As the semester ends I am again forced to issue a letter grade. I don't like letter grades, it is measurement of abilities with a time deadline. I believe in conceptual learning with skill practice. I believe that all students can get the material on different timelines. I also expect my students to all get the required understanding and not lose it (thus the skill practice).
Expectations are not grades though. I have almost no concern with grades, I am only concerned with being sure my students have enough problem solving abilities and practice and enough math concepts to be ready for college and career. It has meant that students I teach are constantly reminded of the reasons they are learning and that I don't use grades to motivate (cause that only works with a very few students).
I have set my class to be based upon concepts with bi-weekly skills, I have set the skills so that all students who pass can handle the next semester. That code sentence is this: a D student has the skills for the next course. It also means that there are students who get my attention to meet my expectations..... I use everything but grades to motivate - every student has a button and most of them (< 90%) have a positive button. Meaning I do not have to take away something, or threaten something.... And when I do, I always make it about the student (usually thru a joke) -- "Your future self called me and begged me not to let you get out of my class without learning this stuff."
In the end - expectations and learning are not grades. I measure myself with how my students do in college and career - how ready they are.