Pro v Con: Did MCPS Make the Right Decision To Go Pass/Fail for Q4?

Pro: Pass/Fail Grading Relieves Stress on Students

by Erica Kuhlmann ‘22

MCPS made a smart decision in switching over to a pass/fail grading system for the final marking period of this year. Students and teachers alike are having to learn how to navigate distance learning, which means it could be not only lack of effort holding a student back from good grades, but also lack of quality instruction. Students cannot be expected to learn at the same standard they have been held to for the first three marking periods, and it is not fair to have these few months drag their grade for the entire semester downward.

Many people are currently experiencing very stressful and time-consuming circumstances caused by this pandemic. A student could be dealing with a sick family member, financial difficulties, a bad home environment, or other factors, and still be expected to turn in schoolwork. Some might be expected to care for a sibling or help around the house while they are at home. Unlike in a normal school marking period, it is impossible to know and account for all the different environments students are working under, and pass/fail grading gives breathing room to those who may be having trouble. Additionally, those with ADHD and autism have been shown to have an especially difficult time with online learning due to lack of structure and in-person instruction. Students with learning disabilities may receive accommodations at school that they are unable to receive with distance learning. 

It is also very understandable that students might have a harder time focusing on schoolwork than usual. It’s not laziness or lack of effort that keeps many from doing well while distance learning; it’s lack of means to handle new and different expectations. Technology comes built in with many distractions, errors, and complications, all of which make learning more difficult than it would be in a classroom with a physical copy of all work. It also means it is harder to find and keep track of assignments, which could lead to accidentally missing deadlines or missing entire assignments for less tech-savvy or organized students. Most people have simply not developed strategies for online learning like they have developed for typical learning in their many years of schooling. It is a system that requires different methods of organization, self-scheduling, and studying that most students are not used to. 

This is not suggesting that everyone who received a Pass should receive an A. Students who put in exceptional effort and receive straight A’s will still have this effort shown in the first semester of this year and in every other year of their transcript. Those who receive a Pass for this marking period should get a Pass overall for the semester. Colleges will be understanding about this blip on the transcripts of MCPS students because likely many counties across the country will be changing their grading systems during this pandemic. Coronavirus has created a genuine crisis, and it is okay that grades and schooling fall a little bit by the wayside for the time being.

Con: Pass/Incomplete Grading System Encourages Slacking

by Julia Robins ‘20

On Sunday April 19, MCPS announced that it is shifting all grades to be pass/incomplete for the remainder of the school year. Many believe that given these unprecedented circumstances, students should be given a break or some sort of leniency in their education. However, students who have personal issues at home or extenuating circumstances can have accommodations on a case-by-case basis with the individual teachers and counselors. There are leginiment hardships that many students are going through, but that should not affect and drastically change the academic futures of tens of thousands of students.

It will be unfair to students who have put in tremendous effort when their grades look identical to those who do not try to begin with. But why spend 2-3 hours to try for an A when one could spend 30 minutes for C when both will be recorded exactly the same as “passing” and are identical- especially troublesome for colleges. If anything, this time should be used as a character-building time to teach students the importance of working hard and maintaining academic integrity in the face of peril–not give motivation for many students  to relax and no longer try their best. 

MCPS believes that a pass/fail grading system will provide further equity and close the gap between high and low socio-economic status.There’s free chromebook distribution for all students who need one, and students have their textbooks. Just because learning is remote, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible.  Rather than MCPS or the state taking measures to improve the efficiency of online learning, like partnering with virtual learning and homeschool companies like Edovate, they are simply giving up.