What does my child’s report card mean?

Australian parents receive report cards to measure their child’s learning progress. Report cards often cover different areas including your child’s academic achievement, social behaviour, attitude and effort in the classroom.

Your child’s report card may have a grading system or vague language that is difficult to understand.

What does my child’s report card mean?

What your child’s report card looks like

In Australia, your child’s report card will usually contain a five-point letter grading system.

The most common grading system is from A to E, however independent schools and different states may have a varied approach.

Dr Selina Samuels, Chief Learning Officer at Cluey Learning, provides an insight into what each grade means.

What if my child receives an ‘A’ on their report card?

Dr Samuels explains that receiving an ‘A’ is often an indicator the student is highly advanced.

She notes some words often associated with an ‘A’ may be along the lines of  ‘excellent’ or ‘sophisticated’, depending on the words that are used in the context of the subject area.

What if my child receives a ‘B’ on their report card?

Students who receive a ‘B’ are generally defined as ‘competent’.

What if my child receives a ‘C’ on their report card?

A ‘C’ grade is often in the middle and is ‘satisfactory’.

“‘C’ is a passing mark. It is the baseline for ‘passing’ marks. Often people assume that C is not a passing mark but it is satisfactory.”

What if my child receives a ‘D’ or ‘E’ on their report card?

Dr Samuels notes that ‘D’ and ‘E’ are failing grades.

If your child receives a ‘D’, that is often noted as unsatisfactory.

If your child receives an ‘E’ this indicates your child has put in virtually no effort or participation. Teachers provide an ‘E’ grade where there is very little work to provide a mark for.

Teachers often assign grades using a clear criteria based on a definition of the quality of work.

Dr Samuels highlights, “They are not designed to be comparative. ‘A’s’ can all look different from one another but they could all be ‘A’s’.”

What do the comments on my child’s report card mean?

Teachers may be writing hundreds of report cards, and can often provide vague or broad comments.

Dr Samuels decodes key terminology that teachers often use in report cards:

‘Restless’ or ‘disruptive’ or ‘distracting’

She notes that these key phrases could suggest that your child is ‘not being fully extended.’

“They may actually be more able than their grades indicate.”

‘Inconsistency’ or ‘difficulties adjusting to rules’

Language along these lines may indicate that your child is having behavioural difficulties in class.

“Being naughty is often marking something else that is going on which is an academic problem.”


 Dr Samuels tells School Choice that a teacher calling your child a ‘perfectionist’ is not necessarily a good thing.

“It may be a sign that they are actually too worried or anxious about the quality of their work and this is something that should be addressed early.”


The phrase ‘social’ may indicate that your child is talking and socialising too much during class time.

Positive comments in a report card

Positive phrases in your child’s report card are a good sign for their learning progress.

These commonly include:

  • ‘pleased’

  • ‘confident’

  • ‘Skills are secure’

  • ‘Pleasure to work with’

What if I don’t understand the teacher’s comments in my child’s report card?

It may indicate an issue with your child’s learning if you are not understanding the teacher’s comments in the report.

“If you can’t understand the comment that has been written by the teacher, often I would say that the teacher doesn’t really want to tell you something.” 

If you are having issues understanding any aspect of the report card, contact your child’s teacher or school to discuss this.

“If they are saying something that you don’t understand, it may be something that you need to talk to them about that they don’t want to say in a report.” says Dr Samuels.

Are the comments in my child’s report card important?

When understanding what your child’s report card means, you should balance the grades and comments.

“This is something that we do very poorly, we just assume that a student that is not doing well isn’t bright or isn’t more able.”

Dr Samuels suggests parents to focus on effort when understanding their child’s report card.

“If you can really see a big discrepancy between the effort they’ve put in and their marks, they probably need greater support.”

See if your child’s report card includes effort ratings or speak to their teacher to see if they are trying to engage with the content.

“If a child is getting really high effort but low academic grades, that’s a sign that there’s probably a need for more support and that’s where getting additional support like tutoring is a really good idea.

Students which are getting high academic marks and low effort ratings, equally probably need to be extended. They probably need to be offered more challenges.

What to do after receiving your child’s report card

1. Discuss your child’s report card with them

Teachers do expect parents to discuss their child’s report with their son or daughter.

Look at your child’s results with them and discuss whether it is what they were expecting.

What does my child’s report card mean?. child and parent  doing homework.

If your child is understanding their results, they may have an understanding on how to improve.

If your child is not performing well academically and is unsure how to improve you may need to consider extra support.

If your child’s report card is different to what they were expecting, you may need to contact the school. Have a discussion with their teacher to determine if their results accurately reflect your child’s effort and engagement.

Contact their teacher

It is a great idea to speak to your child’s teacher to understand your child’s report card.

“I think it’s very important to work in conjunction with the teacher, with the tutor, with the student to make sure you’re working together to the same end.”

Dr Samuels suggests some questions for parents to ask their child’s teacher:

“How can I, as a parent, talk to you as a teacher to support my child?”

This question creates a sense of partnership between you and the teacher. It is important for parents to work with teachers when getting involved with their child’s school.

“I really want to understand better how to support my child.”

If your child’s teacher suggests they have ‘potential’, it is a great opportunity to work closely with them to improve your child’s learning.

Don’t give them a hard time

If your child’s report card is not as good as you expected it is important to take steps to support them.

See here what to do if your child receives disappointing results.

“Reports shouldn’t be an area of conflict between a child and parent.”

Should you use your child’s report card to measure their effort, so for example telling them ‘next report card do better?’

Dr Samuels responds,

“Only if it’s a reasonable expectation on the part of the parent. If you have a child who is really struggling in a subject area and is really finding it hard, telling them that they have to do better next time or they won’t get some reward is actually counterproductive because you need to support them in doing better not incentivise them in a binary way.

I think it’s more important for parents to think about… what sort of additional support does my child need, what can I do to help them to get better…, not just it’s on you mate you’ve got to do better, it depends on the child.

In some cases, we all know kids who could do better but really can’t be bothered. Then incentivising improvement might work. But in most cases kids actually want to do better and they would do better if they could, so you’ve actually got to look at how they can be supported.”


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