View a selection of implementation strategies from educators who are successfully using ALEKS to achieve dramatic learning outcomes.
Coastal Academy, Oceanside Unified School District
Grade(s): K - 8
Scenario: Home Access
Purpose: RtI, Enrichment/Gifted and Talented, Special Education, Core Curriculum
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: 20%
Time Spent in ALEKS: 5 hours per week, 90 hours per term
ALEKS Course: Mathematics - LV 3 (with QuickTables), Mathematics - LV 4 (with QuickTables), Mathematics - LV 5 (with QuickTables), RtI 6, RtI 7, RtI 8, MS RtI Tier 3, Middle School Math Course 2, Middle School Math Course 3, Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1
Heather Rawley, Teacher
This was my first year using ALEKS, and it has been an amazing one. Our school is an independent study charter school that uses a particular curriculum, but with our students who do not thrive, we try to offer other types of curriculum. The students who I put on the ALEKS program were students who were at least a grade level (up to three or four) behind in their math skills. Five out of six students (one did not have adequate access to the Internet) prospered immensely. One eighth grader went from a fourth grade level to a seventh grade level. The Response to Intervention (RtI) program was a saving grace for this child. It was so successful that when I received a late term seventh grader and admitted him into our RtI program, he finished one whole grade level and moved on to the next. Both students cried when we discussed their achievement. They had never before been successful in math. I have another student who is advanced and needed a program that could grow with him. I started him in Pre-Algebra; he finished the program and is now in Algebra. On a daily basis, I monitor two other students who are just barely at grade level to help motivate them. The fact that I can see how much time they are spending is a very handy tool! This takes the pressure off of their parents, and lets me be the encourager but also the bad guy when needed; this is very important with independent study students. I cannot say enough about ALEKS except it is now the program that I am pushing for all my students next year. It treats the students with respect (especially the RtI program, since it keeps students in their grade level but scaffolds as needed) and allows them the freedom to prosper and grow at their level. I have always been a die-hard math book person, but I am sold on ALEKS. I sincerely believe this is the best math program around.
What challenges did the class or school face in math prior to using ALEKS?
Our school had issues with some of our independent study population making progress in math. Many of our parents get to a point where they cannot teach the skills and concepts needed. We needed a program that took the pressure off the parents and allowed them to learn along with their child, rather than attempt to teach skills they did not possess. This has been a great stress reliever for parents, students, and staff!
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?
How do you implement ALEKS?
I show students how the system works and sign them up for it. I do this because they were not successful in the other math curriculum we offered. I check their progress routinely and keep in touch daily or weekly as needed. I do not teach in a conventional classroom but in an independent study program.
Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
I usually just advise that they follow the circle of topics, making sure they get number sense first and then move around clockwise.
How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
We are an independent study program. I meet with my students every 5-6 weeks in person but more often as support if needed. I keep in contact 2-5 times per week via email and phone to check on progress personally and motivate as needed. My office hours are open Monday through Friday on campus or at different venues as needed to work with students. I have students log in and get to work on areas they want but also areas that I program. Basically, I do not have a set structure.
How did you modify your regular teaching approach as a result of ALEKS?
I gave up my die-hard belief that the program I loved was the best around and have come around to loving ALEKS for its versatility and ease of use especially for independent study. I would love to use this in a regular classroom because I love the way it can be modified for each student's level. When I work with my students in ALEKS, I check their progress and work with them as needed. With ALEKS, they can work at their pace, and no one has to feel ashamed or embarrassed about not knowing something.
How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
Daily, for at least one hour because it is their primary math curriculum.
How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
Easy! Parents love it because it takes the pressure off of them and allows them to learn along with their child. They are no longer intimidated by math. I LOVE THAT!
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?
It is not assigned as homework; it is assigned as their core math curriculum.
How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
I usually have my students progress as they do and then have them take a little quiz with me to monitor their ability. I "grade" them every six-week unit of study to see their progress; if the percentage is enough of an increase, I give them a "pass." At the end of the year, when they take their Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment, I give them a grade based on the progress they have made since the beginning of the year and on the grade level math they are in.
Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
I expect the students to complete their pie. Then I expect them to either reach grade level or make significant progress in their MAP scores. I have them take beginning, middle, and end of the year MAP tests so I can monitor success and change things as needed in ALEKS.
Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
I have watched students who hated math prosper and grow in their knowledge of math and change their attitudes toward math. I have two students in RtI who have completed 1-2 levels each, and are nearing their grade level and able to solve problems with ease and confidence. I have a sixth grader who moved up to Algebra after completing Pre-Algebra, and who also took our Algebra placement exam for high school and passed with flying colors. I have two students who are at grade level but struggled with math and were not very motivated. Now they can explain concepts that were extremely difficult for them at the beginning of the year. I have students who have cried, shout for joy, and send me emails with more exclamation points than grains of sand at the shore!!!!! I have students who are confident about their growing math abilities, who are not afraid of math anymore, and who love the idea of learning something new because they can relate it to something they have already learned. So, I'd say my students feel GREAT (insert Tony the Tiger voice here) about their progress in ALEKS. Overall, I have students who are better math students because of ALEKS. I plan on advising ALEKS for the majority of my students for next year.
Are there any best practices you would like to share with other teachers implementing ALEKS?
Frequent monitoring, frequent praise and encouragement, and face-to-face interaction to make sure the students can actually do the work in a non-computer setting (to make sure they have not cheated the system). I think ALEKS is an excellent program that is designed to help students become successful and achieve their potential in math. It is worth whatever it takes to implement for your students.