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Upson-Lee High School, Thomaston-Upson County Public Schools
Grade(s): 9 - 12
Scenario: Computer Lab
Purpose: Intervention, Special Education, Improve State Test Scores, Core Curriculum
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: 50%
Time Spent in ALEKS: 2-3 hours per week
ALEKS Course: Foundations of High School Math
Richard Howard, Assistant Principal
At Upson-Lee High School, we implemented ALEKS through a regional effort aimed at increasing student achievement for students with disabilities. However, we made a school-level decision to also include struggling students who were not students with disabilities. The program was the Georgia Learning Resource Systems (GLRS) Math Project through Griffin Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA). We began using ALEKS in the 2008-2009 school year with our ninth grade students who were in a Math 1 Support class. The students used ALEKS on a weekly basis, along with QuickTables. We were most impressed with ALEKS because it began filling in all of the gaps in math knowledge that our students came to the high school with. Our students' achievement improved, and our math teachers were featured at the end of the first year for their outstanding efforts and experience with ALEKS. They presented at Griffin RESA to educators who had been involved with the project and were scheduled to be involved in the upcoming year.
We had so much success with ALEKS the first year in ninth grade that I approached our tenth grade Math 2 Support teachers about using the program during the next year. These teachers looked at the program, spoke with the ninth grade Math 1 Support teachers, looked at the data, and decided that they too would utilize ALEKS. They had similar results in their classes. We felt very confident that these students were mastering both the foundational math knowledge and the grade-level math Georgia Performance Standards (GPS).
These struggling math students entered their junior year of high school with two years in ALEKS and two years in Support classes. In Georgia, students take the Georgia High School Graduation Tests (GHSGT) their junior year. Like many high schools, our math scores are always an area of concern. These students took the Math GHSGT in March 2011, and the scores were unbelievable, unprecedented, and beyond our improvement targets. Our 2009-2010 Math GHSGT scores were 62.4. Our 2010-2011 Math GHSGT scores were 78.2. This is almost a 16 point increase in scores!
I directly attribute our improvement to four things: a dynamic team of math teachers, ALEKS, our Math Support classes, and the Math Georgia Performance Standards. Without the enthusiasm, work ethic, and caring support of our teachers and ALEKS, we would not have been able to individualize remedial instruction in such a consistent, daily, and personalized way. We fully plan to continue utilizing the ALEKS program in both our ninth grade Math 1 Support classes, as well as our tenth grade Math 2 Support classes. ALEKS was the perfect program implemented at the perfect time for our high school. Our math teachers have made it an integral part of their approach with the Support students.
What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
Every year we are faced with the challenge of how to fill in the knowledge gaps our students come to us with. As ninth graders, they are faced with the challenge of mastering rigorous curriculum conforming to the Math Georgia Performance Standards. Due to the fact that many of them struggled with math in middle school, and in some cases failed the eighth grade Georgia Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT), they struggled in ninth grade math. In addition, it was difficult to meet the individual needs of every student struggling in math because foundational knowledge varied from student to student. ALEKS provided the personalization we needed to meet their individual needs.
How many days per week is class time dedicated to ALEKS?
2-3 days per week.
What is the average length of a class period when ALEKS is used?
How do you implement ALEKS?
We phased the program in with our ninth grade Math 1 Support classes. Four teachers were primarily involved: two ninth grade Math 1 teachers and two Special Education teachers.
Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
The math teachers structure the students' time based on the ALEKS Foundations of High School Math course.
How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
ALEKS is used in our Math Support classes for ninth and tenth grade students.
How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
ALEKS is used in Math Support classes, which supplement our regular math classes.
How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
Students are rarely required to work on ALEKS at home.
How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
Math teachers inform parents about the benefits of their children using the ALEKS program.
How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
Our students receive a grade for Math 1 Support, which is a ninth grade class. ALEKS is 50 percent of a student's grade for the class.
Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
The math teachers try to have the students complete the Foundations of High School Math course by the end of the year.
Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
Since implementing ALEKS, we have seen that our struggling students are more engaged every day in our Math Support classes. For our students, after using ALEKS in ninth grade and finding success with foundational concepts they struggled with in middle school, their progress in ALEKS makes them feel more confident about going into their regular math course.
Are there any best practices you would like to share with other teachers implementing ALEKS?
We use ALEKS along with QuickTables and another learning tool. We have found that regular, monitored work in ALEKS gives students the foundational knowledge in math they need to progress through the regular Math 1 GPS for the ninth grade.