It took me some thought to realize that I really hate seeing 100%. I think it started when I heard about the No Child Left Behind Act’s goal of all students in grades K-12 reading proficiently by 2015. And this included all students, including students with disabilities, students who are economically disadvantaged, and students with limited English proficiency. For students with limited English proficiency, in order for this to succeed, they would be learning English for the first time in elementary school because they are immersed into the language and they have to read at the same reading level as their peers who grew up learning English and not, let’s say, Spanish. Students who are economically disadvantaged do not always have the resources to learn how to read because they need to survive. And students with disabilities do not always have the mental capacity to read proficiently.
No Child Left Behind Act section 1111(b)(2)(C)(v), section 1111(b)(2)(F) [p. 22-23]
To me, 100% should be impossible. I honestly think school tests are the only tests that anyone can get 100% on. 100% means perfection. Is there anyone that’s perfect? Not that I know of. If someone gets 100% on a test or assignment, that test or assignment was too easy.
There’s a reason that the students who graduate high school with a 4.0 GPA (on a 4 point scale) sometimes struggle with college. These are usually the students who have never struggled. High school was easy, how hard can college be? I will admit, I was one of those students who had a 4.0 in high school. I would look at a B warily and wonder what was going on. I had always gotten straight As up until college. That’s when I had to accept a couple B grades. But it wasn’t until I took a calculus class in college that I realized I have not struggled before. I felt like this class was dragging me down. But I could not get myself to put the effort to put in the extra time to get the extra assignments done, so it did drag me down. Talk about a wake-up call.
So I no longer enjoy seeing a grade of 100%. It seems to indicate “I’m done. There is nothing else I need to do. I know everything”. There is always room for improvement. No one knows everything. If there is even one person with a grade of 100% on anything, that means that the assignment is not difficult enough. If there are only a few people with a grade of 100%, that means you need to differentiate.
Note: This does not consider extra credit, which could bring grades up to 100% and higher. This is a different situation. What I am talking about is 100% on regular credit assignments that generally everyone completes. If most people get 100% or close to it on most of the regular assignments, this is when difficulty should increase.
Everyone should learn how to struggle. Everyone needs to know that struggling does not equal weakness. Giving up when you start struggling is weakness. That struggle can also be called grit. The more grit you have, the more you have succeeded because you have struggled. 100% does not necessarily equal grit or struggle. There are students like me who get straight As and never struggle. Now that I’m in college, I do not want my students to not learn how to struggle. Grit gets you much further than straight As ever could.