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A Bad Choice on Letter Grades

Below is my April 24 letter to the editor of the Capital expressing my deep concerns about the Anne Arundel County Board of Education's decision to allow students to choose between letter grades and a pass/fail option.

The implications of the Anne Arundel County Board of Education’s recent vote to give high-school students a choice of receiving a letter grade or a satisfactory or unsatisfactory for the second semester of this school year are deeply troubling.

This decision only exacerbates the existing inequities between various student populations in Anne Arundel County public high schools, now heightened in the distance learning environment. As a parent of an Annapolis High School senior, a member of its PTSA Board, and an educator, I can say with certainty for too many of our students this is no real choice.

For a student who has been working hard and doing well this year, but is now cut off from the necessary access to online learning, chances of continuing to do well have vastly decreased. Similarly, a number of our students may now be responsible for helping younger siblings with their school work during the day while both parents are at work.

Choosing a satisfactory mark may be the only way to save the semester. It is survival. And for colleges or prospective employers, who will look at that student’s transcript at some point, they will know that the satisfactory grade was deemed a choice according to school policy, and wonder why that student chose not to go for the letter grade.

Backed into a corner with no way out but to choose satisfactorY will have consequences. I implore the Board of Education to consider other options, such as recording third quarter grades, and noting if a student has not had the resources needed for online learning, or sufficient support, in the student’s transcript.

We cannot afford to let a system that is already rampant with so many inequalities become even more unfair.

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