Petition to bring back letter grades as signatures continue

Arohi Bhattacharya, Senior Staff Writer

Palo Alto community members have created a petition to bring back the letter grading system three weeks after the Palo Alto Unified School District announced it would move grading from letter grades to credit/no credit.

While other districts have considered the credit/no credit protocol numerous continue to apply a decreased level of standard letter grading among their schools. San Diego, San Jose and Los Angeles are some of the many school districts that maintain letter grades while allowing more flexibility for their students, such as giving students the opportunity to excel higher in their grades, but not decrease from their original starting point grade. San Francisco schools are choosing to discuss the possibility of handing out As to every student, according to Mercury News.

In the petition, Steve Toteda, who created the petition on April 15, advocates for a larger student and parent representation in decisions involving high schoolers. Specifically, he notes the impact on the grade point averages of students who are taking AP or Honors courses. 

It is important that students and parents understand that this policy will have a significant and negative effect on the GPA of any student currently enrolled in Advanced Placement or Honors classes because of lost weighted benefit,” Toteda said.

Junior Charlize Nguyen agrees with Toteda, saying that she was hoping to show colleges her academic growth throughout the school year with her grades, but feels she is now unable to do so.

“I was disappointed by the credit/no credit system,” Nguyen said. “I was working hard throughout the third quarter and I was sad that these efforts could not be recognized. For many juniors, including me, this semester was one of our last opportunities to show our learning growth before we start applying to colleges next year.” 

However, she says she understands the district’s decision, and sympathizes with those who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“That being said, credit/no credit grading is definitely more lenient than letter grading, which I think is better for a lot of students,” Nguyen said. “A lot of students have family responsibilities and I think it’s important to recognize this.”

While she sees the petitioner’s perspective, Nguyen said she doesn’t believe that the change is realistic.

“I recognize where the petition signers are coming from; however, I don’t think the [Palo Alto] Board [of Education] would be willing to reverse their decision because we have already started the credit/no credit system,” Nguyen said.

Senior Ben Kong also shared similar views on the discussion, and said he expected more communication on a matter that many students and parents believed was a large issue.

“It’s surprising to me that one of the best public school districts in the country had barely any ability or preparation to have formal online classes and class work,” Kong said. “I think that one of the reasons we have this credit/no credit system instead of a letter grade one is because PAUSD just can’t provide a proper online education that would allow for letter grades to be implemented.”

PAUSD Superintendent Don Austin signed the formal agreement between PAUSD and the Palo Alto Educators Association to implement the credit/no credit grading on March 25. He emphasized that he is confident that using the policy will not adversely affect any student.

It does not negatively impact in any way our college-bound students and definitely protects students who are having a hard time accessing material, either through disability or devices,” Austin said.

PAUSD became the first district in California to carry out the credit/no credit guidelines for the rest of the 2019/20 school year, according to Toteda.

As of publishing time of this article, the petition has already almost reached their 500-person goal Toteda set with 492 virtual signatures.