H2H: Should Students Be Allowed to Opt Out of the Credit/No Credit System?
April 28, 2020
Revealing Grades Comes At a Disadvantage
With the emergency distance learning implemented due to COVID-19, the credit/no credit system has been enacted in order to eliminate inequity and aid students in difficult circumstances.
In response, many parents and students have created petitions asking for the opportunity to show grades alongside the credit/no credit option, which would undermine the reasoning behind credit/no credit and should not be considered.
The credit/no credit option aims to benefit individuals who are struggling to maintain their grades at home due to extenuating circumstances. These conditions encompass a broad spectrum: it could be a lack of Wi-Fi or access to electronics, loud family members or health conditions.
“I didn’t expect to be directly affected by the outbreak,” a senior who asked to remain anonymous said. “I remember at the beginning, I thought that I was going to have a lot of time to work on school. But one by one, each of my family members got laid off, and it became harder and harder to support ourselves. The stress of getting into college was gone, but the reality of actually going was a problem because of the cost. I would spend more time looking for a job than doing my homework.”
By giving students the option to reveal their grades, Irvine Unified would be reinforcing the toxic mentality that grades are a top priority, especially in a situation as uniquely stressful as this one. The proposed petition would instill a fear that students may be penalized for opting into a credit/no credit option over showing grades, further burdening and even stigmatizing those disadvantaged by the Coronavirus.
Some juniors may feel that this policy is unfair, as their current semester is known to be crucial for college admissions. However, allowing students to show their grades creates an inequitable GPA boost opportunity for individuals privileged enough to not suffer consequences of quarantine. Students who are less privileged but also looking to raise their GPAs are therefore set at a disadvantage to their peers.
This unfair GPA boost opportunity only for the privileged dissipates the whole purpose of the credit/no credit system: students will still feel pressured to perform competitively, even under high stress.
Parents, students and teachers worry that students will feel discouraged to maintain effort in their classes and lose motivation. In addition, students feel that their hard work through the semester will be invalidated, as hard working students could be earning the same credit alongside others performing at the bare minimum.
However, recommendation letters remain crucial for college admission, and performances in current classes will be a large factor in a student’s ability to take rigorous courses next year, which will be taken into account by admissions officers.
There remains motivation to put forth effort in classes, as letter grades are not a sole basis of determining eligibility for college admissions or rigorous courses. Now is the time to demonstrate strong work ethic and effective communication, so that teachers are able to make equitable and fair decisions in regard to each and every one of their students.
Overall, it is important to recognize that distance learning began one month and a half into the second semester. This semester, though regarded as especially important for some, is not an accurate representation of an entire high school career. All students across the nation have been adversely affected by the quarantine, and in order to create the most equitable solution, there should not be the option for revealing grades alongside the credit/no credit system.
Students Should Be Allowed To Opt Out
Since the announcement of the IUSD school board’s unanimous vote to change grading to a credit/no credit system on April 14, there has been a plethora of concerns that come with this sudden change.
This change was vital to create equity among students who may have a disadvantage when it comes to learning remotely.
However, concerns around college application complications arise, as a credit/no credit system would create no further change to a student’s GPA.
High schools from school districts like South Pasedena Unified School District (SPUSD) are offering a solution to this very issue: granting students the option to follow a pass-fall system or a regular letter grade system.
The biggest worry about this option, is that it punishes students who are in less fortunate situations, because colleges might favor people who are privileged enough to maintain a regular GPA.
To combat this worry, colleges like Duke University “plans to include a designation on undergraduate students’ transcripts ‘indicating the extraordinary circumstances encountered in the present semester,” according to Forbes.
Just like Duke, schools in IUSD can clarify students’ unique circumstances on their transcripts, to ensure that colleges understand a student’s reason for choosing the credit/no credit option.
Especially with the uncertainty of how future college admissions will work, allowing flexibility for students’ GPAs will give them the chance to show colleges that they can get good grades while working at home.
“Students at other schools who were offered many weighted and AP courses in freshman and sophomore year are not as impacted by the pass/fail system [since] their GPA is already high,” Junior Pranathi Kollolli said. “However, Portola and other IUSD schools did not offer students many [weighted] courses early in their high school career. This is why students like myself relied on junior year to increase our GPAs in hopes of getting admitted to a top college.”
In order to help combat students’ anxiety in how the credit/no credit system could affect their chances of college admission, schools should allow students to pick if they want to change their grades to be a pass/no pass or with GPA at the end of the semester.
SPUSD implemented in their policy that allowing an end of the semester deadline for this choice would account for students who might face unexpected troubles or health issues in between now and the end of the school year.
“The Governing Board seeks to support students, including high school seniors on-track to graduate, in preserving the progress they made prior to physical school closures and enabling them to demonstrate further learning in ways that take into account the new independent study distance learning instructional environment,” SPUSD’s board policy says.
With classes that are already taken online like health and drivers ed, distance learning might become the basis of school in the foreseeable future. Right now is the best time to show that students can accomplish big things under any conditions.