A-, B+, D, F...What does it all matter anyway? Who determines if a B+ student is any different than an A- student?? I sure can't do it. Yes, the "numbers" might tell you it's an 89% vs. a 92%, but that fine line, when considering ability and knowledge, really isn’t what matters.
First of all, grades are for the parents and bumper stickers, not for the child. If grades were truly designed to help a child, they would be pass/fail (some med schools are considering this beneficial as well), or satisfactory/unsatisfactory - standards-based grading.
We need to determine if a child is really understanding and mastering a concept or skill, and that’s it. When in the “real world” will you ever be graded with letters? And when will it ever be ok for you to do below average work and move up? Either the report you wrote for your boss is excellent or you fix it and you work on it until it’s satisfactory, and then you move on – why not use that model in education?
I say when students are proficient, they move on. There should be no time limit...and that might mean that we don't have grade levels, either. Hold on to your seat...no grade levels?! They could then take classes at various levels depending on which subjects they had “mastered” and they wouldn’t be held back by a grade level. Again, if you go look at any job – you start at the bottom, and you work your way up. It doesn’t always take 13 years (K-12) to get your promotion (graduation), everyone has their own speed.
Like I always say, its important to create an educational atmosphere that is most like what students will experience in their future. It’s unfair for us to do what has always been done - just because. It’s time to think about our system. It’s time for a change.
(Check out Bob Marzano's Formative Assessment & Standards-Based Grading)