let me grant for a moment that there should be some standard/goals we want for our students
if we truly want to leave no child behind there would be only two grades
Does not YET meet standards/goals/expectations
the only "penalty" for not YET is to work with the child to help her/him reach it
assignments/assessment should have as their goal helping students achieve those "Meets" criteria
which means there is no reason every child has to do the same assignment, since for some it will be beyond them and for other it will be beneath them - in either of those cases it is a waste of time and of learning opportunity
our children are not the same. They should be treated fairly in school, and that does not mean we have to sort/rank them in everything they do.
We should be encouraging them to work together, because that is how we will succeed in life. That is NOT cheating, unless our goal is to rank them and make them always compete against one another
those of us who teach need sufficient time to really know our students. Of equal importance, we must have time to let them understand that we know them and appreciate them as the absolutely unique individuals they are.
We can still honor success and achievement.
And if you don't believe me, might I suggest you read this?