Texas Community Colleges

WTC Students Will Receive Letter Grades on Transcripts, Not Pass/Fail

04/16/20

After much discussion and input from faculty, administration and staff, Western Texas College has decided to issue students letter grades for the spring 2020 semester. The College will not use the pass/fail option. 

“We want our students to remain in the best position possible for their next step in life,” said Dr. Barbara Beebe, College President. “Our biggest concerns include students who will transfer, dual credit students, athletic/scholarship eligibility, and students who may return to continue their education later in life.” 

The College did not make the decision lightly as numerous people weighed in on the pass/fail option. 

Echoing the sentiments of many, one individual noted that “If I made an A in a course and it didn't reflect as 4.0 in my transcript calculations, I'd be upset.” 

“One of my biggest concerns is for the athletes who need a certain GPA in order to advance,” noted an instructor who teaches many student-athletes. “If we go to a pass/fail system right now, the grade we would be able to assign is a "C" or a 2.0. In order for an athlete to transfer to a Division II school, they have to have a 2.2, and for a Division I school, it is a 2.5.” 

“Furthermore, pass/fail doesn't honor the effort put in by the best-performing students,” they added. 

Many professors have built more flexibility into their courses and have provided extra opportunities for students to improve their grades. 

“We’ve set up several systems for students to receive help,” stated Stephanie Ducheneaux, Dean of Instructional Affairs. The systems include options for students to receive online tutoring, flexible assignment due dates, support and encouragement email and texts, and assignment reminders, as well as additional online faculty availability and accessibility. 

“Some students have worked really hard and don't deserve that [pass/fail]. They earn their grades.” 

WTC will be accepting pass/fail transfer grades from other colleges for admission this summer and fall.  

For additional comments and input from faculty and staff, please see below. 

“Although I do see the potential benefits of doing this during this unprecedented time, I truly believe the risks outweigh those benefits for our students.” 

“If I made an A in a course and it didn't reflect as 4.0 in my transcript calculations, I'd be upset.”

“I think the pass/fail idea could potentially be quite harmful for some of our students. It is my understanding that some 4-year institutions only accept pass/fail grades as a C. So, if a student had a 95, it would still transfer out as a C.” 

“This would shortchange all of my students that put significant effort in before the change, and all the students that worked extra-hard to complete the semester in a way they did not sign up for. I have multiple students who are working with me very closely to keep their grades up, and that effort is going to be the deciding factor in their final grade.  With a pass/fail, those students would be treated no differently than those who managed to skate through the second half of the semester.” 

“If it is announced to students that we are going to a pass/fail system, good students will continue to work hard, but I would wager a plurality, maybe a majority, would immediately disengage for the rest of the semester.  If you don't announce it, those students that did work so hard would feel as if they had been cheated at the end of the semester.  Either way, it messes with a large group of students.” 

“I am seeing a mirror image of my students’ online quality of work and work ethic as what I was seeing when they were in the classroom with me twice a week.” 

“We (the faculty) were asked to try and keep everything as normal as possible for the students and that the rigor must stay the same during the transition to online instruction by the State.” 

“A pass/fail lessens the accomplishments of those students who have maintained engagement and completed their work. Pass/fail, as I understand, equates to a 2.0 GPA. A number of the students planning to graduate have already contacted me about their fears regarding the effects to their GPA because their current/future scholarships were based on the GPA they've had.” 

“One of my biggest concerns is for the athletes who need a certain GPA in order to advance. If we go to a pass/fail system right now, the grade we would be able to assign is a "C" or a 2.0. In order for an athlete to transfer to a Division II school, they have to have a 2.2, and for a Division I school, it is a 2.5. Furthermore, pass/fail doesn't honor the effort put in by the best-performing students.” 

“I'm managing the situation via granting more flexibility and providing extra opportunities for students to improve their grades.” 

“I teach a large number of dual credit students, and those students need numeric grades for their high school transcripts and class rankings. Switching to pass/fail would either mess up their GPAs or would require additional work on the faculty member's part to provide "real" grades for these students, and "pass/fail" grades for the other students.” 

“While I understand that the students have had to adapt to a great deal of change over the last few weeks, I think changing up how they are assessed and graded is an unnecessary change at this point. Just because we change the medium through which we teach does not mean that the learning objectives and means of assessment change as well. For many of us, our major assessments and their weights have been established since the beginning of the semester. Tossing those guidelines and calculations up in the air now with everything else just seems to remove some stability the students might have been clinging to.” 

“I'm not comfortable with the implications that changing the grading system for this shift to online learning could have for "regular" fully online classes. I realize in "regular" circumstances, students have a choice whether or not to take an online class. However, changing to a pass/fail system for this semester seems to imply that taking a full slate of online-only classes is much harder than taking face-to-face classes and, therefore, should be graded differently. Are we going to maintain that different standard when things return to "normal?" If next fall's class offerings are impacted due to the virus, will we continue this grading philosophy? What about our students who were already taking fully online classes, like many of our dual credit students? What are we telling them if we make this change?” 

“I understand the desire to try to make things easier for the students, but the expectations for what they are expected to know and be able to do going forward do not change just because we're living in unique times. At the community college, we teach foundational skills and knowledge. Transfer institutions, in part, rely on our assessments of students for adequate preparation and potential for certain programs. Removing traditional grade scales for pass/fail will remove the nuance of student performance and make it more difficult for transfer institutions to evaluate credit and place students. I don't think we should jeopardize the success of 4-year institutions' programs (a P that should be an A in Introductory Physics is very different from a P that should be a C for a four-year Engineering program) or our reputation for rigor by making this change.” 

“The main concern would be making certain that all other Colleges and University Institutions would accept them in the transfer process. However, a number of four-year institutions have said they won't accept pass/fail grades for credit. And keep in mind that there are also five other accrediting agencies in the United States who may or may not have policies regarding that grading system.” 

“Pass/Fail could hold some students back from their full potential.” 

“Trying to earn an A is very different than attempting not to fail.” 

“Instead of trying to achieve the best grade possible, students are able to meet a lower standard.” 

“If you end up failing a pass/fail class, this really will raise a red flag.” 

“Some colleges may bar you from retaking a course you failed if you chose to take it for a pass/fail grade.” 

“A college student shouldn’t aim to barely pass a class.” 

“Some students have worked really hard and don't deserve that (pass/fail).  They earn their grades.”

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