I feel the first step to move past this behavior is to help students and myself look past the grade. In a way, grading is arbitrary. I have been in enough English classes to know that each teacher expects something different in their essays. Some focus on cohesion, others on MLA citations, sentence structure, word count, the list goes on. I go to each new class with this knowledge, and come out of it modeling the paper's structure to that teacher's specific paradigm. I had to change my writing to that teacher's expectations, and it is in that process that learning happened. The grade is an outward expression of what teachers expect out of their students.
Seeing grades in this way, as an outward expression of cognitive growth, should become the focus of the classroom. To make this happen, I need to relate to my students my expectations with each assignments. I can demonstrates these core objectives through specific criteria. If there are issues, I need to meet with that student, and help him/her see what I'm looking for in the paper. In this way (and clearly this is theoretical), I can show students that the assignments work toward a learning goal, instead of an end grade.
What do you all think? What can teachers do to help students look past grades?