Middleton High students petition for pass-fail grading system

Published: Sep. 10, 2020 at 9:33 PM CDT
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MIDDLETON, Wis. (WMTV) - In a virtual start to the year, some Middleton High students are challenging their school’s decision to keep the letter grading scale.

Junior Daria Rudykh started an online petition, calling for a pass-fail system. The school used the grading method last spring, when classes first went online.

“Right now, the letter grading system calls for really high standards of achievement,” she said. “Students already have a lot of stress from many different other things. Now there’s also the stress from school.”

Rudykh said many of her peers face pandemic-related pressures at home, including mental health and family’s economic challenges.

Irene Kim, another student at Middleton High, described the academic hardships of virtual learning. “I feel like it’s just not [an] honest representation of my grades,” she said.

As of Thursday night, the petition gained more than 230 signatures.

“It’s impressive, but it doesn’t reflect necessarily, probably how the vast majority of students are feeling,” Perry Hibner, Middleton School District’s director of communications, said.

He explained, the district decided on a letter grading system after conversations between administrators and teachers.

“We felt like there was a motivation factor that was involved with letter grades,” Hibner said. “Anecdotally, we had heard from a number of teachers and a number of students and their parents that students struggle when they knew it was pass-fail. They didn’t have the same motivation than when they knew there was a letter grade associated. In addition, we had also just heard from students who said, ‘We want to return to letter grades as quickly as possible."

He added that the petition is unlikely to hold but offered a potential solution. A pre-pandemic policy, he said, already allows students to move to an alternative grading option.

“A student who doesn’t feel comfortable doing a letter grade or is struggling with a virtual environment can certainly request with teacher or counselor to move to pass-fail,” he said. “With all the elements in place we feel that this is best option.”

Saying this option is “not sufficient enough,” Rudykh explained she is working to make “slow steps” with school leaders to alleviate stressors for students.

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