Ever since the closure of schools due to COVID-19, the question as to how a school’s curriculum should be conducted has been hotly debated. Many Massachusetts public and private schools, including Lexington Public and Nobles, have moved to pass-fail. These students study asynchronously and are typically assigned homework each Monday that is due at the end of the week. Other schools, such as Belmont Hill, run synchronous classes around four times a week, and students continue to receive letter grades for the fourth marking period. While some argue that pass-fail grading places less pressure on students, letter grades encourage students to focus on their studies and can only help out in the college process.
Evaluation by letter grades motivates students to maintain a consistent, daily study routine and discourages slacking off. If students know that they can pass a class with only minimal effort, then they would most likely sleep late and play video games all day. Instead, Belmont Hill students wake up before nine and participate in classes until three in the afternoon. These strict rules might actually improve students’ mental health because their quarantine life can still share a similar routine as their regular school life. Furthermore, because the school day ends at three in the afternoon, students still have enough time to still do other activities they want to.
In contrast to some other “letter-grading” schools, Belmont Hill supports everyone regardless of their economic background. The school provides computers to anyone that doesn’t have access to one otherwise. Teachers primarily grade students based on their effort, and students do not receive worse grades than they did in previous marking periods. For example, my math teacher does not test students and instead is merely grading students on homework completion. He has made it clear that students will receive a good grade as long as they put effort into their school work. Unlike students at pass-fail schools, whose grades will not be valued by colleges, Belmont Hill students have an opportunity to improve their GPA and will be respected for putting in the effort during these difficult times.
Thankfully, all Belmont Hill students have access to computers and can access apps such as Zoom, through which they can participate in discussions with their classmates. In communities where students don’t have this same access to technology, schools cannot maintain a similar learning environment like ours. In sum, we should continue to be graded with letters at Belmont Hill to encourage students to remain motivated, productive, and to set themselves up better for college.