I have never liked the idea of grades. The idea that a single letter can sum up the totality of 180 days of learning is absurd. The difference between a C+ and a B- is a tenth or hundredth of a percent, yet it can make or break a scholarship, educational accolade, or a student's identity. Does that dramatic effect fairly represent a dramatic difference in learning? Of course not. Joe Bower and Mark Barnes have become my assessment gurus, specifically pertaining to the abolition of grades and implementation of narrative, formative feedback. I can't say enough about their thoughtful blogs and courage to practice what they preach.
My courage is building, and more importantly my frustration with grades is boiling over. Right now, I grade everything in a one-on-one conversation with students where I offer formative feedback until the desired outcome is reached. When the student is finished, they choose the grade they feel they earned. If I agree, it goes in the gradebook. However, since students revise the activity until it is completed (all objectives met), we usually use things like timeliness, creativity, effort, etc. to determine the grade. (most kids who do their work end up with A-, A, or A+) Its all starting to seem pointless--I have so much more to say, than a letter grade.
I would rather have students keep a learning journal as a shared Google Doc where they reflect on the completed activity--what they learned, what they could have done better, effort, timeliness, etc. I could comment and maintain a conversation about their learning and performance. We could share this Doc with parents, so they could keep up with how their student is doing rather than looking at a single letter every 9 weeks.