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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Myron B. Thompson Academy Public Charter School, Hawaii Public Schools
Honolulu, HI

Grade(s): K - 12
Scenario: Online School
Purpose: Intervention, Improve State Test Scores, At-Risk Students, Core Curriculum
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: 50%
Time Spent in ALEKS: 10 hours per week, 100 hours per term
ALEKS Course: Middle School Math Course 2, Middle School Math Course 3, Foundations of High School Math, Algebra 1, High School Geometry, Algebra 2, PreCalculus, Trigonometry

Floyd C. Loving III, Teacher
I have been very pleased with ALEKS. I fully recommend ALEKS because it allows teachers to individualize each learner's experience; gives unlimited practice; makes cheating almost non-existent; provides wonderfully detailed explanations; includes tools for tracking students and diagnosing areas of need; becomes the ultimate tool for student accountability; allows for more parent involvement with student/teacher/parent contracts, explanations, and progress reports in ALEKS; and is highly customizable by teachers to enable preparation for high stakes state and national tests. I used ALEKS to produce targeted lessons using topics to mimic the American Diploma Project (ADP) Algebra 2 End-of-Course (EOC) test. Our school went from a zero rating to a rating of "Well Prepared" students, which is more than 350 percent times the national average.


Scenario

What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
Pervasive cheating, difficulty verifying learning, and providing swift, solid help in an asynchronous class environment.

How many days per week is class time dedicated to ALEKS?
5 days per week.


Implementation

How do you implement ALEKS?
There are 3-4 major areas I use to determine students' grades. First, I create ALEKS lessons and quizzes to encourage students to complete the material by the end date. Second, I use ALEKS topics mastered in Learning Mode (their pie) to determine a percentage of the total grade for the course. Each student has stated targets to reach throughout the term. Thirdly, I have an in-class final exam. For some courses, I will use the ADP EOC test results. I care most about where a student ends up, so if they have been struggling all term with the course-paced lessons, but have shown proficiency in another of the above summative measures, I will discount their grade on number one above. In this way, I avoid penalizing students who struggle at first with the topics we cover but eventually "get it".

Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
Students are allowed to cover topics individually in any order as they become available in their pie for the self-paced portion of their work. For the course-paced portion of the class, I use the ADP EOC exam or the Hawaii Content and Performance Standards (HCPS III) to structure my order (although I am transitioning to the Common Core State Standards).

How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
I have two live teaching sessions per week in a virtual classroom. The rest of the week, students work independently with the material via ALEKS or work with me individually to clear learning obstacles. The speed with which students can move when self-paced and not governed by their fellow classmates is amazing. At the same time, students who need to move slower through some topics are given the room to gain a solid understanding of the topic, and then catch-up and sometimes even pass the class. The leap-frogging becomes very interesting and is nearly impossible in a traditional, static curriculum.

How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
I was able to release many of my students to work independently and focus my time on the struggling students. I formed contracts with these students and held them accountable for putting in the time they needed to become proficient. Many of these students for the first time were able to get the help they needed to be and feel successful. I was also able to teach in a very standards oriented way. I looked at my state standards and/or the ADP standards that I was preparing my students to meet and built my own lessons from the ALEKS topics available.

How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
Five days a week.

How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
I call and email parents, and show them how the pie works and how to understand the Time and Topic report for their students. I also point them to the detailed explanations for problems, which are very helpful to parents who want to help but feel overwhelmed by all of the math they have forgotten. These tools of accountability and assistance give many of my parents exactly what they have been looking for to be actively engaged in helping their child succeed.


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?
Yes. All their regular homework, barring reports and special projects, comes from ALEKS.

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
Teacher constructed ALEKS quizzes are 33 percent. These tests are course-paced and based on the standards I am following for the particular course. ALEKS topics mastered divided by total topics in the course is another 33 percent. This is student-paced with stated targets throughout the term. An in-class final exam accounts for 33 percent of their grade. The remaining 0-5 percent is made up of bonus reports/special projects. Up to two-thirds of a student's points may come from ALEKS, but I will completely discount the teacher constructed ALEKS quizzes if a student shows proficiency through the self-paced topics mastered and final exam. In this case, about half of their points would come from work in ALEKS.

Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
I start the term by showing students how many topics they should average per week in order to be on target. I simply divide the total topics by the number of weeks in the term. I give them some points for being on target week to week, but their main grade still comes from where they end up and not from whether they kept a steady pace throughout the term.


Learning Outcomes

Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
I had great gains on the ADP EOC exam for Algebra 2. I also saw struggling students who were well below grade level at the beginning of the year or semester able to quickly cover prerequisite knowledge and become successful in their present course. Whether they needed intervention or acceleration, my students who were willing to put in the effort were rewarded with an understanding of the course. The students who were used to multiple-choice online exercises and casual cheating ran into a wall. Of these students, many grew to appreciate the real learning they were able to accomplish.