Student starts petition asking for pass/fail grading for online classes at Middleton High School

MIDDLETON, Wis. – Days before classes are to begin at Middleton High School, students are rallying behind a petition to move away from a traditional grading scale.

The petition, created by rising Junior Daria Rudykh, has garnered nearly 200 signatures in five days. It asks administrators to allow students to complete work on a pass/fail basis for as long as learning remains online.

“When we create letter grades, it creates a very high standard for students,” Rudykh said. “Students cant really perform at that standard right now.”

Rudykh says while she normally does not struggle with grades, online learning during the end of the previous school year meant less connection with teachers or help with task work.

“I’m a straight-A student,” she said. “But for the first time, I was taking AP chemistry last year, and for the first time I got a C. That was a very big drop for me.”

Middleton Cross Plains Area School District Communications Director Perry Hibner says while some families appreciated the pass/fail system the district used during online instruction last year, others did not.

“We heard from a lot of our families who felt like having pass/fail was a detriment to their students,” Hibner said. The communications director says with months to prepare, teachers have created well-designed lesson plans they weren’t capable of making last school year.

“(When we went virtual in March), it was sort of a remediation effort the last couple of months. We certainly didn’t want to see students regress, but there wasn’t a lot of new information being taught,” he said.

Hibner says that a graded letter system motivates students to work harder.

“They know that ‘I’m working hard’ to get whatever grade it is they want to achieve,” he said. “Secondly, it tells people, whether they’re going on to secondary education, or going to find a job, it gives that employer an opportunity to make sense of how that student was doing in school.”

Rudykh says for some students who come from low-income families or with stressful home lives, that’s not the case. Hibner says regardless, the district is hoping to bring students back into the classroom by the beginning of November.