Voices Vol 41 No 1

SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS: Special Education

Success Across The Curriculum and Smart Aleks

By Claudia Plata

Success for ELLs Across the Curriculum is the focus of our next Spring Conference, an important topic nowadays since we have to meet certain parameters implemented by the state.  Therefore, we have formed a math intervention team in my building.  This team provides service to those students who have low skills in all strands as well as for those in risk of failing.

The NJASK scores and building assessments are used to place ELL students in intervention groups according to their skills.  Together these assessments provide vital information for grouping students properly.  The first presents a broad view on the specific areas of math in which these students need to improve.  The second provides a more recent overview.

The math intervention team meets regularly with the building administration and works closely with subject area teachers in order to brainstorm strategies which more effectively address the needs of students.  Each intervention teacher has been assigned a grade level which has made it easier to concentrate on the skills that need to be addressed.

It is evident that this arrangement is building self-esteem in the students being that they’re willing to participate more often without fear of making mistakes.  Additionally, this is helping them concentrate on the content.  It provides them with another teaching style which allows them to see a different way of approaching the same content area. 

Besides students-to-students and students-to-teacher discourse, students work with computer-assisted programs.  In mathematics, for instance, all sixth to eighth grade ELL students obtain supplemental skill building practice from Aleks.  The Aleks website describes the program as a computer-based artificial intelligence system.  It uses adaptive assessment and determines what a student has learned and what he/she has yet to learn.  All questions are algorithmically generated and avoid the use of multiple choices.  It also provides one-on-one instruction.  The students can access the site from home and work at their own pace.  All topics are found in English and in Spanish. Thus far, the students have provided positive feedback regarding the intervention being offered. You may access the Aleks website at www.aleks.com and sign up for a free trial.

Claudia Plata is the Special Education SIG representative.  She is a teacher in Perth Amboy Public Schools. She can be reached at cplata@njtesol-njbe.org .