I’ve always been good about doing my schoolwork and staying on top of my academics.
For four years, I have maintained A’s in all of my classes, and I was hoping that I would be able to finish my last semester as a high schooler with another all-A report card.
However, the recent actions of the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) make me worried that I can’t do that.
On March 25, PAUSD announced that all middle schools and high schools in the district would move to a credit/no-credit grading system for this semester. This means that students will not be receiving letter grades as they did in previous semesters. Instead, they will either get full or no credit for their classes. This also means that students’ cumulative GPAs will not be impacted whatsoever.
At first, I was unbothered by this. But then, it suddenly occurred to me that Sequoia Union High School District (SUHSD) may follow in the same footsteps, as when one district takes action, others usually follow suit.
However, there are many things wrong with this system, which is why SUHSD should never switch to a credit/no-credit system.
First of all, this transition could potentially harm college-bound students. For instance, many students use their junior year in high school to boost their GPA and choose to take challenging Advanced Placement (AP) to do so. However, the GPAs of students who are stuck in a credit/no-credit system, like PAUSD students, will stay the same regardless of how well they do this semester
According to PAUSD superintendent Don Austin, this will not negatively affect any student’s college applications. Austin claims that colleges have stated that they will take the extreme circumstances that everyone is in right now into careful consideration for this semester’s report cards.
However, there is no guarantee that colleges will actually do this. The district can’t control how colleges look at applications because colleges can do whatever they want in regards to application review.
The PAUSD also failed to address the effects of their actions on scholarship applications. Scholarship applications often don’t ask for a full transcript, so they won’t be able to see that students only got credit for their classes. For students who are in a credit/no-credit system, their GPA may be significantly lower than those who received traditional letter grades for this semester. This puts students who only receive credit for their classes at a major disadvantage.
But the more important reason for not making this transition is that it discredits all of the hard work that students have been doing. Many have worked for the first two months of the semester to establish good grades and continue to work hard from home while school is closed.
Suddenly throwing away these grades that they rightfully earned tells these students that their efforts were all for nothing. It also tells the students who slacked off during this time that it is OK to continue what they are doing since they may still get credit for their class.
By switching to a credit/no-credit system, students with a C are given the same reward as those with an A. It’s unfair to those who have worked hard on their schoolwork for their grades to just not matter anymore.
Additionally, when it comes down to credit or no credit, why should students care to do well unless they are failing the class?
Many students are only doing at-home learning because of their grades. If you take grades away, many will lose motivation to put effort into their work or even to do it at all.
One of the reasons that PAUSD did make this transition is because some students are having a hard time grasping concepts without being taught in-person. I have to admit, at-home learning can be challenging because students essentially have to learn the material by themselves.
But, teachers should also be making an effort to provide as many resources as possible and, in my experience, they are. My teachers have been very flexible in helping confused students by holding office hours or Zoom meetings so that students who need face-to-face interaction can have it.
Also, going back to my initial point, why would anyone care if they understand the concepts or not in a credit/no-credit system? It’s incredibly likely that students won’t bother to learn the material or do any work if they already know that they’re doing well enough to get credit for the class. In other words, they wouldn’t care to learn the content as long as they are not failing the course.
To clarify, SUHSD has made no indication about whether or not they will switch to credit/no credit system; however, just because PAUSD decided to make this decision, it doesn’t mean SUHSD should too.
Students deserve to get the recognition and grades they have earned through their hard work, and no one should take that away.