For years now, first-year undergraduate students haven’t had to worry too much about their grades during their first semester at college. That’s because the university followed a policy known as “covered grades,” which keeps first-semester grades out of GPA calculations and off student transcripts. By essentially making first semester pass/fail, advocates of covered grades say, students can find their footing during the difficult first few months of college, without stressing out too much about their specific test scores.
But Hopkins has just announced that it’s scrapping that policy–and students are up in arms about it. A group of students demonstrated outside an academic council meeting, the Washington Post reports. They argued that the school doesn’t have the robust mental health support in place that will be necessary to assist all the first-year students who will be stressed out by having to see their grades. Other critics argue that covered grades are a boon for students who come from less rigorous high schools: “A lot of kids come here from private schools,” rising senior Chase Alston told the Post. “They’re better equipped to handle coming to school. Students from marginalized populations, they may need more time to figure out what resources work for them and what study habits work for them.” But professors complained that covered grades made students lazy, which is one reason the school decided to end the policy.
Meanwhile, another local school is weighing the merits of heading in the opposite direction. Goucher College recently voted to offer certain required classes (foreign language, data analytics, academic writing) as pass/fail only. “We’re asking a series of questions about how we design an environment for learning,” Goucher president José Antonio Bowen told Inside Higher Ed, “and first-year anxiety in relation to grades is a big one.”
Sounds like Goucher is taking a step in the right direction. A lot of my classmates were very stressed about the required courses in subjects they weren’t good with, and I think offering those classes as pass/fail only would lift a huge amount of anxiety from future students, especially since GPA is so often tied to whether or not you can receive financial aid or participate in sports.
Covered grades..,who knew…It appears very ironic…schools select the best out of their candidate pool for admittance and THAN hide their performance??? What happened to good old fashion drop the class when your not doing well…too ancient, I guess. Uncover it all…not a fair practice, especially when most students GPAs represent all the work they’ve accomplished. Hey Hopkins students…LIFE IS COMING!!
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