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Alta Vista High School, Vista Unified School District
Grade(s): 10 - 12
Scenario: Computers in Classroom, Online School
Purpose: At-Risk Students, Core Curriculum
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: 75%
Time Spent in ALEKS: 4.5 hours per week, 55 hours per term
ALEKS Course: Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, High School Geometry
Steven Rhoades, Teacher
I have been using ALEKS since 2004 when a former teacher brought it back from a conference. We piloted the program and the District has since adopted the program as part of its curriculum. I use ALEKS in my classroom as an objective set with a quiz to follow for credits; another teacher uses the entire program with progressive assessments for complete course credit. It has worked tremendously well for our students who come in with low math skills. The program assesses them at their level and students can gradually build confidence as they complete their pie and objectives. This helps the students want to complete more and be successful in math. Additionally, the ALEKS personnel are always helpful when our school has a problem.
What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
Our school had the same directed teaching style and although it was working for some, it was not working for all. The problem was finding out which pace to keep so that all of the students were involved and completing their required math. We had tried other programs and they were cumbersome. ALEKS is easy and any time you run into a snag, the ALEKS personnel is very helpful.
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?
ALEKS is the whole approach to math in my class.
Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
I only use ALEKS in my class period. Each class period has many different subjects; some students use Pre-Algebra, others are using Algebra 1, and still others are using Geometry. The beauty of the ALEKS program is that I can have one class with multiple subjects and multiple levels where all students feel they are learning and accomplishing something.
How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
I changed completely over to ALEKS in 2004 to accommodate more students at different levels.
How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
I tell students daily to work at home. Some of them go on vacations in the middle of our trimesters and I tell them they can work on ALEKS anywhere they can get an Internet connection.
How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
I send parents a note explaining the 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?
ALEKS is optional as homework if students want to complete the course faster.
How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
I give five quizzes on which students have to average 65 percent or better. I then give the overall assessment where students have to score 70 percent or better to get their credits. The grade breakdown is as follows: 90 percent or above is an A; 80-89 percent is a B; 65-79 percent is a C; and less than 65 percent means the student has to repeat the course.
Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
Progress is measured through quizzes, and the final overall assessment has to be 70 percent or better or else students have to go back through the program.
Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
A lot of students feel they have learned more in ALEKS than if they were in a classroom setting with directed teaching. Some students finish a lot faster than they expected and others are amazed at what they have accomplished. I see students progressing well through ALEKS now that we have two implementation options at our school: the straight-through approach with progress assessments; and the objective set approach with quizzes and an assessment at the end. Both options are getting results because students can choose the option that fits their style of learning.
Are there any best practices you would like to share with other teachers implementing ALEKS?
Don't be afraid to switch things around from time to time to see what works best for you and your students. If you want to get something done and you don't see how to do it, call the ALEKS personnel and they will be glad to help. It has taken me five years to settle in on what I have now, with about that many changes. My school is really supportive of the program and we have two teachers with two different styles of using ALEKS, so it compliments us and helps the students.