In Support of a Pass/Fail Grading System

Nikki Ghaemi, Staff Writer 

On Tuesday, April 14, the IUSD School Board voted unanimously to change grading to a “pass/fail” system for the 2020 spring semester, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision was made after considering different perspectives and a lot of deliberation. After watching the meeting via live stream and speaking with numerous people on different sides of the argument, I’ve concluded that a pass/fail system truly is the best way to ensure every student has an opportunity to succeed this semester.  
First off, many colleges have made it clear that they will not be accounting for this semester in college admissions. Even if we did have letter grades, they probably wouldn’t count for much. 
It may feel like your effort is being ignored, but really, it’s a shift in priority. We’re living in a historical moment, and while dwelling on the problem and constantly refreshing your news feed isn’t a good way of dealing with it, it would be naive to ignore the biggest concerns.
Nobody’s effort is actually being ignored. That being said, I don’t think grades are the only way your effort is recognized. If you’ve truly worked hard, then you would feel its benefits, with or without  the grades to show it. Hard work and learning shouldn’t only be about the grade or reward that comes out of it. This could be a time when we remind ourselves why we love to learn, regardless of how it looks on your transcripts or GPA. 
Some question how equitable a pass/fail system really is for this semester, since people that put in minimal effort would be receiving similar scores to those that work diligently. Yes, I do think this can be an issue, however, the student that didn’t care as much would only be receiving a short-term benefit. The students that put in the time and effort will experience long-term benefits since they learned the material and were able to exercise self-discipline. And this isn’t meant to be a perfect system, just one that can increase equity for right now. 
Some students and parents have expressed opposition against the pass/fail system, and have proposed that IUSD students be given a choice between letter grades and credit/no credit. In theory, choice seems like a good idea, but realistically it would cause more inequity. 
If students were allowed to make a choice between letter grades or pass/fail, I firmly believe that many students would resort to mob mentality and choose whatever the popular option is. Not only that, but a negative stigma against students that opt for pass/fail may arise. IUSD is known for being competitive within academics, so why would we introduce a new disparity?
A top student having an unusually tough time at home (financial strains, mental health issues, health problems, stress at home) might pick pass/fail to alleviate their stress, but it wouldn’t be a clear indicator of their usual work ethic. This is yet another reason why introducing letter grades (whether or not it’s by choice) would create such an uneven playing field during these unique circumstances. 
To be clear, I’m currently a junior. Like many other people I’ve spoken with, I was looking forward to this semester, as it’s considered to be one of the most important. I understand that we’ve worked hard and it’s frustrating to not be able to see it pay off. But many things have changed and I cannot expect normalcy. This is not a normal time, and we need to be willing to be compassionate toward people we may not relate to.
I’m lucky enough to be in a comfortable position during this pandemic, and it’s my responsibility to stick up for those that are suffering silently. Right now, we should be focusing on learning, but we shouldn’t be worried about grades. If anything, I think this could be an opportunity for us to move away from a toxic mindset that grades are the sole indicator of academic success. 
Most importantly, I do believe that fighting and making clear effort to go back to letter grading comes from a place of privilege. Many of us, especially in Irvine, are lucky enough to not be worrying about the detrimental effects placed by this pandemic. Every single day since the beginning of quarantine, I’ve reminded myself of how grateful I am to be in a position of comfort.
Some have only to deal with keeping up with online school and keeping themselves occupied at home. But others don’t have that luxury. At a time when fellow students could be facing financial, social, health, and mental health problems, we need to stand in solidarity with them. To me, that’s being willing to put aside my own personal goals in order to show support for those in less fortunate situations. 
I stand with the IUSD school board’s decision because it’s the only way to ensure an equal opportunity for success for every single student.