Pro/Con: Should CESJDS adopt a pass or fail grading system?

May 14, 2020


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CESJDS has resorted to online learning for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.  Schools across the country have been using remote learning for multiple weeks, and upon the beginning of quarter four, Montgomery County Public Schools have switched to a system that allows high school students to either show a grade on their transcript or take a pass or fail for the final marking period. Some private schools in the area have also switched to a pass or fail system for the rest of the school year.

Is it time for JDS to follow in MCPS’ footsteps and drop the current grading system in favor of pass or fail for the fourth quarter?

The biggest benefit of going pass or fail is that it takes a lot of stress off of students who are overwhelmed with work every day, and who are feeling added stress from the pandemic. This brings a positive result where students can feel more in control of their school work because they only need to receive a passing grade, rather than a perfect one.

For some students, it is harder to complete work online. Personally, I realized that I learn way better in the classroom rather than online because it is easier for me to follow and participate. Therefore, letter grades are not an accurate representation of a student’s knowledge in a subject. 

Additionally, it is harder for teachers to assess a student’s grasp of the material. A pass or fail grading system would be beneficial because it doesn’t assign students to a letter grade that doesn’t represent the full extent of their knowledge. It also puts the teachers under greater pressure for having to fairly evaluate all of their students based on only what they can see on a computer.

Some students also have less time to do their school work because they have other household responsibilities, such as caring for younger siblings while their parents are working. The pass or fail system would allow these students to help at home without feeling the stress of trying to academically keep up in the same way they normally would. Additionally, in the case of WiFi or computer issues, students also wouldn’t be heavily penalized for problems that are out of their control, such as not being able to access Zoom calls or learning material. 

With a pass or fail grading system, I would be more willing to come out of my comfort zone and take risks in my schoolwork that they wouldn’t otherwise be comfortable doing. Pass or fail allows students to be stronger risk-takers and I may be more willing to participate in class discussion because getting the answer wrong isn’t as big of a deal when everything is virtual.

We already live in a very stressful time due to COVID- 19, so I ask the JDS administration: do you want to add more stress onto the overworked students or do you want to step up and help decrease the stress during this time across the board? 


This article has been updated.

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To the average teenager, hearing that they don’t need perfect grades to pass a class decreases their motivation to work as hard as they would to get an A. If you only have to do the bare minimum, and no one would ever know, why would you put in the extra time and effort? And if you choose to go above and beyond, is it fair to be considered the same as people who don’t?

At the beginning of the fourth marking period, Montgomery County Public Schools announced that the final quarter of the 2019-2020 school year would be a pass/fail grading system for high school students. Although it may alleviate short-term grading pressure, in the long term, this system leaves students at a greater disadvantage, which is why CESJDS should not adopt it. 

A pass/fail system typically allows students to pass a class with a minimum grade of a C. This gives students a lot of leeway in terms of how they choose to participate in their education. 

While a pass/fail system levels the playing field, it adds a disadvantage to students in the college application process. By allowing everyone to pass a class, it stops colleges from being able to distinguish students from their peers. You could have two students both passing a class, and under normal circumstances, one would receive an A and the other would receive a C, yet on transcripts, they look the same and are therefore considered the same when it comes to applying to college. 

Not only would their transcripts look the same, but it would raise the grade point averages of students who aren’t normally putting in the work and effort by either adding a letter to their grade from the previous marking period. 

For students who put in minimal effort to pass a class, they lose out on critical educational skills for their future, such as advanced writing skills, communication abilities, and how to study for final exams. It creates a poorer sense of accomplishment and sets a working standard that wouldn’t be successful in college and the workforce. 

By proceeding with as many normal standards and routines as possible, JDS continues to maintain the quality of its education. When Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced the closures of schools on Thursday, March 12, JDS resumed classes after two professional days. Since then, the teachers have been able to provide quality lessons that are deserving of letter grades for the active work that students have been participating in for two months. 

By assigning the normal workload and maintaining normal grading habits, schools are able to provide their students with a sense of normalcy during this challenging time, all the while not skimping on critical academic skills students need for the future.

Schools should be taking this opportunity to teach students how to adapt to different learning circumstances and build on their academic skills, rather than allowing them to fall into poor working habits. 

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