By Monica Chan (V)
Schools across the country are currently navigating uncharted territory in the realm of remote learning, which inevitably brings up the question of how to adjust grading policies. Some schools have decided to adopt pass/fail evaluation, some will omit third quarter grades from the final grade, and others have chosen not to adjust grading at all. Seeing that Pingry is still in the process of considering how grades will ultimately be allocated, I decided to delve into a few possibilities, and illustrate some of the possible benefits and drawbacks of each. Each of these possibilities are for second semester grades only, since we already have one full, undisrupted semester complete. I have also enclosed a summary of the recent Student Government proposal that was sent to the administration by the senior class student representatives.
Pass/fail seems to be a popular choice for many universities, including Harvard and UC Berkeley. The rationale lies in the belief that many students may feel like their current grades do not accurately reflect their potential, and the disruption of remote instruction might hinder their ability to demonstrate growth or reverse the effects of an outlier grade. Some schools have turned to “optional” pass/fail, meaning that students can elect to change certain courses to pass/fail grades. However, Harvard Medical School has stated that they will only accept pass/fail grades if the applicant’s school mandated pass/fail. This type of policy puts students in a tough spot when they have to show a poor grade that could have improved under normal circumstances.
Another idea is to remove the +/- designation. Basically, this option means that there would be no +/- designation on your grade, so if you scored between a 90-100 it would be an A, 80-89 is a B. While I haven’t seen any schools implement this yet, it would provide a ballpark estimate of your grade while still leaving some leeway for performance increase.
During my search for different grading policies, I had a few people outside of Pingry reach out to me with their schools’ grade changes. One student at another school said that their school is grading based on participation, meaning that traditional assessments have been omitted altogether. Instead, a number of research projects or creative projects have been implemented instead. This may be difficult for traditional science and math classes, but perhaps one alternative may be assigning concepts to different groups of students to teach to the rest of the class and then getting graded on the quality of those lessons.
On Wednesday, March 25, Pingry’s Student Government sent a proposal to Dean Chatterji and Dr. Cottingham outlining their suggestions on academic evaluation in the era of remote learning. The proposal included making AP exams optional, which has already been implemented, cancelling final exams, and making spring semester courses pass/fail. For example, if you are in a one semester spring computer science course (Programming Languages and Design, Introduction to Programming) your grade would automatically be pass/fail.
The proposal also suggested that second semester grades for full-year courses (AP courses, core curriculum classes) cannot bring down your final year grade. This means that if you earned an A in the first semester, and currently hold a B+ in your second semester grade for a certain class, the B+ can not bring down your final average. The administration will revisit the grade adjustment discussion in mid-April.
Whatever the administration decides to do with the grading, it is apparent to everyone that this year’s academics won’t be traditional. Many colleges such as Harvard and UChicago have said that they will understand grade changes for next year’s high school senior class, and that will have no impact on their evaluation of you as a candidate. Do not fret!