September 27th, 2019
Grading fails to consider mental health
SUN. | 12-13-20 | OPINION
As we reach the end of this semester, and I look back at my grades, I cannot help but feel insanely insecure. I will be the first to admit that I did not perform academically as well as I have in the past. However, granted we are still living through a global pandemic and increased civil unrest, it is a big deal to have even made it this far in the semester. I cannot even count on both my hands how many times I considered falling off the face of the Earth entirely, just so I would not have to think about school anymore. That being said, I think it was a cardinal sin for Pitt County Schools to not include a pass/fail option for the 2020 fall semester.
When we look back to when COVID-19 began spreading throughout the United States, and schools went virtual for the remainder of the spring semester, there was an abundance of grace given to students. Universities and high schools alike instituted the pass/fail option for grading. For students, this meant that their GPA would not be hurt by how they performed, but they could still get credit as long as they passed.
As we returned to school for the fall semester, and still had COVID-19 looming, I could not shake the feeling that grades were trivial. Unfortunately, Pitt County Schools declared that grades would be taken and our GPAs would be affected by our performance this semester. Contrastingly, East Carolina University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and University of North Carolina at Charlotte upheld the pass/fail option for the fall semester. This led me to question why Pitt County Schools returned to normal grading.
Graphic by Lexi Karaivanova
Nothing feels normal about school right now, so to upkeep the academic standards and grading expectations from the times before COVID-19 seems unusual. Everyday I wake up to news of how many more individuals have died from COVID-19, and it just feels so odd to go about my day as though that is not happening around me.
Whether society is ready to admit this or not, living through COVID-19 is a traumatic experience. The University of Michigan’s School of Medicine cites that experiencing trauma is common — “up to 60-85% of people [have] experienced a trauma within their lifetime.” But now, the world is collectively experiencing trauma at the same time.
It is from living through traumatic experiences that someone can develop Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other mental health issues. A survey done by the CDC reports that since the national onset of COVID-19, about 1 in 10 individuals has “seriously considered suicide,” with it being about 1 in 4 for those aged 18-29. That survey was taken during the summer, prior to students returning to school, and also did not include high schoolers. Nonetheless, it can be logically assumed that suicidal ideation rate has only gone up for students.
Knowing all of this, it was naïve for school districts, such as Pitt County Schools, to think students were ready to return to normal grading. Keeping the pass/fail option would have alleviated additional stress caused by grades as everyone processes the trauma that is COVID-19.