More and more teachers, schools, and districts are moving toward grading practices which represent what's best to do in terms of evaluating students. You regs here have certainly been privy to many of my thoughts about this (and if you're new, just click on the grading label to access all posts related to the topic). Even if we change what we are doing in the classroom, there are still plenty of struggles in terms of reporting grades and re-educating the public about this different style of evaluation.
The New York Times recently published an op-ed piece entitled "So Is That Like an A?" which highlights this struggle. As the Hartford schools implemented a new standards-based report card, the effect on parents has been one of confusion. I agree that a seven-page report card is likely too extensive and not user-friendly for any stakeholders. But what the author of the article misses is the bottom line: what does the grade mean? I confess that as a parent, I’ve always focused on the basics. I want my children to be curious, enjoy learning, to read for pleasure, to be polite, to do their homework and to try not to hate school. If my kids got A’s or B’s, I got a pretty good sense that they were mastering the necessary skills. If they did much worse, I knew that it was time to call their teachers. The idea behind the new report cards (in Hartford and elsewhere) is to separate achievement from behaviours so that the grades that are represented mean something specific. An "A" in most teachers classes is a hodgepodge of learning, extra credit, points taken off for missing/late work, participation, etc. I have no doubt that such a mixture of meaning doesn't matter to some parents---the honor roll bumper sticker is more important to what it means to the other neighbourhood parents than what it actually represents about their child.
We don't have a lot of these kinds of report cards at secondary yet. Even at elementary, there is a wide distribution. (In my district, the cards are generated using Excel---and I have to say that I'm rather impressed that you don't need a fancy-dancy gradebook and reporting program to make communication happen.) My hope is that as we re-educate parents at the elementary levels about grading and reporting that they will ask better questions about what happens at secondary. I saw a glimmer of that earlier this week when I saw an elementary teacher who has a child who is a high-school senior. This teacher's familiarity with best practices in grading were giving her heartburn to see how poor grading practices in high school are affecting her child. "Go, get 'em, tiger!" I told her.
The revolution in grading and reporting is slow in taking root---but it is starting to be more visible in schools and media. We just have to keep working on re-educating stakeholders.