I didn't understand the system at first. I worked my ass off the first year at this one company and got all 3's on my performance review. "Hardly anyone gets 4's and no one gets 5's," my boss explained. The next year I didn't work as hard and still got all 3's. "Great work, keep it up," my boss says enthusiastically. I came to understand people with 2's would be fired.
My daughter is in grade 9 and for her entire school career, her performance is rated on a 4-point system: 1 = fail, 2 = below average, 3 = at grade level (average), 4 = above average.
This means, what you are aiming for is for your kid to show up and do average. At least, my daughter knows that's how it works. If she shows up (most of the time) and completes most of the work, she'll get a 3. Note, this isn't based on performing well, or what is considered well for that student, it's about performing average.
What about competitive people like me?
I dislike being average. My intrinsic motivators like to be acknowledged and rewarded by external stimulus such as higher performance marks and corresponding bonuses. To remove the competitive system is soul crushing and encourages high performers like me to coast while looking elsewhere to apply their (real) efforts. (This is what I did after receiving multiple years of average performance reviews at that job I was in.) When I am stuck in a system where the goal is to fit in and be average, I understand I need to keep my head down, do what I’m told, complete tasks to an average level, and maintain status quo.
Until I can’t stand it anymore and quit to move somewhere else where I can shine.
However, I fear for my daughter and all those children raised in the aim-for-average system because they won’t know any different. They are already used to it. They will whine when asked to perform competitively. Luckily, this likely won’t happen.