What exactly does a grade of an 85 mean? How about a 100? 42?
Is it a percentage of what the child knows, based on the learning goal? Does a 100% mean that the child knows 100% of what you were hoping they would learn? Likewise, does a grade of 42 mean they were able to comprehend 42% of what you taught? Does the child understand the significance the numeric scores? And, of what they mastered, were they able to simply recall the facts or were they able to use the information in a unique, but equally correct, manner?
Such questions haunted me for many years as a teacher. Then, I started using standard based reports - for me AND for my kiddos!
I began to create learning goals with student friendly language and a matching assessment. Then, I organized student and teacher friendly charts (like this one that's for sale) to log student progress. Unlike my district's computer grading system, I can write feedback to the student on this page AND students can keep this page as a hard copy in their 3-ring binder or save an electric copy their devices (if they are lucky enough to have a tablet, IPad, etc.). The students will clearly know what they are mastering and why they need more practice with. Likewise, parents will really know "how is my child doing" - as such a standard / learning goal assessment log is a much more clear reflection of progress than an 85. At least I think so! :)
P.S. About parent communication... I often had this chart attached to their report card (report cards at my district only show a numeric average and comments from a comment bank... so sometimes I had this page stuffed in those report card envelopes and sometimes I had students bring them home and then back with a parent signature).
I think paperwork should be LESS work and LESS paper - so the chart is one page and so easy to manage.
Oh! And, the second page is a 0 - 4 score rubric. You'll see. I use it for all my formative assessments as well... like a quick quiz or ticket out the door. Not that all formative assessments need a "grade", but I found that this 0 - 4 rubric makes is quick for me to "grade" formative assessments and for students to understand how they are progressing with each stage of each learning goal.
Page one = Standard Based Grade Chart - use it with NYS 5.1 SS unit ...Or, modify my chart with your own unit goals, for any grade level or course!
Page two = 0-4 Grading Rubric - use it for any grade level and any subject and any assessment!