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An IEP for Every Student? Using Technology to Provide Truly Differentiated Instruction

Paving an individual path to success: Creating IEPs for every student with the help of technology

With tight budgets, scarce resources, and rigorous state and federal standards, it seems that providing individualized math instruction would be a challenge for many schools. However, by taking advantage of appropriate technology and allowing for flexibility, many schools across the country are developing IEPs for every student. In this web seminar originally broadcast on September 13, 2012, expert speakers discussed the keys to successfully creating these IEPs.

Jeff Rice
The Association of Personalized Learning Schools & Services (APLUS+)

Our mission at APLUS+ is twofold: to advance the concept of personalized learning as a 21st-century approach to successful education delivery, and to support schools and individuals by providing personalized learning plans for all students. Students today have more diverse needs and challenges than ever before. Yet, the education system has not dramatically changed over the past 100 years. All students’ educational journeys should be as unique as they are.

To achieve such individuality, we need to engage in a paradigm shift from the way we’ve delivered education for the past 100 years to the way we should for the next 100. Instead of a group-lecture approach where one teacher is solely responsible for delivering content, we need to shift to a student-centered approach. Our goal should be to help guide students to reach their greatest potential. We need to adjust the rigid, inflexible system to one that is adaptable and flexible to best meet the needs of each student.

The key characteristics of the personalized learning model are:

  •  Student-centered and adaptable to the needs of each student
  • Choice-based, flexible learning
  •  Parental involvement in the oversight of education
  • Collaborative partnership between the student, parents, teacher, school, and greater community
  • Outcome-based attendance policy

Many positive results can be realized from implementing individualized education plans for all students. Progress can be measured by individualized assessment tools instead of by traditional means; attainable goals can be created on an individual basis and assessed on adjustable benchmark levels. Both student and teacher frustration is decreased; students are more engaged with content and teachers feel more fulfilled. Dramatic learning outcomes are realized, particularly for students on either end of the bell curve, who can learn at their own pace.

Brandi Brevard
Campus Improvement Manager
Sharpstown High School
Houston Independent School District, Texas

At Sharpstown High School, we implemented individualization in math with ALEKS math labs. Eligible 9th-11th grade students work on ALEKS courses tailored to their individual needs for 60 minutes a day. Many of these students did not meet state standards, are in need of advancement, are ESL learners, or are special needs students who are below grade level.

The results have been astounding. One student tested at 29 percent mastery in August 2011. By May 2012, after completing an ALEKS course, he had achieved 85 percent mastery. Some students moved from middle school level math to high school geometry because they were able to move at their own pace and in their own zone of proximal development. Though not previously considered high performing, our school showed the highest growth on the Texas state assessment of any other high school in the Houston Independent School District.

Patti Bethel
James Buchanan High School
Tuscarora School District, Penn.

James Buchanan High School had previously been at School Improvement status, until we made our AYP goals for the 2011-2012 school year. I think the integration of ALEKS into our school improvement plan was a huge part of this success.

We require three hours a week of ALEKS for our Algebra 1 students, which is met in the classroom, labs, learning support classrooms, as homework, etc. Our approach to learning includes differentiation for each student. Students work on their own individual areas of need and we supplement with additional support. They have IEP support that allows them to work at the rate at which ALEKS determines they are ready to learn.

We believe in the self-directed, student-centered model. Students feel empowered when they have choices. Learning is centered around them and they can decide what area they would like to work on next. Teachers act as supportive, encouraging coaches, rather than lecturers. We implemented a 1:1 initiative that gives 9th-11th grade students their own laptop for the school year, which allows for large-scale individualized math instruction with ALEKS.

ALEKS includes an initial diagnostic to set a starting point for each student’s learning path. Once they begin, immediate feedback is provided after each practice session with detailed explanations of incorrect answers and encouragement to try again. Students are able to choose what they would like to learn next from the “ready to learn” material, and as they progress, their unique learning path is constantly updated.

The program is correlated with the Common Core State Standards and can be customized according to the teacher’s preferences or correlated to a textbook. Students and teachers can communicate via the program’s internal message system. Teachers also have the ability to post additional resources, including videos and PowerPoint presentations. With ALEKS, gamification comes into play. Instead of the traditional grading system, where a student starts at 100 and can only move down, in ALEKS, a student can only progress forward.

Different reports are available for teachers to measure this progress. The student’s pie chart shows what the student has mastered within a course, while the Time and Topic report displays the amount of time the student spent in the program, and which topics they worked on during that time. As a result, all 11th grade remedial students have doubled their course percent completion. State assessment results have improved and there are fewer discipline problems because students are engaged and not getting lost in class. Since students can work on ALEKS at home, absences no longer cause students to fall behind.

Ray Ramos
Technical Sales Support Specialist
ALEKS Corporation

ALEKS is a web-based, personalized math program that can support IEPs in the classroom, and is available for grades 3-12 and higher education. After an Initial Assessment that adapts to a student’s needs as they take it, ALEKS uses an artificial intelligence engine to create an individualized learning path for each student.

The ALEKS Pie for an Individual Student report provides support for an IEP by showing what a student is ready to learn and what material has been mastered. The “ready to learn” material can be added to a student’s plan of assigned work to create attainable goals, while the mastered material can be used to show Present Levels of Performance. A detailed work history can be printed to show a student’s progress throughout the year; a learning log can be used for review or can be put in a student’s portfolio.

There is even a link in the program for “Using this report with IEP” that allows teachers to see all of the tools in a report that can be used to support an IEP. To learn more about ALEKS, please visit:

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please go to