Highline College

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Highline rejected changes to spring grading system

Dr. Emily Lardner

Della Verdi Staff Reporter June 4

Highline officials considered but ultimately decided not to change the grading system at the college for Spring Quarter.

Some local school districts, including Seattle, changed to grading scheme that guaranteed every student either an A or an incomplete, since students were forced to study online from home because of the coronaviru quarantine. Washington Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib also said that higher education institutions in the state should do the same.

However, Highline rejected that approach, said Dr. Emily Lardner, interim vice president for Academic Affairs at Highline.

“At the start of COVID-19, Executive Cabinet discussed whether or not to change the spring quarter grading practice,” Dr. Lardner said. “We decided not to, because of concerns that shifting to credit/non-credit would have inequitable impacts across students.”

Changing the grading scale at Highline would not have been a simple task, nor would it have been fair to some students.

“Depending on the funding sources students are using, and on where students plan to transfer, not having a GPA could be detrimental,” Dr. Lardner said. “Because of our concerns about creating unintended negative consequences for students, we did not make a change.”

Highline was not in favor of creating an easy grading system this quarter, despite other universities doing this to make times like these less heavy on students.

“Highline is choosing to focus on supporting faculty and students as everyone learns to navigate these new learning modes, but not to lower academic standards,” Dr. Lardner said. “As a college, we are trying to provide support for students in as many ways as we can so students can be successful in spite of the challenges presented by covid-19.”

Although Highline may not be implementing a new grading system for students, the faculty and staff are working hard to help students succeed, she said.

“I can speak most directly to what we are doing through Academic Affairs, but on behalf of Executive Cabinet, I can say that we are trying hard to support students in as many ways as we can,” Dr. Lardner said. “Through Academic Affairs, we offered a free course (BSTEC 99) on learning how to learn online, and offered it in English, Spanish, and Arabic.”

Dr. Lardner said that academic support services was also moved online.

“We developed an alternative to the library reserve system, by asking students to identify books they needed and mailing those books to them,” she said.

“The vice president for Student Services and I talked about whether we could make a quick shift to just do credit or no credit for all of our students because of the reason students are voicing,” Dr. Lardner said. “We decided not to because there was no way to do that without having unintended negative consequences for some of our students.”

Changing the grading system could have negative impacts for students Who need a higher GPA to transfer or earn scholarships.

“Some students are planning to transfer to different schools that have different policies than the University of Washington, so not having your last quarter GPA might hurt you when you go to transfer,” Dr. Lardner said.

Additionally, Dr. Lardner spoke with other community college presidents about the grading system for Spring Quarter.

“The presidents didn’t all agree to go credit or non-credit, so we didn’t want to be the one school in the system that is doing that, because we just worry that there are unintended negative consequences,” she said.

Dr. Lardner said there is a petition process for credit or no-credit at the end of the quarter if you are unsatisfied with your grade.

“If you finish your class, there is a petition to have your grade changed to credit or no credit,” she said. “We are past the deadline where you can request to have your grade be credit or no-credit, but after grades have been turned in there is an opportunity to petition.”

Highline faculty has been accommodating students in other ways, with online counselors and advisers, while trying to make the best of quarantine.

“Reaching out to counselors, reaching out to advisors, that’s also an important step to consider taking,” Dr. Lardner said. “Everybody in student services and in academic affairs knows that this is an extraordinarily challenging time for students, so we’re going to do everything we can to make sure everyone gets the best outcome possible.”