CASTLE ROCK - For the first 11 years of his teaching career, Vince Parenti noticed something about his students.
"It dawned on me that students were constantly obsessing over grades, constantly asking me about quizzes and tests and homework and how many points this is worth," Parenti said.
They weren't asking enough about what they were supposed to be learning, he says.
"We're really used to grading things and stamping approval or not approval," Parenti said.
Now, he and other math teachers at Castle View High School in Castle Rock are trying a new approach -- no more marked down homework, graded tests or quizzes.
"I think this is what they should be getting -- here's a problem, here's a situation, so talk about it," Parenti said.
Students will still have assignments and tests, but they will get input on how to learn from their mistakes feedback instead of a score.
"I think everything we do in here is meant to be about qualitative feedback as opposed to slapping a number on it," Parenti said.
Sloan Peterson is a junior in Parenti's math class. She says the new approach has helped her actually become more interested in math.
"When you eliminate the grade factor even just a little bit, part of that stress goes away and more of your focus is on the learning," Sloan said.
She will correct her mistakes in her work, set her own learning goals, and keep a journal to reflect on the lessons. Sloan says that has been much more engaging than receiving a grade.
"A lot of teachers will give you, here's your grade and then it's like well, what do you do after that?" Sloan said.
Some parents have been concerned about this technique and have gone to Principal Rex Corr for an explanation. Corr says he wants his math teachers to try a new way to reach students in a subject that is difficult for many students at his school and across the state.
"I think it benefits every level of learner and I think it makes students more aware of themselves as learners," Corr said.
Parenti says the status quo was not good enough.
"Math hasn't worked for all these years,' Parenti said. "We need to do something different."
Corr views this like a pilot program that could spread to other subjects around Castle View.
"If this is successful, I think we are doing a better job in education preparing our students for their individual futures," Corr said.
Sloan will still receive a final grade. Parenti has to issue her one for her transcripts and grade point average. But, it will be based on her effort and what she has learned.
"Getting an 'A' in this class, it's going to be, I worked hard for an 'A' no matter how it's sliced," Sloan said. "You have to work hard to get an 'A' and that's how it works."
Parenti says, despite some people's perception, his class will not be an 'easy A'.
"I would argue that my students this year are learning and working at least twice as hard as the students that I've had the previous 11 years. And, so anyone getting an 'A' out of this class is a very legitimate 'A'."
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