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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Victoria Fertitta Middle School, Clark County School District
Las Vegas, NV

Grade(s): 6 - 8
Scenario: Computers in Classroom
Purpose: Special Education
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: 30-100%
Time Spent in ALEKS: 3 hours per week
ALEKS Course: Middle School Math Course 2

Ruth Sherrard, Special Education Teacher
I think ALEKS is a wonderful program. As a Special Education teacher, I find that it is an invaluable tool to help me differentiate and provide individualized instruction to each of my students. Providing individualized instruction can be very difficult to do with a class of 15 students who can be at 15 different places in their math ability. I have been using ALEKS as my primary teaching tool for the past two years at other schools and was able to convince my administrators to let me use it in my new school this year. Next year, we are expanding our program and include it in our summer program, as well to help challenge our accelerated students. I have also personally used ALEKS with my children, and to advance my own personal math knowledge.


Scenario

What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
For Special Education, it is very difficult to teach multiple curriculums in the same class, as well as reach each student's individual learning needs. I currently teach seventh and eighth grade math in the same class and have 16 students who all have different math abilities and disabilities. With ALEKS, I can challenge those students who are at a higher ability level and provide more direct instruction to the other students in the class.

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?
30-40 minutes.


Implementation

How do you implement ALEKS?
I use ALEKS to keep some of my resource class students working at the same pace as their regular education peers in the same grade-level curriculum, as I have to remediate so much for my other students. I have also used ALEKS by choosing the best level for each student and having them fill in their skill gaps.

Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
No. Each student self-directs most of the time unless I know they are weak in an area that we are going to go over as a whole class.

How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
At my previous schools, I had an 80 minute block and instructed for the first 30-40 minutes and then used ALEKS for the second half of class. At my current school, I have two students who use ALEKS for the whole class, except when there is a need for direct instruction. I have a few other students who work on the program when they need to complete classwork and then use it at home to fill in skill gaps.

How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
I am not sure that I really have. I try to differentiate as much as possible and ALEKS is just another great way to do that.

How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
I encourage students to use ALEKS at least three nights a week for 30-45 minutes and for at least an hour on the weekends. Students also get participation grades in class for working on ALEKS at home.

How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
I tell parents about ALEKS through phone calls and emails home.


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 has accounted for 50 percent of a student's homework responsibility in the past, and I currently have two students where it is 100 percent of their homework grade.

How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
It varies for each student based on how I am having them use ALEKS. The student and I create percentage increase goals at the beginning of each week and these act as a classwork grade. If we set the goal at 10 percent progress, then it would be a 10 point assignment. I also regularly create quizzes students have to take based on what they have been working on and then I put those in as test or quiz grades.

Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
I set individual weekly goals for each student based on that student's ability and average progress.


Learning Outcomes

Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
I have seen my Special Education students make twice the gains in learning with ALEKS. I have had one student progress from fifth grade math to Algebra in just two school years because she was able to work at her own pace from school and home. The way ALEKS shows students their progress is also very motivating. When students get frustrated or even bored with math, I direct them to look at their pie chart and see how far they have come. This gets them excited again and they work harder. I have one student who checks his progress at the beginning and ending of each class and is excited to show me how much progress he was able to make in one class period. This is the same student who has failed math consistently since elementary school and now he is working harder than ever.


Best Practices

Are there any best practices you would like to share with other teachers implementing ALEKS?
It is important to have your students use ALEKS regularly and to encourage them to use all of the help tools before asking for teacher assistance because this helps make them more independent, successful learners. It is exciting when you can watch them realize they actually can learn something and don't have to be walked step-by-step through it every time by a teacher. It is very empowering to them.