Coronavirus Sparks Pass/Fail Debate in Schools

When I heard that my school is turning to a new pass/fail grading system due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, my mother said, “It’s inevitable.” 

“Why?” I asked, confused. 

“It’s the only fair and accessible way to evaluate students if you’re continuing online courses.”

Two voices broke out: one supporting this new system for its fairness under this special circumstance, the other one disapproving of it for not sufficiently expressing students’ academic achievements. Prof. Jack Schneider’s editorial, “Pass/Fail Raises the Question: What’s the Point of Grades?” expresses the worry of some parents: “How can I tell my child to work harder if everything above a D- is ‘pass’?” Can the A-F system sufficiently serve its purpose during the pandemic?

Schneider explains how deeply rooted in the educational system the A-F grading system is. It has accompanied American students for more than a century. Although useful and fairly accurate in describing students’ progress normally, it might not be the best choice now during a pandemic.

There are already countless students worrying over one single letter on their report cards. Continuing to implement those grade guidelines now will only cause more mental stress. Without projects and participation in a real classroom, it’s more common for teachers to misjudge students’ ability and give them lower grades than they would normally receive.

As finals approach, it’s not beneficial to either the students or the teachers to continue using the A-F system, as they’re already loaded with work.

For now, the pass/fail system seems to be the best short-term solution to the problem of grading students during the pandemic, a break and stopgap this unusual school year.

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