementation, I have gone from a teacher-lead, discovery learning environment in the classroom to acting as a mentor and tutor for the students in this program.

How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
I do not require the students to work on ALEKS outside of class time, but encourage students once or twice a week to work on the program outside of class. I have noticed through the report system that I have students that do use ALEKS on days that they are absent from school.

How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
This year, I have not spent much time beyond normal parental contact to get parental involvement or support. I have considered sending letters home, a meeting for the parents of students in the course, and website postings to encourage parental involvement next year.


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?
No.

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
I base 100 percent of the grading from ALEKS. Seventy percent of the grade is based on time logged in (I monitor class time to ensure they are actively working on concepts while logged in). The other 30 percent is based on the mastery of the concepts. Since I had no baseline to start from, I use the average ratio of concepts mastered to concepts attempted as a "C." Then I use half of the standard deviation to create cut-offs for "B's" and "D's", and one and a half standard deviations to obtain the cut-offs for "A's" and "F's."

Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
I do not make a guideline of regular progress required, but I have noticed that the majority of students master 1-2 concepts a class period. Next year, I will require a minimum amount of progress measured in two ways: First, I will implement a minimum amount of time to be using the program and use the reporting tools to check that on a weekly basis. Second, I would require a minimum of six concepts mastered per week, on average.


Learning Outcomes

Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
Since we started using ALEKS, my students come to class excited about learning math. I have watched students who did little or nothing in my traditional math classes spend 40 minutes focused and actively engaged in the math they are learning. Students are also excited about how quickly they are progressing through the program and enjoy the freedom they have to choose what they are going to learn. Many students have commented that they didn't realize that math could be comprehensible. They also like the fact that they can always check on how far they have gone and what they have left to learn.