View a selection of implementation strategies from educators who are successfully using ALEKS to achieve dramatic learning outcomes.
Toledo Technology Academy, Toledo Public Schools
Grade(s): 9 - 12
Scenario: Computers in Classroom, Laptop Carts
Purpose: Credit Recovery, Enrichment/Gifted and Talented, Summer School, At-Risk Students
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: 90%
Time Spent in ALEKS: 5 hours per week, 40 hours per term
ALEKS Course: Algebra 1, High School Geometry, PreCalculus
Patrick Farley, Teacher
Our experience with ALEKS has been positive. The big selling point for us is that students are diagnosed and directed to what they are ready to learn. Everyone agrees that differentiated curriculum is a great idea, but I had yet to see a practical implementation in a high school math class. ALEKS solves this problem. Our days of teaching to the middle are numbered, if not already over!
What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
The first challenge was providing individualized curriculum to address the diversity of our incoming freshmen's mathematical skills and backgrounds. Each year we identify a group of students whose skills are significantly deficient. These students struggle in and/or fail Algebra 1, only to remediate the credit (not the content), and then repeat the cycle in Geometry and Algebra 2 before failing Pre-Calculus. The second challenge was that our school offers only two sections of Algebra 1 and one section of Geometry to freshmen. Our experience suggests that some students in both classes are misplaced. With individualized curriculum, students are placed exactly where their skills demonstrate they should be placed. Some students may start the year 75 percent of the way through Algebra 1 and end 50 percent of the way through Geometry. Others may start 80 percent of the way into Pre-Algebra and end 70 percent of the way through Algebra. This works as long as ALL students end their high school career with a minimum 100 percent progress through Algebra 2.
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 started by piloting ALEKS with students who were at-risk or needed remediation. We are so impressed that we're making all incoming freshmen use ALEKS. We'll then evaluate if all students should remain in ALEKS or if some should be moved out of the program at the end of the year. As far as the curriculum goes, we are able to integrate the textbook the district uses with ALEKS.
Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
Students self-direct which topics to cover.
How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
We are currently working on a structure to implement next year.
How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
I've become a troubleshooter for student progress. Students who are having particular trouble ask me questions or I look at the reports to see who is having trouble progressing past a topic.
How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
Grades are based on progress. Students are required to work in ALEKS at home only when their progress at school is too slow.
How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
Parents typically agree with using the program when they find out there are few or no multiple-choice questions, no repeated questions, and students can't progress until they demonstrate mastery.
How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
Quarterly grades are issued based on the following growth: A is 30 percent or higher; B is 25-29 percent growth; C is 20-24 percent growth; and D is 15-19 percent growth. Semester grades are based on the following growth from the student's semester starting point: A is 60 percent or higher; B is 50-59 percent growth; C is 40-49 percent growth; and D is 30-39 percent growth.
Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
So far we are impressed with ALEKS. What I can say without a doubt is that when students are having trouble, they now ask more meaningful and specific questions instead of just saying "I don't get it." Their attitudes toward math have improved. The at-risk students who use ALEKS have professed that since they've started making progress and are learning for the first time in a long time, they actually like math. Also, students are proud of their results. I've never seen high fives in math class until a student mastered a topic on linear equations and filled in part of his pie chart. This student had either failed or squeaked by in math all through Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2. He turned to his neighbor and said, "I did it! Yes!" It was awesome. Another sophomore who has historically not liked math and is at approximately a seventh grade math level in Algebra Readiness, had been avoiding fractions like the plague. Then one day after three weeks in ALEKS, this student told her teacher, "Well, I think it's time I start fractions today. I'm ready." The previous 2-3 weeks had improved her self-confidence in math to the point where she self-directed into a topic in which we couldn't force her to engage. Other students who have heard about ALEKS are requesting access to the program to accelerate themselves into the AP track. One parent asked me in an email, "What did you do to my son that he should make such a strange request?" (in a good way).