Chemistry teacher replaces the letter grades ‘A’ and ‘B’ with an ‘X’


Jai Uparkar

When most students open the Schoolloop app on their phone or computer, they are usually confronted by a sea of letter grades ranging from an A to an F — but never an X.

At the beginning of the second semester, Chemistry teacher Mia Onodera changed the way she inputted grades for all of her Chemistry Honors classes. Instead of using traditional letter grades in the grade book, Onodera has replaced them with the letter X. Students, however, are still able to see their percentages.

Onodera made this change in hopes of alleviating student stress about their grades and the pressure of academic success.

Screen Shot 2018-03-30 at 2.44.35 PM“I was appalled at the fact that the letter grade was so large on the phone screen when you were looking at Schoolloop,” Onodera said. “Even though the percentage is still there, I felt that students get too worked up when they have an A or B. So I just changed the letter to an X.”

The X replaces A or B letter grades, but the actual letter grade will show if a student anything lower. Onodera was originally going to give everyone the letter X but decided against it because she feels it’s important for the students to realize if they are struggling in her class.

This change took many students by curiosity, including sophomore Sonia Singh. For Singh, she believed that the change was pointless because students could still see their percentage.

“At first, just because I thought like there’s really no point because we know what an X means like if we see our percentage, we’ll know [our grade],” Singh said. “But then like it started going on, I feel like ‘okay yeah it does kind of help me not to see the letter B there’ because it [the letter grade B] has such a negative connotation.”

But for sophomore Sean Chen, he believes that the idea wasn’t effective due to the fact that the percentage is visible, and also says that the implementation of his idea did not help in alleviating stress.

“I didn’t really care at that time, but now its a little more serious because I want to actually see what grade I have than just a big fat X.”

Screen Shot 2018-03-31 at 7.53.55 AM“I didn’t really care at that time, but now its a little more serious because I want to actually see what grade I have than just a big fat X,” Chen said. “It [having the letter grade X] didn’t alleviate my stress.”

Onodera is considering implementing this new grading style in her classes next year but says that it depends on factors like what class or students she is teaching.

Sophomore Chetna Natarajan was initially happy with the change since she also found the letter grade on Schoolloop really prominent on a phone.

“I was kind of happy at first because then you’re not so shocked about your grade,” Natarajan said. “You’re just trying your best to do your best in class, but then the percentage is there, so it [the letter X]  doesn’t really make a difference.”

Onodera knows that even though this new system is a change and is very different for students to get affiliated with, she keeps in mind the overall picture of trying to deemphasize letter grades.

Screen Shot 2018-03-30 at 2.47.03 PM“All of the changes I do, as a generalization was try to relieve alleviate students stress and the things that really are not something they should be stressing about,” Onodera said.

Both Natarajan and Singh admitted that the letter grade change was helpful for them. But for others, like Chen, the change seemed ineffective.

“I thought it wasn’t really big a deal, but now the more I think about it, I want to see the grade I have because the percentage is right underneath, so there really is no point for showing the X,” Chen said. “I think the idea of an X instead of your grade is dumb.”