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Southridge High School, Southwest Dubois County School Corporation
Grade(s): 9 - 12
Scenario: Laptop Carts
Purpose: College and Career Readiness, Core Curriculum
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: 50-95%
Time Spent in ALEKS: 3.5 hours per week; 60 hours per term
ALEKS Course: High School Preparation for Algebra 1, Algebra 1
Tracey Price, Teacher
ALEKS is a fabulous program. Over the course of a few short months we have fallen in love with it. We use ALEKS for two purposes: First, for a pilot program aimed at increasing Algebra 1 student knowledge and End-of-Course Assessment (ECA) test scores; second, for a college-prep course for college-bound seniors who elect not to take PreCalculus or Calculus. Our results have been amazing. In our Algebra 1 course, student knowledge of Indiana state standards grew from a dismal 2.9 percent mastery to over 18 percent in ten weeks. In several cases, students test in at less than 20 percent content knowledge even after a full semester of regular classroom instruction and have now grown to over 60 percent content knowledge. They doubled their Algebra knowledge in two and a half months! Students in the course are happier, working harder, and already beginning to surpass their regular classroom counterparts. We love ALEKS' abilities to place kids at their current level of knowledge and let them work forward. This is the first program that truly allows kids to go back and relearn prerequisite knowledge BEFORE pushing them forward into current learning topics. We could not be happier with our results and only look forward to next year.
What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
Prior to ALEKS, our school struggled from year to year with handling Algebra 1 students. We have one Algebra 1 course at the eighth grade-level, but some of those students were choosing to retake the course for a higher grade for their GPA. At the same time, we eliminated a high school Pre-Algebra course, leaving struggling students no choice but to take Algebra 1 during their freshman year. This created difficult classroom situations with a mix of students who had already passed the course and the ECA, with students who may have math content-knowledge at a fifth or sixth grade level. High school teachers were pulling their hair out trying to teach both levels in the same classroom.
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?
We use a weekly structure. Monday, all students take a "pre-quiz" on teacher-selected content from our old Algebra 1 textbook, as we are attempting to keep pace with the regular Algebra course in terms of textbook chapters. On Tuesday and Wednesday, students are broken into smaller groups to go over low scoring topics from the quiz with the teacher. Students who do not need extra help on those topics continue working in their pies. Thursday, all students scoring less than 80 percent retake the quiz; this quiz score then goes into the gradebook. On Friday, we use the day to catch-up absent students, continue working in our pies, or do a fun classroom activity.
Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
Yes, we have been covering ALEKS topics using textbook alignment. We have aligned our old Algebra 1 textbook, and are working through the chapters in the same order as our regular Algebra classes. We did spend quite a bit of time in the beginning going over prerequisite skills not related to any chapter.
How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
Class periods are approximately 45 minutes. It takes the students 5-8 minutes to start up and shut down the laptops, leaving our class about 38-40 minutes. Students know to log in immediately upon entering the room. They have a goal sheet in a folder on the teacher's desk that they also pick up. Students will either spend the class period working on their pie, working on a quiz or assessment, or working with the teacher in a small group. Homework is given at the end of the period, two days per week.
How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
Everything about the way I taught has changed. ALEKS is truly a paradigm shift if you want to implement it as a core curriculum, but the change has been amazing. Students' learning rates and stimuli are changing, so why shouldn't the teacher adjust accordingly? Classes are no longer predominantly lecture-based, but now are much more student-centered. Students work both independently and in small groups with me. Sometimes these small groups involve traditional note-taking or board work, and sometimes they involve working with a partner to solve a set of problems. Instead of being in the front of the room directing all students, I am now crouched down, working one-on-one with the students. This individual attention has helped them tremendously.
How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
Students are encouraged to use ALEKS at home as often as they like. Usually students take advantage of this opportunity when they are behind in their topic goals or have missed several days of school. Some students even worked in ALEKS over Spring Break!
How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
Parents are able to access their students' scores, and the students are instructed to go home and show their parents the ALEKS features and their assessment scores.
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 assignments account for about 60 percent of their homework load. The remaining 40 percent comes from their old textbook and teacher-written assignments. Usually these are printed to eliminate any issues with students not having computers or Internet at home.
How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
ALEKS accounts for 95 percent of the students' grade. Students are given quizzes and homework assignments from ALEKS, and they also have a completion goal that equates to a weekly grade. There are very few "test" grades, but occasionally a larger quiz. We also have writing prompts related to ALEKS topics. The breakdown is as follows: 40 percent for quizzes; 15 percent for homework; 30 percent for goal completion; 5 percent for writing; and 5 percent for tests.
Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
Yes, students keep a weekly goal sheet where, daily, they tally their topics completed. Each student's goal is individualized. After the first two weeks of regular ALEKS use, the teacher examines each student's Initial Assessment and progress, and then sets goals for students based on their ALEKS progress and prior knowledge of math. Every three weeks, the goals are re-evaluated just in case a student has progressed into harder content knowledge that requires more time and would, thus, lower their completion goal.
Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
In ten weeks time, our students' Algebra 1 Indiana State Standards content knowledge has grown from 2.9 percent to over 18 percent mastery. It was disheartening to us that students only possessed a 2.9 percent knowledge-level after a whole semester of regular classroom instruction; however, in less than one semester, they have exploded their learning rates using ALEKS. Several students are retaking the course and will be taking the ECA for the third or fourth time. These students' Initial Assessments reflected less than 20 percent Algebra 1 topic knowledge; they have now grown to over 50-60 percent. Many of these students will FINALLY pass their graduation qualifying exam and move beyond the Algebra 1 course, thanks to ALEKS. The students in this class find Algebra easier to understand, easier to focus on, and overall more interesting. They like being able to choose their topics and pace, and they like the individual attention they get from the teacher when they reach a topic they need more help on. In addition to the Algebra 1 students, our College Algebra students have almost completed the curriculum for our high school college prep course. They have written reflection articles that all indicate that they feel more prepared for their college math courses than they ever were before. Every single student says they are happy with ALEKS and the breadth of knowledge presented. We have even set up a website dedicated to student responses about the ALEKS program to help drive enthusiasm for funding next year.
Are there any best practices you would like to share with other teachers implementing ALEKS?
For our students, the weekly completion goal procedure and the weekly quizzes have been really beneficial. Students these days like having smaller immediate goals that they can reach and exceed. I also wish we would have implemented some sort of notebook grade where the students keep a log or journal of their daily work.