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Cabrillo High School, Long Beach Unified School District
Long Beach, CA
Scenario: Computer Lab
Purpose: Exit Exam
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: 80%
Time Spent in ALEKS: 3 hours per week, 26-30 hours per term
Matt Gold, Teacher
In my situation, I am teaching twelfth grade students who have failed the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) multiple times, and whose math skills and needs are widely divergent. ALEKS allows me to individualize instruction so that students get what they need, when they are ready to learn it. Because ALEKS is so closely aligned to the CAHSEE standards, I use ALEKS to determine what topics the majority of students are working on and use the classroom time to support that learning.
What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
We are presently using ALEKS to work with our CAHSEE Prep students. By and large, these students are in the twelfth grade and have failed Algebra multiple times, have been unable to pass the CAHSEE, and need a lot of support to get to a place where they can pass the CAHSEE and get their diplomas. This group of students is very difficult to work with because of the wide variety of challenges they present to a classroom teacher. Some of these students have large gaps in their math fundamentals and need to start from scratch. Others are only missing a small piece of the CAHSEE standards and once they fill in these gaps can pass easily. Many of these students are chronic underachievers in math and have a long history of frustration and failure. Motivating theses students, diagnosing their unique needs, and addressing them in a class of 35-40 students at all levels is nearly impossible without ALEKS.
How many days per week is class time dedicated to ALEKS?
2 days per week.
What is the average length of a class period when ALEKS is used?
How do you implement ALEKS?
I use ALEKS in conjunction with a variety of support materials including CAHSEE warm-up questions from previously released exams, the Prentice Hall Algebra support materials for remediation, the AGS Pre-Algebra textbook, and related resources I've collected over the years.
Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
No, I have a general idea of the order I've usually covered the CAHSEE standards, but I'm more flexible with ALEKS. I try to utilize the student data to cover topics at the ideal time for the majority of students, rather than in a pre-determined order.
How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
The first 10-15 minutes are used for students to assess their progress using the built-in ALEKS tools. The majority of the period is spent using ALEKS to practice and instruct in specific areas that students choose to focus on for that period. About 30 minutes before the end of the period, students need to complete the online ALEKS Quiz (they can complete it up to three times) or homework assignments, do a quick journal regarding their daily progress, and reflect on what they learned that day. On Mondays, we meet in the classroom instead of the lab, and we work on topics that the majority of students are either working on or are struggling with (I use ALEKS Quizzes to identify these topics as well as quick assessments during class).
How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
I would say that this is something that is ongoing. To date, ALEKS has been very helpful at diagnosing students' strengths and weaknesses and has helped focus and inform my instruction when we are not in the lab.
How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
One hour per week.
How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
We did a demonstration and explanation of ALEKS at our Back-To-School Night. We are also working on ways to get parents more involved by connecting with the parent education group to allow parents to become familiar with different technologies that their students use at school.
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?
Yes, 100 percent.
How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
ALEKS makes up 50 percent of the student's grade.
Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
Not currently. We are working to define and set learning goals based on our initial experience implementing the program.
Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
ALEKS has provided answers to many of the problems I faced in addressing the unique needs of this group of students. Students are more motivated to learn and it is easier for me to assess and evaluate students so they get constant feedback on their progress. ALEKS also offers students a chance to be successful because it provides instruction in their proximal learning zone, challenging them without frustrating them.
Are there any best practices you would like to share with other teachers implementing ALEKS?
I suggest implementing ALEKS with an open mind and a willingness to adjust and change your expectations as you become more familiar with how the program works. The most important thing to me is to tie what students are working on in ALEKS to classroom instruction, so that ALEKS informs and enhances classroom instruction. I also suggest using ALEKS to assess student progress to either continue an instructional objective or change direction in response to students' success or failure at achieving the objective.