Probably from a railway train climbing a length of track sloping uphill (a grade).
"make-the-grade." YourDictionary, n.d. Web. 18 December 2018. <https://www.yourdictionary.com/make-the-grade>.
make-the-grade. (n.d.). Retrieved December 18th, 2018, from https://www.yourdictionary.com/make-the-grade
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