A, B, C, D/NE, F/NE grading system to be implemented in fall

Upperclassmen may choose one class to take PE/NE

Sophomores, juniors, seniors, and graduate students will receive A, B, C, D/NE, and F/NE grades in the fall term, with the option to have one subject graded as PE/NE, the Academic Policy and Regulations Team (APART) announced in an email to the MIT community July 17.

NE grades will not appear on students’ external transcripts, so “there will be no possibility of failing a subject,” APART wrote. However, students assigned a grade of D can choose to accept the grade “to fulfill a requirement for graduation” or “accept the default of having no record of the class appear on their external transcript.”

PE/NE grading can be applied to “any subject including those used to fulfill” GIRs, “minor,” and “departmental requirements.” The decision to grade a class under PE/NE “must be made by drop date,” APART wrote.

It is possible that universal PE/NE grading for all classes could be mandated later in the semester if the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic “worsen significantly during the fall,” APART wrote.

First years will receive Pass/No Record grades for the fall term, as in normal first semesters. While Junior-Senior P/D/F and Graduate P/D/F will not be available in the fall, sophomores may designate one subject as Exploratory as usual.

According to Section 2.64 of the Rules and Regulations of the Faculty, PE indicates an A, B, or C level performance during a Significant Disruption; NE indicates a D or F level performance “for which no record will appear on the external transcript”; and IE indicates an “incomplete” subject for which “a portion of the subject requirements has not been fulfilled, due to a major disruption of the Institute’s academic activities.” APART wrote that IE “has a more flexible deadline for completion” than the normal incomplete grade.

APART wrote that they will “urge” instructors to “de-emphasize ‘high-stakes’ end-of-term methods of evaluation such as final exams, favoring instead lower stakes assessments distributed over the course of the semester” to reduce student stress.

APART wrote that the Institute’s Student Housing Assistance Review Process will accommodate students with “difficult home learning environments.” Furthermore, MIT is loaning undergraduates an Apple iPad and Apple Pencil “free of charge” upon request.

The Undergraduate Association (UA) Committee on COVID-19 report on Fall 2020 grading policies, released in early July, recommended “universal PE/NE or optional grading where each student can choose whether each of their classes is graded on ABC/NE or on PE/NE.”

The report wrote that universal PE/NE would address “many forms of inequity,” including “variation in academic experience between those on and off campus” and “those with different home lives or personal backgrounds,” as well as “added pressure from graduate and medical schools to present letter grades if given the choice.” The report also cited the disruption to finals caused by having students leave after Thanksgiving.

Furthermore, the report “conditionally” recommended optional ABC/NE or PE/NE grading because it would provide “maximal flexibility” to students. “Given the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and the diversity of personal experiences and career goals that students may have, such flexibility is important.”

The report wrote that 41% of undergraduate respondents to a recent UA grading scheme survey “strongly approve” or “approve” of a universal ABC/NE grading scheme for the fall term. 

59% of respondents “strongly approve” or “approve” of a fall term grading scheme in which students can choose to place individual classes on ABC/NE or PE/NE, and 53% “strongly approve” or “approve” of universal PE/NE. 

However, the report wrote that optional grading should only be implemented “if APART believes that significant support measures will exist to address the difficulties of online learning” and inequity issues.

Rick Danheiser, chair of the faculty and APART chair, announced in an email to the MIT community June 25 that a “Significant Disruption” will be in effect for the summer and upcoming academic year. 

Section 2.64 of the Rules and Regulations writes that a Significant Disruption allows but does not require the Chair of the Faculty to enact PE/NE/IE emergency grading. “An extended closure of the Institute or suspension of classes” due to “pandemic illness” is listed as an example of a Significant Disruption under section 2.102 of the Rules and Regulations.

A Significant Disruption was declared March 13 for Spring 2020, after which full-term and Quarter 4 subjects were graded on a PE/NE/IE basis. 

Summer 2020 classes used regular letter grades, with the exception of theses. Departments and programs can choose whether to use PE/NE or standard grading for bachelor’s and master’s theses submitted in the summer, but “all theses for a specific degree program must use the same grading option,” according to the Registrar’s website.

APART wrote that before making the fall grading decision, they received input from several student groups, including the UA, the Academic Policy Solutions Group of the Graduate Student Council, the Council for the Advancement of Black Students, and the First-Generation/Low Income Coalition. APART also received feedback from Student Support Services, Mental Health and Counseling Services, Graduate Student Support, the Office of Minority Education, and 29 departments and academic programs. 

An “expanded description” and FAQ of the grading policy will be posted “next week,” APART wrote.