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Flushing High School, New York City Geographic District 25
Grade(s): 9 - 12
Scenario: Home Access
Purpose: Intervention, Improve State Test Scores, Core Curriculum, Supplement
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: 25%
Time Spent in ALEKS: 2 hours per week, 10-12 hours per term
ALEKS Course: High School Geometry
Judy Mui, Teacher
I was given a class of students with a weak math foundation, and they were expected to take the state exam at the end of the year. An intervention program was needed to motivate the students and build their self-confidence in the content area. ALEKS is a relatively simple program to use. With ALEKS, I am able to create quizzes targeted at specific skills or concepts. The most important aspect of the program is the immediate feedback students receive upon completion of a quiz. In addition, students are able to read a thorough explanation of the procedure for solving a problem they had incorrect.
What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
This year I am teaching the second year of a two-year Geometry sequence. My student population is comprised of students who barely passed Algebra and the first-year Geometry courses. These students are unmotivated to learn math and do not possess the self-confidence to do well in this content area. Students' homework completion rate and test scores were at an all time low.
How many days per week is class time dedicated to ALEKS?
6 days per week.
How do you implement ALEKS?
Instead of assigning problems from a textbook for homework, I create homework quizzes on ALEKS. Every Monday, I announce to the class the quizzes that are posted for the week, which are due by the end of the week on Saturday. This strategy gives students the option to work at their own pace. In addition, the quizzes are set up such that the students have three attempts for each quiz. Therefore, if a student is not satisfied with a score, the student can take the quiz again. Since the questions from ALEKS are randomly generated every time, a student will not see the exact same question in the second or third attempt of a quiz. Students are encouraged to read through the explanations provided by ALEKS for incorrect questions before starting a second or third attempt on a quiz. Students can also wait and ask for a review in class before making a second or third attempt on a quiz.
Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
When creating my homework quizzes on ALEKS, I select standards that correlate with the topics I am teaching in class for the week. The order of the topics depends on the curriculum mapping I use, which is aligned with New York state standards.
How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
Students do not use ALEKS in the classroom. All work on ALEKS is done at home, but students are encouraged to write down questions they did not understand from the homework quizzes. The first ten minutes (if needed) of every class period is allotted to reviewing difficult quiz problems from ALEKS. To accommodate students without computers or Internet access at home, I have a few laptops that students are welcome to borrow during their lunch period or after school to complete the homework quizzes.
How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
After implementing the ALEKS homework quizzes, less time was needed in class to review homework assignments. Therefore, there was more time to cover academic content and to provide students with in-class practice. After each weekly deadline for homework quizzes, I review the detailed class report of the quizzes to identify (if any) the questions that a majority of the students had difficulty with. These topics are then reviewed in class and then retested on the quizzes the following week.
How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
They are required to work on ALEKS on a weekly basis.
How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
Parents are informed of this homework system during parent/teacher conferences and are encouraged to track their child's progress with the ALEKS program.
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?
Completion of the homework quizzes I create in ALEKS are students' only homework responsibilities. The grades they receive on the homework quizzes are also averaged as their quiz grade.
How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
Completion of homework assignments is 15 percent of the report card grade, and the quiz average is ten percent.
Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
Students are still given in-class tests which account for 65 percent of the homework grade. Before every in-class exam, I create a practice test in ALEKS based on the test topics so that students can predict their test score and come into class more confident about passing. Questions on the in-class tests are on the level of state standards.
Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
By administering homework quizzes on ALEKS, students had more incentive to complete their homework and practice math at home. Since these homework quizzes accounted for the homework and quiz components of their report card grade, students viewed these assignments as an opportunity to increase their test average and increase their chances of passing the class. After using ALEKS for an entire marking period, the average homework completion rate for the class increased by 20 percent, and the class test average increased by 30 percent. The majority of the students reflect positively on their experience with ALEKS. Students particularly like being given an immediate grade upon completion of a homework quiz. Students become more accountable for their work by reading through the explanations for problems they answered incorrectly. Often students came by my classroom either during their lunch period or after school to borrow a laptop to work on their homework quizzes. Not all of these students have issues with computer or Internet usage at home, but they choose to do the quizzes at school in case there is a quiz question they need help with.
Are there any best practices you would like to share with other teachers implementing ALEKS?
With ALEKS, students have their own personal tutor at home. Students can complete a homework assignment, receive a grade, and immediately review their errors instead of waiting until the next class meeting to determine if they completed their homework correctly.