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Clovis High School, Clovis Unified School District
Grade(s): 9 - 12
Scenario: Computer Lab, Online School, Home Access
Purpose: Intervention, Exit Exam, Summer School, At-Risk Students
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: 80%
Time Spent in ALEKS: 3.5 hours per week; 63 hours per term
ALEKS Course: Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1
Alice Keeler, Teacher & Technology Coach
ALEKS has been a positive experience for our students. We utilize ALEKS as a course to individualize instruction for students who are in need of passing the California High School Exit Exam. Since high school course work does not address the standards covered by the high school exit exam, and considering that students in need of passing this exam have specific and individual weaknesses, ALEKS allows students to get instruction that would otherwise be unavailable to them. In addition, students who are struggling with Algebra are given an opportunity to utilize ALEKS to help support and build their understanding of Algebra standards and provide them with additional instruction in Algebra. For the Clovis Online School, students utilize ALEKS as their primary means of instruction. In conjunction with teacher support, students are able to individualize their instruction on their own time and terms.
What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
California state standards put Algebra as an 8th grade class, and students who are in high school who are not ready to tackle Algebra are at a severe disadvantage since courses below the Algebra-level are not offered. Thanks to ALEKS, students are not only able to receive the instruction they need, but it is individually tailored to the needs of the student allowing the student to have a maximum opportunity for success.
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?
Initially, about eight years ago, I was able to get a trial of ALEKS for use in my Pre-Algebra class. The administrators have since been using ALEKS as a supplemental offering for parents to utilize outside of the school day. Eventually ALEKS was able to be utilized within a classroom setting as the primary course curriculum for the class.
Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
Regardless of the assignment for the day, ALEKS is the daily warm up. Students are expected to achieve a minimum of eight objectives a week. The reporting ability of ALEKS is fantastic and not only assigns grades, but continually reports students' progress towards their goals, thus letting students know their progress is being tracked and helping to motivate them to stay on task. At the beginning of the school year, ALEKS is integrated with unit worksheets and tests. However, as the general math coursework becomes more difficult for some students, we transition into fully using ALEKS on a daily basis. I check the reports on ALEKS throughout the period to individually praise students for their progress and to identify who has stalled on making progress so that I can give them individual encouragement and help. Students are expected to take notes from the ALEKS explanations in a journal, and to turn in their organized scratch paper at the end of the period.
How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
ALEKS allows us to virtually eliminate direct instruction and provide individualized instruction where the teacher is able to give one-on-one attention to students. Usually one-on-one attention is difficult, as when one student has the teacher's attention, the other students are either waiting or are not as productive. With ALEKS, all students are able to keep working and progressing through their learning objectives when the teacher is working with another student. It is easy for the teacher to know which students need the individualized help and instruction which maximizes the efforts of the teacher as well.
How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
Students are encouraged to work on ALEKS at home daily.
How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
ALEKS reports allow me to communicate to parents exactly what a student has learned. Parents appreciate the specific information about what the student has demonstrated, and are able to utilize the information to make informed decisions about the student's future mathematical ventures.
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 the only homework assigned to students.
How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
ALEKS is approximately 50-60 percent of the overall grade. Students receive 10 points a day for their effort on the daily tasks, 50 points a week for achieving at least eight objectives, and 50 points for improving on the ALEKS assessment. They receive 40 out of 50 points for staying the same, and 30 points if they decreased only a little. The syllabus states that 1,800 points will be based on ALEKS, so any points that remain at the end of the semester are based on the student achieving their goal (number of objectives) in ALEKS, which comes to around 800 points.
Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
Yes, I measure progress by using the Time and Topic report each week. They should achieve eight objectives a week, and should get half of the objectives by the end of the first semester. They should achieve at least 80 percent of the overall objectives possible by the end of the school year.
Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
In my face-to-face class, I work with students who are weak in their basic skills. Students are able to work specifically on the skill set that they are weak in, rather than being forced to sit through direct instruction on skills that they may have either already mastered or on skills that are too far above their ability level. ALEKS allows all of their instructional time to be meaningful to the individual student, thus achievement is meaningful to each student. Students who scored far below basic on state testing when entering my course were able to be successful on the California High School Exit Exam. Students like that they can see exactly how much progress they have made every day. The pie allows the students to have visual confirmation of their accomplishments. Students are disappointed any day that we are not utilizing ALEKS, thus confirming that the feedback and instruction provided by ALEKS gives the students a sense of accomplishment.
Are there any best practices you would like to share with other teachers implementing ALEKS?
Require students to take good notes. ALEKS instruction works best when students actively engage with the instruction.