Staff Editorial: Pass-no credit system’s value unclear

Grading changes should have been announced sooner, with more transparency


Art by Maggie Klaers. Park administration announced the high school would switch to a pass-fail grading system for the rest of the semester.

Although it is important to ensure accessibility and fairness for all students, Park’s decision to switch to the pass-no credit grading system may not have been the right one, and the roll-out of the plan could certainly have been better.

Under the new system, students will either receive credit or no grade for any given class with no impact on grade point average (GPA). The Echo Editorial Board is split as to whether or not the policy is worthwhile, with 5 for the policy and 3 against. On one hand, many students worked hard throughout the second semester to raise their grades — and their GPA — for college applications or other reasons. On the other hand, many students currently lack the resources necessary to succeed in school given the pandemic for some and only a mandatory pass-no credit system can ensure an equal playing field.

Some have suggested alternative systems such as an optional credit or no grade system in which students may choose a regular letter grade, credit or no grade. However, if students are able to choose whether or not they partake in the special grading system, it may reflect poorly on those who simply choose to pass or do not receive credit at all. 

Others have proposed a system in which grades may only go up. This system may also leave behind those students struggling with medical or economic burdens during the crisis as they may not have the opportunity to raise their grades, giving certain privileged students an unfair advantage.

Many may worry the new system will reflect poorly on their college applications, however, many higher-educational institutions have adopted similar systems themselves and it is unlikely that students will be put at a disadvantage for a decision made by the administration. 

It is true, however, that students will no longer be able to use this semester to raise their GPAs. Although this is a fair grievance, some on the Editorial Board believe it is important to prioritize students struggling with unstable or distracting home lives, full-time jobs, economic loss due to the stay-at-home order and other issues over students’ grades for a single semester.

Some students may complain it is unfair to take away this opportunity from them, however, there are six semesters throughout high school that colleges consider for grading. This policy cuts that down to five, and is certainly a loss for some. But to some, Park did the right thing by protecting students struggling to provide for their families over those simply seeking admittance to elite universities.

Regardless of the merit of the policy itself, the administration should have announced it sooner. Although Gov. Tim Walz only recently shut down schools for the rest of the year, such an announcement could easily have been predicted weeks ago. Even if the school were to reopen, some sort of grading system change would have been needed to safeguard students who were unable to keep up with distance learning for any number of reasons—meaning the need for a new system could have been acknowledged and announced weeks ago. In addition, the administration should have been more transparent in its decision-making process.

Pass-no credit is here to stay, so we should make the best of it. The Board encourages students to mold this time at home and the leniency of the new policy to their own needs. For some, that may mean keeping up on school work and trying just as hard as before. For others, it may be best to take this time to relax and tend to festering mental health issues. As for those disappointed at the new system and what it may mean for their college applications, there is no reason not to get a head start on writing essays and working on their resume.