The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

Credit/no credit grading policy misses the mark

April 25, 2020

Within a week, a petition against the school board’s decision gained over 1,000 signatures. I signed and posted a vehement comment, angry with the board for “reducing the hours of effort we put in to waste.”

However, I retracted my signature when I realized a better alternative: Keeping third quarter letter grades that cannot be lowered, but having students choose whether they want their final semester grade to affect their GPA.

Academic Growth 

The credit/no credit policy discredits the work students have put forth this semester and disincentivizes them from learning. 

This semester feels like a waste of time for students who have put significant effort toward improving their grades to demonstrate a pattern of academic growth throughout high school, especially for juniors. Many are currently stressed that their last opportunity to raise their GPA is gone. Students like junior Annika Gaglani want to keep letter grades, and for sensible reasons.

“A lot of people were counting on [letter grades] to show that they’ve been working hard,” Annika said. “Colleges receive thousands of applicants every year, and they just don’t have time to read into all this extra information [about upward grade trends].”

While some are stressed, others are unmotivated by the new grading system. Let’s be honest: learning and grades are intertwined. We learn for a grade, so when grades are dropped, students are disincentivized to learn.

This is why having third quarter grades that can only be improved acts as a stimulus for students to continue learning new content. Although some may argue that students who already have an A in their class for third quarter will not be academically motivated, A-level students are typically diligent and ambitious. With the credit/no credit system, there will be significant variation in the quality of work submitted because a C becomes the same as an A.


The petition mentioned earlier advocates for students to receive letter grades that can only be improved during the fourth quarter, but its proposition should be taken with a grain of salt.

This proposal may be better for some, but it leaves an important group of students in the dust. We criticize the notion that semester grades should impact everyone’s GPA, as students who lack necessities during this time of crisis are not on the same playing field as their peers. 

Low income students dissatisfied with their third quarter grades lack the resources they would have if school was still in session: office hours, tutorial services and test retakes. They have less opportunities to maintain and improve their grades, as some have to work to support their families or take care of their siblings. 

The optional GPA inclusion accommodates them, as their inability to focus on their grades may lead to lower second semester GPAs. This would negatively impact their academic opportunities in high school, including qualifying for the National Honors Society, which requires an unweighted 3.65 GPA, and sports. 

Therefore, the preferred solution would be to give everyone a letter grade on their transcript, which will accurately reflect their performance across the whole semester, and optional GPAs to accommodate students unable to focus on their grades. 


The policy we propose isn’t perfect, but it appears to be what the majority wants. 

Before the MVLA School Board made a final decision, they distributed a survey about grades and senior activities. Keeping third quarter grades that can only be raised was a suggested option in the survey.

Despite several requests from The Talon, these survey results were never published. This is troubling, especially when many respondents were under the impression that the survey results would impact the school board’s decision.

“I recognize that people have these difficult situations right now, but I still think that the board should have made the decision that goes along with the majority and the greater good and then personally see to it that the minority doesn’t fall behind,” Annika said.

However, even if we don’t have these results, the 1,452 signatures on the petition prove that this decision wasn’t made to satisfy the majority. MVLA parent Nancy Bremeau was one of many to sign and comment on this petition.

“[The rule should] make sense for the majority and make exceptions for the few, not the other way around,” Bremeau said. 

Obviously, this sentiment is shared by many who are against the school board’s decision. We should pick the option that benefits the greatest number of people, all with different wants and needs during this time. 

For a school that preaches equity, it’s disappointing to get a grading system that doesn’t meet each student’s needs. Different solutions work for different people, and we shouldn’t put forth a blanket solution that actually hurts more people than it helps.

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