The Pass/Fail Grading System for Seniors’ Fourth Quarter: Would You Pass on It?

On April 13th, Senior Class Dean, Michelle Carpenter, announced the decision to the Class of 2020 to make the grading system pass/fail for the entirety of Quarter 4. She described the careful deliberation made amongst the administration to implement this system. However, the decision was not surprising for the members of the Senior class due to prior discussions between the students. Lucas Galarza ’20 created a petition three weeks prior, titled: Make Quarter 4 Pass/Fail on He provided justifiable reasoning for why a pass/fail system is a valuable decision to make on behalf of the Grace Church High School. Specifically, the differing access to electronics amongst the student body which affects the academic performance of students in online education. In the petition, Galarza remarks, “Varying access to the internet or electronics, especially when our classes will be held over video chat, is a critical issue. Some students may be unable to tune into classes if they have a less stable connection. Students who rely on the Math and Science Center or the Writing Center for extra help, and who cannot afford to hire private tutors, are left without the help they need. And when these students fail to perform as before in their classes, it will be of no fault of their own.” Galarza also highlights the detrimental effects the COVID-19 pandemic can have on the mental well-being in the student body and the many ways in which a student’s mental state and enclosed environment can negatively impact their academic performance. Galarza continues, “The upheaval caused by the global response to the virus could cause undue stress and confusion in this trying time. Students are now confined to their houses, conserving resources, fearing for their elderly relatives, their situation tentative and uncertain.”

The petition has reached an impressive 290 signatures from members of the High School community, urging the administration to assess Senior students on a pass/fail scale for Quarter 4. This commends senior students’ Quarter 3 grades to be sent to colleges as legitimate grades, with their Quarter 4 grades sent as Pass or Fail for every class they are enrolled in. While some senior students are thrilled with the choice, others are disappointed that they will not be able to improve their Quarter 3 grade and therefore not able to send a Semester grade to their college/university. The Senior class has a variety of opinions on the newly-implemented Pass/Fail system:

“The introduction of pass/fail was inevitable. With most of us, seniors already set on our plans for next year, there’s no real need for Q4 grades. The main benefit of pass/fail is it takes away a lot of the stress to perform well academically. It allows taking time to focus on creative projects or on connecting with friends online instead.” -Jasper Yang ’20

“Pass/fail will be beneficial for most people. It can be hard to judge what students are dealing with at home, along with distance learning, so I think that this system will allow most students to be on an “even playing field.” I’m curious to see how these grades will play out if a student decides they want to transfer from the college they end up at, or if they needed them for a summer program, etc. Because this is happening to students on a global scale, I have a feeling that most colleges and universities will look at this quarter as a blip, and students’ grades won’t be factored as seriously as they would have been if we were in our regular school environment.” -Anna Hedengren ’20

“I am personally in favor of pass/fail for Q4. Seeing as how everybody is in a different situation in terms of their internet connection, living space, family obligations, and sometimes even time zone, I believe it makes sense to take some pressure off of the students. I also think it makes sense to just exempt seniors from letter grades because letter grades aren’t as important for seniors, who already know where they are going to college and whose colleges don’t place much importance on Q4 grades. Furthermore, seniors are finishing school earlier than the other grades, so their fourth quarter is shorter and will contain fewer assignments.” -Spencer Ames ’20

“I am a little biased with the decision to have pass/ fail classes because I have pretty good Q3 grades, yet I would be opposed to it if I had bad Q3 grades that I was hoping to raise in Q4. Otherwise, as a second semester senior, I feel like it is nice to have pass/fail classes so we can relax while learning and finish our Senior year with reduced stress. It is a nice senior gift.” -Amanda Bosses ’20

“I’m pretty happy about it. While I would’ve liked to bring my math grade up from Q3, it was not too bad and I was lucky that most of my grades were as high. I do think some students are worried about it, especially if they had a significant drop in grades in Q3, which makes sense. All I know is that it serves me well, but I still hope this doesn’t hurt any of my classmates’ ability to go to the college they want to attend.” -Julia Padro ’20

“The decision to make the last quarter for seniors pass/fail is a double-sided one. On the one hand, I personally am happy that the last quarter is pass/fail because it will relieve some of my stress. However, it is important to acknowledge that for some people this is a change that will bring a lot of stress. Those who were relying on the last quarter to bring up their grades from Q3 will now not have a chance to do so. If this affects their college options in any way, that would be very unfortunate.” -Luke Eisman ’20

“Some kids really needed this last quarter grade to get off the waitlist or to have a better average for applying next year.” -Maud Etheridge ‘20

“I am personally very happy about pass/fail because it lessens the stress on second semester seniors. I completely understand why some students are not in favor because they may have wanted to use quarter 4 to bring up their second semester average, and so I completely understand that.”-Tess Dimenna, ’20

“Pass/fail for quarter four is for the best, but will change the class atmosphere. It seems to be a good thing because maintaining the grades you had before being taught on zoom would be much more of a challenge.” -Dominique Edwards ’20

“I was hoping that the fourth quarter would be evaluated by the pass/fail system because it relieves pressure in an extraordinarily tense time. I wasn’t depending on it, but I am glad that it was instated.” -Kate Weber ’20

“The pass/fail for Q4 is a good thing because it means we don’t have to waste time in class trying to get enough grades in (like having a lab where all the data is given). On the other hand, I do understand why some people are worried about their Q4 grades not being able to cushion their Q3 ones.” -Theo Usher ’20

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