High Schools Going Gradeless

Ivy Coach was cited today in the pages of the Chicago Tribune on the topic of high schools going pass / fail during the pandemic.

During the pandemic, some high schools opted to switch from their typical grading systems to pass / fail grading systems. Who needs grades, right? Everyone is a winner! You’re a winner. You’re a winner. You. And you. And you over there. You’re a winner, too. And, yes, even you in the hat in the corner. As for everyone! Yes, if you guessed we think such a pass / fail non-grading policy is absolutely ridiculous, you guessed right. We get it. It’s been a tough year and a half for high schoolers. They’ve had to endure high school from home. They’ve had to endure AP U.S. History via Zoom and they haven’t had many opportunities to hang out with their friends. But, hey, it’s been a tough year for everyone — not just high schoolers. And we all still tried to challenge ourselves. We aimed to read more books than usual this year. We set aside daily times for meditation. We worked from home while helping our children with homework. We persevered. But as to the high school administrators who decided to switch to pass / fail grading policies, you lacked faith in your students and that lack of faith is going to end up hurting them when they apply to highly selective universities.

As we are quoted in a piece in the Chicago Tribune today by Karen Ann Culotta entitled “COVID-19 Led Some Schools to Drop Letter Grades. One Suburban Student Is on a Quest to Get His Back,” “Brian Taylor, a managing partner at Ivy Coach, which provides college admissions counseling and ACT and SAT tutoring, applauded high schools that assessed students’ progress with traditional letter grades as much as possible throughout the pandemic. ‘Shame on the schools that are putting their students at a major disadvantage by not putting the letter grades earned during the pandemic on their transcripts,’ Taylor said, adding that while many colleges are now ‘test optional,’ scores from ACT and SAT exams, and high school transcripts, still determine admission. ‘One of the reasons applications were up at many colleges is because students thought they could get in without test scores,’ Taylor said. ‘But if a student doesn’t have all of their letter grades on their transcript, and there’s no test, what data can the colleges rely on?'”

That’s right. During a year in which it was optional for applicants to submit an SAT or ACT score along with SAT Subject Tests, now some of these students aren’t going to be submitting grades? Grades, of course, have long been the single most important factor in elite college admissions. So without test scores and grades for these students at schools that foolishly switched to pass / fail, what exactly are admissions officers to rely on when evaluating these applicants? What kind of laundry detergent they use? To high school administrators that switched to pass / fail, it’s not too late to correct the error of your ways as you’re doing your students a grave disservice.


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  • Amy Kuwis says:

    I agree! What a SAD state our education model has become! I think admissions will be based on coin flips pretty soon divided 50/50 have and have-nots so endowments are safe. Kids were stressed BUT they has SO MUCH MORE FREE TIME TO DO SCHOOL WORK! (I don’t think they were just crying in their rooms the whole time either. Sad truth: Most were just goofing off).

  • Harvey Milner says:

    Kids are resilient- much more so than adults. I think the adjustment for them was not as difficult as we think (they were already on screens all day anyway). Do they deserve a break? Absolutely. Coddling? Nope. American education has become a gross absurdity. Glad to see Ivy Coach inject some common sense.

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