Both college and K-12 assign grades on the basis of time spent in class and other criteria that have nothing to do with mastery of the subject matter.
Class time: A certain amount of class time, also called Carnegie credit hours, is required to complete a course. This essentially means a student has sat through instruction, and been exposed to the subject matter for a certain amount of time. The class time is then supplemented with assignments, papers, and exams, to prove they know the material. A student could get A’s on all tests, and still fail a class with a 69 because they lost points for class absenses.
Mastery of material: Often the supplement of class time, in many cases, a student could sit in a classroom for a hundred years and never absorb and iota of information, if they chose to not pay attention and engage. This is why testing and assignments are necessary.
Homework: Often a useful way to get the student to further investigate the subject on their own, or to work through materials and information, still, many parents and students find a glut of homework to be worthless.
Other things measured in the classroom: On top of the items already mentioned, the following items may or may not affect a students grade in a class. They include neatness of tests and turned in work. Whether the teacher’s pet peaves or rules are adhered to such as a certain margin and spacing on a paper, name and date in a particular place, or a notebook organized in a certain way, regardless of what makes sense to the student. Class participlation, or speaking up in class, or perhaps not interrupting. There is also the demanor of the student, or in other words, how the student makes the teacher feel. All of these things are up for interpretation, but they all affect a student’s grade.
What should matter the most, but often doesn’t matter at all is if the student learned and retained the material. Sure, behavior and and overall cooperation should have something to do with it, but too often, grades are doled out based on likability.
Considering that all of this truly factor into grading, then it is no wonder at all, that credit recovery is is used so often to help a student pass a class. If the student can get a passing grade on a fair test that represents the mateiral in the textbook, why should they not get a passing grade. Or better yet, if they pass the final exam for the year, they should certainly get a passing grade. But all too often, because a student has become apathetic or beaten down over the school year, they need to get an A on the final to pass the class because too many points have already been counted against them. At that point, they just shut down and walk away.
Perhaps schools should start looking at testing differently. Look at homeschoolers often work toward 90% or higher mastery in a subject whether it takes 10 hours or 300 hours as a way to measure success in a subject. Sure, that would severely disturb the current classroom model of putting same aged kids together and moving them along in a herd, but that’s not really working anyway.
...Which leads to another question... what every happened to grade accelleration? Have you noticed that students very rarely skip grades anymore?