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Portage Central Middle School, Portage Public Schools
Grade(s): 6 - 8
Scenario: Computer Lab
Purpose: Intervention, At-Risk Students, Supplement
ALEKS Portion of Curriculum: 100%
Time Spent in ALEKS: 3 hours per week, 27 hours per term
ALEKS Course: Mathematics - LV 3 (with QuickTables), Mathematics - LV 4 (with QuickTables), Mathematics - LV 5 (with QuickTables), Middle School Math Course 2, Middle School Math Course 3
Rhonda Miller, Teacher
Our target audience is students who score in the lowest 25 percent of their class, students we are concerned may not be successful in high school math. ALEKS has been a very positive experience. At the beginning, I thought we were being proactive by assigning eighth graders to Middle School Math Course 2. After more than half of the students scored less than 15 percent on the Initial Assessment, I moved those students to Middle School Math Course 1. After watching several students still struggle, I gained permission to transfer them to LV 3 instead. Eighteen weeks later, I finally feel I have students at an appropriate level for their current skills. Even better, they are feeling successful. One eighth grade student has completed both LV 3 and LV 4 (with a lot of encouragement), and is now working on LV 5. Some students have even seen an increase in their grades in their regular math class. I have received the most positive feedback from students after the Performance Series Testing they do twice a year. The students who did not think ALEKS was helping their math course grade have been very complimentary after the last testing. One student said, "I've only had arithmetic problems on the Proficiency Test before, but this time I had Algebra problems, too!"
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?
ALEKS is a supplemental program that meets during a separate class period than the regular math class.
Do you cover ALEKS concepts in a particular order?
No, I let ALEKS lead the students in what they need to learn next.
How do you structure your class period with ALEKS?
On Monday-Thursday, students spend the first 25-30 minutes of class working on their ALEKS Pies. The last part of the hour students have the choice to continue working on their pies, work in QuickTables, check their grades online, or work on math homework from their regular eighth grade math class. On Fridays, I still ask students to work on their pies for at least 20 minutes, but students also have the choice to play QuickTables games, play other games on the district's website, do homework from any other class, read a book, or any other "free" activity they choose.
How often are students required or encouraged to work on ALEKS at home?
They are encouraged to work at home, but very few do. I do have a couple of students who even go to the public library to use the computers there!
How do you cultivate parental involvement and support for ALEKS?
We send letters home when a student joins the class explaining the program and the reports that are available. I also enter student progress from the ALEKS Reports into the grade book, which most parents check often.
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?
This supplemental class is not allowed to assign homework.
How do you incorporate ALEKS into your grading system?
Students are graded as earning "credit" or "no credit."
Do you require students to make regular amounts of progress in ALEKS?
If a student uses his time wisely and makes progress, he or she earns "credit."
Since using ALEKS, please describe the learning outcomes or progress you have seen.
Most students have almost finished one full level or course. A few have completed two levels or 1.5 courses during this school year. The mature students understand that the school is trying to help them improve their math skills and their understanding of math.
Are there any best practices you would like to share with other teachers implementing ALEKS?
It is much better to start the students in a lower level course and let them feel success as they progress than to start them at their grade level course, since the students feel the same frustration as they do in their regular class. Our students working on ALEKS are at-risk, so they need much encouragement and praise. Additionally, if a student raises his hand, the first thing he does when I come to help is hit the Explain button. This keeps the program from assuming the student figured out the answer independently. When ALEKS is used independently of the regular math class, students are much more tolerant about the extra work they have to do in ALEKS if they are also allowed to use part of the period getting help for their regular math homework or studying for a math test.