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Irving Independent School District
Grade(s): K - 12
Scenario: Computer Lab, One-to-One Laptop Program, Computers in Classroom
Purpose: RtI, Enrichment/Gifted and Talented, Special Education, ESL Students
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: Varies.
Time Spent in ALEKS: Varies.
ALEKS Course: Mathematics - LV 3 (with QuickTables), Mathematics - LV 4 (with QuickTables), Mathematics - LV 5 (with QuickTables), Essential Mathematics (with QuickTables), Arithmetic (with QuickTables), MS RtI Tier 3, Middle School Math Course 2, Middle School Math Course 3, Foundations of High School Math, High School Preparation for Algebra 1, Algebra 1, High School Geometry, Algebra 2, Math Review for AP Calculus
Nancy Terry, Math Intervention Specialist
During the final three months of the 2009-2010 school year, Irving Independent School District implemented an ALEKS pilot program in select classes at six secondary campuses. Two district departments, the English as a Second Language Department (ESL) and the Special Education (SpEd) Department, participated in the pilot. Five high schools and one middle school were also included, involving students from 6-11th grade. The 13 ALEKS courses used during the pilot ranged from Mathematics - LV 3 to Algebra 2. During the 2010-2011 school year, all of the schools involved in the pilot continued to implement ALEKS in select classes. From the district level, the ESL and SpEd departments continued to use ALEKS in select classes, and the Gifted and Talented Department used the program with a small number of students. Two campuses used ALEKS in their campus-based math intervention plans. By the end of the school year, the Irving ISD roster of schools using ALEKS included five high schools, seven middle schools, six elementary schools, and one transitional educational center. Students using ALEKS ranged from 3rd-12th grade. The 19 ALEKS courses used ranged from Mathematics - LV3 to Math Review for AP Calculus. In my role as a Math Intervention Specialist in the Special Education Department, I serve as a contact person to facilitate the use of ALEKS in the district, although the focus of my daily duties continue to be the needs of the Special Education Department.
What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
Different campus levels and programs across the district find different challenges, but some challenges are consistently seen, including a high mobility rate in/out of the district; a high mobility rate between schools within the district; the huge range of student needs within one class period is too great for the teacher to effectively address without a powerful, individualized intervention; a limited academic vocabulary; and English as a Second Language learners needing to acquire language skills, as well as math content.
How many days per week is class time dedicated to ALEKS?
What is the average length of a class period when ALEKS is used?
How do you implement ALEKS?
Since ALEKS is used in different district programs, as well as some campus-based intervention programs, the integration of ALEKS into the classroom varies.
Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
In general, teachers do not cover ALEKS topics in a particular order.
How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
Since ALEKS is used in multiple classroom settings from elementary through high school, classes are structured differently to meet student needs within the constraints defined by campus logistics, such as master schedule and computer availability.
How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
Multiple teachers at various grade levels have told me that they have been able to address student needs more effectively because of the information they have gained from student reports in ALEKS.
How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
Since not all students in the district have computers and Internet access at home, working on ALEKS at home is never required. However, home use is regularly encouraged.
How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
Many parents are informed about ALEKS and shown reports of their students' progress during regular Special Education "Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD)" meetings held at the campus level. General ALEKS information meetings are held for parents on three campuses. These sessions include an overview of the program and a detailed explanation of reporting capabilities, as well as a question/answer period.
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?
Since not all students in the district have computers and Internet access at home, ALEKS is not assigned as part of their homework responsibilities.
How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
Teachers using ALEKS are invited to three Professional Learning Community (PLC) meetings during the spring semester. During these meetings, different grading plans applicable to elementary, middle, and high school settings are proposed. The incorporation of ALEKS into the grading system is then left to the discretion of individual teachers who are mandated to function within the constraints of a district-wide grading policy. Six PLC meetings are scheduled for the upcoming school year.
Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
Since ALEKS is used in multiple settings across the district, no requirement for progress has been set consistently.
Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
Since implementing ALEKS in the district, students in multiple grade levels representing various campus and district programs have shown progress. Consistently, two strong correlations were found: more time on ALEKS equaled more progress in math concepts/skill development, and an explicit campus/classroom plan for using ALEKS during the school day equaled more time spent on ALEKS. The mid-year analysis determined that demographics such as ethnicity or socio-economic status were not predictors of student growth as measured by ALEKS. For 2010-2011, mid-year progress for various Irving ISD groups using ALEKS are summarized as follows. The average percentage points gained at approximately mid-year: ESL Middle School - 12; ESL High School - 10; ESL Overall - 11; SpEd Elementary - 8; SpEd Middle School - 19; and SpEd High School - 9. Gains for each campus were also computed at mid-year; one middle school campus using ALEKS in a campus-based math intervention showed an average of 20 percentage points gained. The District showed percentage points gained in various ALEKS classes ranging from 4-33 percentage points for students spending at least one hour in ALEKS during the school year. The median percentage points gained was 15. Students in Arithmetic, MS RtI Tier 3, and Mathematics - LV 3 showed the greatest gains. Students have not yet been formally surveyed regarding their use of ALEKS, but teachers and administrators have received many positive anecdotal comments from the students. Teachers using ALEKS were surveyed in March 2011, and the following comments were recorded: "I have seen numerous students close the gaps in their learning."; "It helps to identify the exact areas of weakness for my students."; "We use it on a weekly basis, and it allows my students to get back to the basics which affects everything we teach them."; and more.
Are there any best practices you would like to share with other teachers implementing ALEKS?
Best practices seen across Irving Independent School District include progress charts on classroom walls tracking weekly student progress; grading systems that encouraged consistent use of ALEKS within a class; math journals/notebooks used to keep ALEKS notes and work; students being required to show notes from the ALEKS "Explain" feature before requesting teacher assistance; and student accountability enforced with regular review of ALEKS progress by the teacher.