Guest commentary: Students should be graded pass or fail during online learning

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This commentary is being published both by the La Jolla Light ( and the La Jolla High School Hi-Tide ( as part of a partnership to give La Jolla High students the opportunity to express their views in the community newspaper.

School closures have altered the education of 51 million students across the country since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, causing continuous debates over whether or not grading systems should be altered for students during online learning.

There are three main grading systems that schools all over the nation are using: pass or fail, A-F letter grading or no grades at all.

Parents’ group points out that 1,000 more high school students failed a course this fall than at the same time a year earlier.

There is no doubt that the pandemic has made it much more difficult for some students to focus and understand the material they are expected to learn, since they cannot have one-on-one contact with teachers. Much more independent learning and assignments have to be completed outside of class time for online school, which can be very challenging for some students without help from teachers.

Besides this, a large number of students do not have access to high-speed internet, the required supplies or books to effectively do their online school. Zoom glitches frequently cause some students to not be able to participate, and they miss out on important information during class. Therefore, those students are at a disadvantage for getting into college, which could seriously affect their future.

According to the American Institutes for Research, “opportunities for students to receive academic support within the home already vary widely, a dynamic whose effect will be more pronounced when their access to classroom teachers and settings also is limited.”

Academic grades will be based on how well a student knows a subject, not on factors related to behavior.

Online school should be beneficial for all students, not just some, so having a pass/fail grading system would give struggling students a greater chance of success.

There are people who say that changing the grading system to pass/fail or to a no-grade system would pose yet another challenge to students, as they would have to adapt to a different way of being graded. However, if a school’s grading system moves from a normal A-F scale to pass/fail, it would be significantly less stressful and easier for them to pass.

When asked what she thought regarding La Jolla High’s online school system, junior Riley Johnson said, “It’s definitely more challenging to focus on school since we are at home, but I feel like it’s manageable to get good grades with our current grading system because we are still learning.”

But junior Katie Williams said: “I think that a pass/fail grading system would be better. It’s way harder to keep up with work for online school, and we really don’t get any time to talk to our teachers alone when we need help, so it’s easier to get behind in class.”

Though some people might say that students should have to deal with the current grading system because being in college or having a job is much more difficult, the truth is that online school is not the same as in-person school. Students are forced to adapt to completely different learning styles. Therefore, having a pass or fail grading system would release unnecessary academic pressure that the coronavirus has caused.

Josephine Gettman is a junior at La Jolla High School.