ALEKS - Assessment and Learning

Implementation Strategies

View a selection of implementation strategies from educators who are successfully using ALEKS to achieve dramatic learning outcomes. 

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Liberty High School, Benicia Unified School District
Benicia, CA

Grade(s): 10 - 12
Scenario: Computer Lab, Home Access
Purpose: Credit Recovery, Exit Exam, Improve State Test Scores, At-Risk Students
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: 20%
Time Spent in ALEKS: 1-1.5 hours per week,18-25 hours per term
ALEKS Course: Algebra Readiness, California Algebra 1

Walter "Bud" Donaldson, Teacher
I teach high school algebra at a continuation high school in the San Francisco Bay Area. We had been looking for a computer program that could supplement the classroom instruction for some time. Since our population is high-risk youth with a wide range of mathematical abilities, we needed something to fill a very large gap. ALEKS has done an outstanding job of solving this dilemma. It addresses the deficiency of lower-ability students, while challenging the students that have already mastered many algebraic concepts. The program is used as a stand-alone homework assignment for students wanting and needing to learn and earn additional math credits toward graduation. Typically, I introduce a concept using ALEKS while projected onto a large screen. After the lesson concludes, students log-on and work independently, while I monitor their progress throughout the room.  We have been so impressed by the program that we have purchased a subscription for every math student in all five math classes.


Scenario

What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
The most important challenge we faced was getting all math students to pass the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE). ALEKS has helped many students to better prepare for and pass the CAHSEE.

How many days per week is class time dedicated to ALEKS?
1-2 days per week.

What is the average length of a class period when ALEKS is used?
35-40 minutes.


Implementation

Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
The program is designed to instruct in areas needed for prior understanding. For example, I wanted to use ALEKS the second semester to supplement instruction on factoring polynomials. However, the program wouldn't allow students to access that piece of the pie until prior pieces had been completed first. 

How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
I introduce a concept using an LCD projector and obtain student responses. I then check for understanding with a guided practice for 20-25 minutes. At the end of the period, I recap and review what we covered in class with exit questions and students' notes and calculations are also submitted.

How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
ALEKS is a supplement to my teaching.

How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
Students are encouraged to work from home every night.

How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
We have very little parent involvement at our school. Lack of parental involvement is part of why students were transferred to this school. However, we attempt to communicate using email, newsletters, parent-student meetings, back-to-school-night, open house, and phone calls.


Grading

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 can be 100 percent of students' homework if they wish; however, there are 3-4 options given to students to allow them to decide how they want to structure their homework time. Students earn additional school credit no matter what form the homework takes. It's the student's choice regarding the options for homework.

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
ALEKS is 20 percent of a student's grade.

Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
All progress made is based upon an individual student's motivation to learn, earn credit or a grade, and ultimately graduate from high school. If students choose not to work regularly on the program at their own pace, they won't earn the school credit points and may not graduate. The majority of students want to get caught up and finish high school, but we cannot force them to learn or be more motivated. All we can do is provide a positive environment for them to be successful, provide the necessary instruction, and monitoring and assessment for the students. Most students realize that their education is their responsibility and only they can control the outcome. Finally, I provide students the opportunity to re-take any quiz or exam, in order to achieve a minimum proficiency of at least 80 percent. I feel that everyone needs a second chance to redeem themselves and learn from their mistakes.


Learning Outcomes

Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
My students' overall level of understanding has increased, as have their test scores. Many of the high school students have begun to see the relationship between everyday problems and how algebraic equations can be used to solve them. The explanations provided by ALEKS give them the immediate individualized attention they need in order to continue to learn the concepts. I really like the features the program has embedded in to it, such as the answer input tools. It also has a very user-friendly tutorial that helps acquaint the students with the basic knowledge needed to navigate the entire program. The students look forward to their time in the media center using ALEKS. I also know for a fact many of my students have been motivated to use the program at home for many hours. I feel this indicates that students have discovered the true value of the program and are taking responsibility for expanding their own level of understanding and knowledge. The students also really like to see their progress in the pie chart. I have found that they will occasionally compare their pie chart with their friends. A little competition among the students is healthy to see. These are great outcomes to see, considering my students are identified as high-risk youth in jeopardy of dropping out of high school. They are now realizing that they can learn and become successful again.


Best Practices

Are there any best practices you would like to share with other teachers implementing ALEKS?
I think that going over some problems as a class using an LCD screen helps students learn the format and concepts as a group, so they can be of help to one another. After all, we're in this together!