Students, Staff Debate on Grading Policy for the Spring Term

Katelyn Newton and Jada Bailey

Reversing its previous policy of offering only credit/no credit grades for the spring semester, the San Juan Unified School District will now allow students to petition for grades. 

Students and parents who appealed to the district for a letter grade option applauded this change, however many staff members resisted the new policy announced by Principal Brian Ginter on April 18.

After several students and parents took the initiative to request a grade option for students, the district decided to allow them to petition for letter grades. Trent Allen, Senior Director of Community Relations, reported that due to this feedback the district made a decision that attempted to satisfy the range of students at their schools.

“Depending on a student’s unique situation and goals, letter grades can be important to their progress,” Allen said. “In an effort to provide as much flexibility as possible, while still offering a default that protects students and accounts for challenges they may face, the decision was reached to offer the option for letter grades if a student petitions.”

Under the new policy, students must email teachers to petition for a letter grade by May 1. Teachers are then required to inform their students on the status of their grade and the impact future work may have.

For some students having the option to receive letter grades may be beneficial. 

“I am petitioning for grades because I am hoping to boost my GPA for colleges,” junior Aiden Mosely said. “I worked harder this year than freshman and sophomore year to get all A’s and I want my transcript and GPA to reflect that.”

Many teachers, however, expressed concern with the new policy, claiming that the distanced learning format makes it hard to fight plagiarism.

Junior Jalen Naran acknowledges the struggle teachers may be facing and is against petitioning for grades.

“The teachers are in a tough position because they can’t feel good about giving a grade to someone who they can’t tell is taking the class honestly,” Naran said. “I️ don’t see a benefit in petitioning for grades because of the current situation and the differences between so many situations of other kids around the nation.

English and Video Productions teacher Adam Bearson voiced his concerns with the reintroduction of letter grades, believing it puts some students at a disadvantage. Bearson encouraged his students who wanted to petition for grades to consider the position less-fortunate students may be in.

“It is not about securing equal outcomes in an unfair world–that’s never happening–but each of us working to make sure that everyone has at least a fair, if not equal opportunity to compete,” Bearson said. “It is about being sincerely interested in and trying to find compassion for students’ difficult experiences; about giving you, students who live from positions of relative strength, an opportunity to demonstrate great character and to express a connection to something larger than yourself, and to celebrate your many sacrifices, including this shared sacrifice that we are engaged in right now.”

Some students agree and would prefer to have credit/ no credit, as it removes some stress, or they lack resources to perform in online school to the best of their ability. 

“I rather have credit or no credit because I feel that letter grades usually put stress on the students to keep that grade up and sometimes they don’t understand the material at all and it’ll be all bad for them,” said sophomore Mckayla Wikoff. “For the credit or no credit, you can do your work and put all the effort in and you’ll get the same amount of credit as any other students putting the same effort in.”

Despite not personally agreeing with the district’s decision, college and high school counselors aim to help  students put their best foot forward for college applications and support students in petitioning for grades. Counselors have made the argument that because the district is offering grades, college-bound students should accept them, since the school profile will state that students had the option to earn letter grades.

The University of California as well as CSU schools announced a change in their admission requirements to accept credit/ no credit marks for the spring term. Other top universities in the nation such as Harvard, M.I.T. and Stanford have confirmed they will recognize pass/ fail systems as well. 

Many students may feel conflicted on whether or they should petition for grades, but if a student who originally petitioned for letter grades decides they would like to switch back to the credit/no credit, they may revert to this default option up until June 9.

Whether students wish to petition or not, distance learning curriculum will continue to be provided and assigned for the remainder of the school year. Despite opinions on both sides of the grade debate, the district stands by their decision in an attempt to assist the maximum number of students across their campuses. 

“At the end of the day, there are thousands of unique student situations,” Allen said. “ While credit or no credit is likely the best option for most, and thus our default, providing an option to petition for a grade helps our students meet their own unique needs.”


The San Juan Unified School District established the following guidelines for petitioning for a grade:

  1. Notify the teacher in writing (via email) that the student is interested in petitioning for a letter grade in the class NO LATER THAN MAY 1. 
  2. Students petitioning for a letter grade will receive regular feedback regarding grade progress. 
  3. Teachers will notify students of their letter grade, and the impact that any remaining work may have on that grade, by May 29. 
  4. Students who have petitioned for a grade may change their request to credit or no credit no later than noon on June 9. 
  5. Student’s final grade will reflect the grade/mark of A-F, credit or no credit based upon completion of this process.



Grading policies throughout the state:

  • San Juan Unified School District
    • While the default option is credit/ no credit, students may petition to receive letter grades until May 1st.
  • Elk Grove Unified School District
    • All students in 1st – 12th grade will receive letter grades to finish the 2019-2020 school year.
  • Sacramento City Unified School District
    • Students will not receive a lesser grade than their current grade as of March 13, 2020 as a result of engaging in distance learning.
  • Natomas Unified School District
    • Students’ grades during this term are held harmless and cannot drop. Progress reports were sent out the week of April 20th – 24th.
  • Palo Alto Unified School District
    • All secondary courses will be graded as Credit/No Credit, with the goal of reducing stress during these unprecedented times.
  • Los Angeles Unified School District
    • Instituted a “No Fail Policy” in which students can not receive lower than a D. Students may, however, work to improve their current grades.