Pass-Fail Seen as Option in Online School Chaos
To help reduce the confusion caused by online classes in the wake of the coronavirus, more than 190 colleges in the United States have offered alternative grading methods to give students more flexibility and control over their academic performance.
Many universities have moved to the pass/fail option, which allows students to choose which classes will count toward their grade-point average (GPA) numerically, and which classes they will take pass/fail without a numerical value.
When colleges and universities closed their campuses earlier this year and converted to online courses, several student organizations petitioned their universities to adopt a pass/fail grading system for the term.
Online courses have generally been met with disappointment and frustration by students and educators alike. “I’m not an online learner,” said Sarah Kurian, a junior from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
“It’s more difficult to engage and harder to retain information,” Kurian said.
Many university students have expressed being in favor of pass/fail during the global pandemic.
“All we want is a choice. Don’t force a system that is going to be detrimental to our grades and our GPA that we have, up to this point, worked hard to maintain. Give us the choice between the pass/fail system and receiving a letter grade,” tweeted Emma Davenport, a student from the University of Central Arkansas.
“Today my power went out and I had to sit in my car with my computer. While my phone charged so I could use my hot spot to get an important assignment done. Some people aren’t so lucky. Simply put, that is why Pass/Fail is important,” tweeted another student from Stephen F. Austin State in Nacogdoches, Texas, on Twitter.
“The pass/fail grading system is necessary because everyone is going through a different situation,” said Youjin Cho, a senior at George Mason University. “I was originally planning to stick with the letter grades, but then I decided to go back to Korea last minute because COVID-19 was getting worse in the U.S. So, for me, having the option to either choose a letter grade or pass/fail during this turbulent time gave me peace of mind.”
Other universities have adopted a universal pass/fail grading policy for the semester, instead of giving students a choice.
So far, four Ivy League schools — Yale, Harvard, Columbia and Dartmouth — have approved the mandatory pass/fail grading. Top U.S. law schools, such as Columbia, Harvard, and Stanford, also have followed by adopting a universal pass/fail grading option.
Some students, however, have also voiced concerns about that.
“The pass/fail system is a disgrace to students who have worked hard for their A’s. For me, this is my best semester, and the pass/fail system takes away my GPA, which I need for internships and many other career opportunities,” said Jasmine McCollum, a student at Tuskegee University in Alabama.
See all News Updates of the Day
Soon-to-Be Graduates Put COVID Behind Them
During the COVID-19 pandemic, learning lagged for students around the world, including the U.S., where many had access to online learning. Now these soon-to-be graduates say they are behind in certain subjects because of time missed at school. VOA’s Laurel Bowman sat down with high school seniors on the cusp of graduation. Camera: Adam Greenbaum, Saqib Ul Islam.
Former US Congresswoman Liz Cheney Urges Graduates Not to Compromise With the Truth
Former U.S. Congresswoman Liz Cheney implored new college graduates to not compromise when it comes to the truth, excoriating her House Republican colleagues for not doing enough to combat former President Donald Trump's lies that the 2020 election was stolen.
In a commencement speech at Colorado College, the Wyoming Republican repeated her fierce criticisms of Trump but steered clear of talking about his 2024 reelection campaign or her own political future.
Cheney, who graduated from Colorado College in 1988, recalled being a political science student walking into a campus building where a Bible verse was inscribed above the entrance that read, "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."
"After the 2020 election and the attack of January 6th, my fellow Republicans wanted me to lie. They wanted me to say the 2020 election was stolen, the attack of January 6th wasn't a big deal, and Donald Trump wasn't dangerous," Cheney said Sunday in Colorado Springs, connecting her experiences as a student to her work in the U.S. House of Representatives. "I had to choose between lying and losing my position in House leadership."
In three terms in office, Cheney rose to the No. 3 GOP leadership position in the House, a job she lost after voting to impeach Trump for the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol and then not relenting in her criticism of the former president.
Cheney's speech touched on themes similar to those she has promoted since leaving office in January: addressing her work on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol and standing up to the threat she believes Trump poses to democracy. She also encouraged more women to run for office and criticized one of the election-denying attorneys who worked for Trump after the 2020 election for recent remarks about college students voting.
"Cleta Mitchell, an election denier and adviser to former President Trump, told a gathering of Republicans recently that it is crucially important to make sure that college students don't vote," Cheney said. "Those who are trying to unravel the foundations of our republic, who are threatening the rule of law and the sanctity of our elections, know they can't succeed if you vote."
In an audio recording of Mitchell's presentation from a recent Republican National Committee retreat, she warns of polling places on college campuses and the ease of voting as potential problems, The Washington Post reported.
Most students and parents in the audience applauded throughout Cheney's remarks, yet some booed. Some students opposing the choice of Cheney as speaker turned their chairs away from the stage as she spoke.
Cheney's busy speaking schedule and subject matter have fueled speculation about whether she may enter the 2024 GOP presidential primary since she left office. Candidates ranging from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley have calibrated their remarks about Trump, aiming to counter his attacks without alienating the supporters that won him the White House seven years ago.
Though some have offered measured criticisms, no declared or potential challenger has embraced anti-Trump messaging to the same extent as Cheney. She did not reference her plans on Sunday but has previously said she remains undecided about whether she wants to run for president.
Though she would face an uphill battle, Cheney's fierce anti-Trump stance and her role as vice chairwoman of the House committee elevated her platform high enough to call on a national network of donors and Trump critics to support a White House run.
A super PAC organized to support of her candidacy has remained active, including purchasing attack ads on New Hampshire airwaves against Trump this month.
After leaving office and being replaced by a Trump-backed Republican who defeated her in last year's primary, Cheney was appointed to a professorship at the University of Virginia and wrote "Oath and Honor," a memoir scheduled to hit shelves in November.
Two of Cheney's five children as well as her mother are also graduates of the liberal arts college.
Cheney's speaking tour appears to be picking up. She is scheduled to appear Thursday at the Mackinac Policy Conference in Michigan.
How Are Girls in Afghanistan Continuing Their Education?
After the Taliban retook power in Afghanistan in 2021, they severely limited access to education for girls. Yet a club founded in the U.S., Flowers for the Future, helps Afghan girls keep learning through Zoom meetings with U.S. students. Two students, one Afghan, one American, describe their journey with the program and what it's taught them about grit, resilience and the importance of learning. Read the essays by Mahsa Kosha and Emily Khossaravi in the Hechinger Report. (May 2023)
Could Your International Degree be Financed by Goldman Sachs?
Quite possibly, since the elite U.S. investment bank has been investing millions in educational startups. Students from countries like India, Nigeria and Indonesia have long struggled to finance their U.S. degrees due to limited access to loans, but these new startups could disrupt that. For example, in just the first quarter of 2022, one startup, Prodigy Finance, reported a 98% increase in the number of Indian loan applicants. Nick Cuthbert of the PIE News breaks down the financial projections. (May 2023)
How Do College Sports Bring Together American and International Students?
The game of Ultimate Frisbee has no referees and isn't governed by the official association for U.S. college sports. But it is intensely competitive, and students from Australia, China and elsewhere travel to the U.S. to play for the best schools. Andrew Smith of VOA Learning English reports on how college athletics can forge international friendships outside the classroom. (May 2023)