Pass/Fail: Credits Offer Lincoln Students Less Motivation, Little Engagement


Lincoln student’s google classroom. (Ariana Noble/Lion Tales)

During these confusing times of online “mandatory school”, teachers are working hard to provide their students with the necessary tools to succeed at home. I say mandatory in quotes because students feel that school is already over due to the pass/fail system. Teachers have found that not many students are doing their school work; some students discard it due to the lack of motivation and other students have a legitimate reason. Lion Tales asked students and teachers for their perspective.

San Jose Unified schools decided on a pass or fail system for their students due to the shelter in place. This system implies that if your grades before Friday, March 13, were above an “F”, you received a passing grade for the whole semester automatically. If students had lower than a D- as of March 13th, students would have to be in contact with their teachers for ways to make up missing work or complete extra credit to pass.

An upcoming senior at Lincoln, Nicole Yasuada, said “I’ve just been doing school work for classes that I feel my grades could be better in”. We asked her why she thinks other students haven’t been doing work and she responded with “students don’t feel the need to do work because the semester was made into pass/fail”.

Due to the lack of motivation, Google Classroom work has been left on assigned, maybe not even noticed. Although it seems convenient to put aside school work, some students have forgotten about AP tests May 11th-May 22nd. These modified tests were  taken online in a span of 45 minutes, instead of the 2 hours that most tests were, determining if they get college credit. As students don’t complete work, they aren’t studying or jogging their memory for one of the most important tests of the year. Melissa Nelson, a current junior at Lincoln, believes “the pass/fail system won’t necessarily effect AP students because most of the students that sign up for AP classes really want college credit”.

Lion Tales asked Steve Davinson, Lincoln’s current AP US History teacher on his take. He agreed that students have lost their motivation; “You were only requited to pass [Your work], you have done that, [metaphorically getting] paid, and in this case your pay is only based on passing or not”. Without receiving a letter grade for colleges and family to see and commend, why work so hard for it? “Why would you work if you are not getting paid, especially for something that you do not want to do? ” said Davinson.

He emphasizes that what students don’t realize is that “Learning will suffer for those that are only motivated by grades”; which overall means in the future students will not have a solid learning base because they chose to not complete their work during this time and it will come back to haunt them. 

A teacher at Lincoln (who requested to remain anonymous), stated that most of their students aren’t completing their work due to  “responsibilities to their family due to COVID”. The Bay Area has an estimated loss of 800,000 jobs due to this pandemic; this means civilians are working harder than ever to support their families, including students.

SJUSD employee giving out computers during Shelter in Place (Ben Spielberg/For Lion Tales)

Another reason many student’s aren’t doing work, according to Lincoln’s anonymous teacher, is because they don’t have access to the internet or computers. Almost 30% of Bay Area families don’t have access to internet; this defeats the whole purpose of online school for students. This is also a main factor to why San Jose Unified decided to enforce the pass/fail system.

SJUSD has been giving out computers to those who need them to complete school work. Ben Spielberg, San Jose Unified’s Public Engagement Officer, explained to Lion Tales that “families receiving the devices drove to our district office and picked them up off of tables that our staff regularly cleaned throughout the process. Every family that picked up a device also received a packet of instructions on how to use it and who to reach out to for technological support”. For more official information click here.

My take on this issue is that students have no motivation. For many students they complete work and study for tests for the sole purpose of trying to pass the class. With this pass/fail system, students motivation has been taken away. What’s the point of doing work when we already passed for the semester? Especially for seniors, now that they’re done with attending high school many have already moved on to thinking about college or other options. I’m sure there are many students that are still completing all of their work and staying in touch with school, just maybe not at Lincoln.

Ben Spielberg, said “We’re really glad that most of our students have been engaging in distance learning. While we know many students face barriers due to these unique circumstances, our staff has been working hard to identify and address those barriers to help all students connect.”