Stuyvesant Faces Large Number of Unresolved NX Grades

Faculty and students share insight on the effect of NX grades on students’ academic performance and the challenge and implications of unresolved NX grades from last spring.

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By Sabrina Chen

When New York City public schools closed last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students and teachers alike started school online. To accommodate students who experienced a difficult transition to remote learning, the New York City Department of Education revised grading policies in April 2020. Part of this policy was the introduction of NX, which stands for “Course in Progress.” Students who would normally receive a failing grade in a class received an NX grade instead. NX grades enabled students to finish fulfilling course requirements after the end of the school year without retaking the full curriculum of that failed class.

Students with NX grades were required to attend summer school, which served as an opportunity to resolve the grades, complete outstanding work, and prepare for the next school year. More than a year after NX grades were introduced, however, hundreds of Stuyvesant students are facing unresolved NX grades, many of which are from last spring.

If students do not resolve their work by the end of the following term, their NX grades turn into NCs, or “No Credit.” The NC indicates that a student did not pass the class, though it does not factor into their GPA. If the course is required for graduation, the student must retake the course. All NX grades must be resolved before the end of the following term.

As of now, the majority of students with NX grades have one to two NXs typically in the core classes: English, History, Language, Math, and Science. There are many conjectures among the administration about the large number of NX grades. Some speculate that a student earned an NX because they were unable to complete work due to personal circumstances. Others believe that students received an NX due to pandemic-related circumstances, such as lack of motivation to complete the work. However, the administration acknowledges this problem case-by-case. “My impression is that it really varies student by student,” Director of College Counseling Jeffrey Makris said in an e-mail interview.

However, certain students have also not communicated pandemic-related reasons for why they received NXs and still have not resolved the necessary work. “Stuy may also need to become more stringent with issuing NXs. This may help at least some students to avoid giving in to the temptation to accept an NX and temporarily put off the work,” Makris said. “The NX option should be there for those students who are facing serious obstacles and really need the additional time while they work to resolve these issues.”

The administration urges students struggling with NX grades and other academic challenges to use support systems available to them, such as the guidance department, office hours, and peer tutoring. “Our entire school community needs to work together to make sure students don't overschedule themselves and that they know when and how to utilize existing support systems when they are struggling, which can help them to not only better manage their classes but, more importantly, connect with the resources they need to overcome the difficulties they are experiencing,” Makris said.

For students who received NXs as a result of personal challenges, there are concerns that the same difficult circumstances will continue to affect their ability to resolve these NXs. “Students who earn an NX get more time to complete the course, which is helpful on the surface,” Makris said. “But they still need to find the time to make up that work [...] while managing the demands of the following term's classes, which isn't easy [...] unless we're talking about a spring term course and the student completes the work over the summer. Plus, the challenges the student faced that lead to their not being able to finish the course in the first place may be ongoing.”

Additionally, the tedious nature of online learning, be it the copious amounts of screen time or the minimal social interaction, can further impact students’ abilities to resolve NX grades. ”Remote learning is really a lot of work [...] mixed with a decrease in motivation [and] some disconnection from being online so long. I think students are struggling to complete everything,” guidance counselor Sarah Kornhauser said in an e-mail interview.

Many found the policy to be helpful as they considered the option of NX grades as a safety net, despite that NX grades were not implemented to serve that purpose. “NX helps me from the drought of assignments and pressure of turning it all in before the end of the marking period,” an anonymous student said in an e-mail interview. “I have recently traveled to a different country and struggled to gain access to WiFi. NX [grades are] a great implementation.”

Some students were aware of the NX option and chose it, though they acknowledge that work can build up. “I NX’d in Japanese and biology due to missing labs and missing work [...] missing just one [assignment] will set you back a bit,” freshman Orup Ghosh said.

Additionally, others believe that NX grades have helped them in terms of time and effort. “The concept of NX is amazing since it boosts your average and usually makes it clear that one isn’t interested in a particular subject,” the anonymous student said.

Despite this, NX grades may have unintended serious consequences. “They are problematic for the college admissions process at least, and at worst, could interfere with a student’s ability to graduate, or graduate on time, if the courses in question are required for graduation and are not eventually completed. NXs only provide a temporary reprieve; they have to be positively resolved to avoid future problems,” Makris said.

Furthermore, the administration has faced difficulty pinpointing an exact solution, given the wide scope of the issue. “Should students get an automatic pass? Should students have an unlimited amount of time to make up work? Does it make sense to take the entire course over again? Should we not worry about things like graduating in four years and enrolling in college immediately after graduating from high school?” Assistant Principal Eric Smith said in an e-mail interview. “With so many differing opinions, how do we fairly and quickly devise a plan that takes them all into consideration while tailoring the plan to each student’s individual circumstances?”

Looking ahead, there is hope that a return to in-person learning in the fall for the upcoming school year will reduce the number of students earning NX grades. “Getting everyone back in school full time will help across the board,” Makris said.

Kornhauser added, “The pandemic has had profound effects on our young people all over the world. It has not been a normal time and so our responses (understandably) have not been normal.”

Despite the emphasis on resolving NX grades, the staff also acknowledges the importance of prioritizing students' wellbeing. “Prioritizing mind and body health is the most important thing. Drink water, move your body, and go outside. Truly, nothing is more important than keeping your mind clear and your body strong, as much as you are able,” Kornhauser said.