Dropping letter grades during the COVID-19 crisis

Orono High School needs to switch their grading system for the well-being of their current struggling seniors.


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Seniors are struggling with many losses due to the pandemic, and standard grades have added to the stress.

Jack Patterson, Staff Reporter

Jack Patterson

Staff Reporter

Before this unprecedented time, the COVID-19 Virus, presented itself, high school students were already at the top of the list in terms of battling stress and anxiety. 70 percent of high school students view stress and anxiety as a major problem for themselves and their classmates, according to NeaToday. Students that were surveyed said that the main cause of their stress results from the overdue workload and getting properly prepared for post-graduation. Seniors are at the forefront of this stress because they are in the peak of dealing with both these causes.

School being moved online adds multiple new learning obstacles for students. There are students that struggle with independent learning. While Orono has been creative with providing outlets of help, like online study hours with the teacher present, online class still leans almost directly on the shoulders of self-taught learning. Other learning disadvantages include those students that are kinesthetic learners. These students are forced to learn new styles, because online class is almost completely restricted to visual, aural and verbal learning styles.

Another factor of stress that schools often overlook is the home life of students. Quarantine doesn’t allow students that have abusive or unhealthy home lives to escape for even as little as a day at school. Asking students to try to balance an unhealthy lifestyle with the stress of getting acceptable grades is nearly impossible.

On the contrary, colleges typically only accept a P (passing grade in the pass-fail system) as D- in their letter grading. But under the new circumstances most colleges in the U.S. are adopting the pass-fail system for their own grading. U.S. News reported that Oliver M. O’Reilly, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of California—Berkeley said, “In these circumstances, students’ mental and physical health must take priority over the achievement of high letter grades.”

All in all, high school seniors are carrying more stress and anxiety than anyone should be asked to deal with. Moving to a pass-fail system takes a small, but necessary, load of stress off these young adults’ backs. If our own school system isn’t going to protect the mental health of our students, who is?