What Does “E” Stand for on a Report Card?

Getting a report card back can be a stressful experience. Even more stressful can be getting a report card back and not knowing what everything means! Is there a good way to find out what each letter means on a report card?

On a report card, “E” can stand for exceeding, expanding or failing. Schools use the letter differently depending on their grading system. “E” generally means “exceeding” or “expanding;” however, some systems no longer use the grade “F” and instead give an “E” for a failing grade in the “A+, B, C” system.

Below, we’ll discuss the different meanings for “E” on a report card, as well as strategies for finding out exactly what each letter means.

“E” for Exceeding

In Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix, students are required to take Ordinary Wizarding Level exams, or OWLs. Each of these exams comes back with a letter grade. The second highest grade is an “E” for “Exceeds Expectations.”

This precedent is not uncommon, although it is less common than the ABC grading scale, which is the most common. Although most schools won’t follow the same pattern as OWLs in Harry Potter, a grading scale where E stands for exceeding is common enough to reference here. Generally, scales like these will occur in elementary or private schools, and are less likely to occur at the high-school level, as universities often require high-school transcripts with an ABC scale.

Commonly used grading scales where E will mean exceeding include EMPD (exceeded grade level standard, met grade level standard, partially met grade level standard, did not meet grade level standard), EMPB (same as prior, but “B” stands for below grade level standard), or EGSN (exceeding, good, satisfactory, needs improvement). If you see these other letters on a report card, it’s a safe bet that E stands for exceeding.

“E” for Expanding

Less common, but still common enough to bring up is an E that stands for “Expanding.” In this case, E for expanding means that a student is headed in the right direction, but not necessarily exceeding or high-achieving.

A common scale for this meaning is the DESN scale (developing, expanding, satisfactory and needs improvement). This scale is more common with younger children, and is most common in preschool and kindergarten, when kids are developing the quickest (hence the “D” for developing). These letters are less likely to be “grades” for assignments, and more likely to be checkmarks for different activities or skills that the child will participate in, such as social skills, safety skills, etc.

“E” for Failing

Most commonly, Es are used to signify failing in an ABC scale. The premise here is that the ABC scale runs from A to E (ABCDE), with A being the highest and E the lowest. Although it may be more common to see an “F” for failing, some systems still opt to use the E instead.

F was adopted almost universally in place of E because teachers were worried that students and parents would think that E stands for exceeding or excellent instead of failing. F was the obvious next choice due to its alphabetical proximity and its clear denotation that somebody is failing.

Alphabetical grading scales typically follow the following percentage scale: A is 90+, B is 80-89, C is 70-79, D is 60-69, and E or F is anything less than 60. It is also common for alphabetical grading scales to use + and – to further subdivide the scale. These often occur at 3-4 point intervals, such that 87-89 is a B+, 84-86 is a B, and 80-83 is a B-.

How to Find out What Your E Means

There are some cases where it may be more difficult to ascertain exactly what the E on a report card means (for example, if your child receives only Es on a report card, or if it’s not clear which grading scale is being used). Often, report cards will include a grading scale, either on another page, or in the corner of the report page itself. If, however, this is not the case, the following tips may be helpful.

Use Context Clues

Your most important context clues are the other grades on the report card. You can use the schemas from above to hypothesize about what the E in this report card means. An EMPD scale likely means that your child exceeded expectations, while an alphabetical scale means that your child probably failed.

Contact the School

Another good option for understanding what your report card means is to contact the school. The school likely has a consistent grading system that teachers are required to follow. If that’s not the case, then at least contacting the school should give you an opportunity to be able to get the teacher’s contact information so that you can contact them directly.

What to Do if Your Child Receives an E

The first step here, of course, is to discern exactly which type of E your child received. Each E will elicit a different response.

If your child receives an E for exceeding, then be sure to praise them! Praising them will not spoil them, it will encourage them. If you want to ensure healthy mental attitudes, be sure to praise them for their hard-work, effort, and diligence, instead of for “being smart.” Praising them in this way will teach them that it is not their nature or circumstance that allowed them to achieve, but their ability to dedicate themselves and work.

This kind of praise helps them link the praise to attributes that they have, or things that they did rather than linking it with their identity. If children link praise with external attributes, they understand that failures aren’t failures of self, but rather failures of action—and they can change their actions! This is protective because they won’t associate their intrinsic value or identity with praise, nor with receiving a good grade. Instead, the grade becomes a reward that they received for something they did, not who they are. This way, if the praise ever gets taken away, or they receive a lower grade, they will not crumble.

If your child receives an E for expanding, then continue to encourage them! You can offer them praise in the same way outlined above, because they are growing and they are headed in the right direction. If your child wants to exceed, then encourage them to put in the extra work and effort to get there, and offer to help them!

If your child receives an E for failing, be sure to react with compassion and empathy first and foremost. Nobody wants to fail. Your child may have been misguided, or may have made some mistakes, but they are not inherently dumb or evil. You certainly shouldn’t react by calling them “stupid” or dumb”! This will enact the opposite response of praising them for their attributes, and they will think that there is no way to change, that they received a failing grade because of who they are.

Instead, help them to see that a failing grade doesn’t define who they are, it simply defines what they did over a certain period of time. Help them to develop a growth mindset and to understand that they can change their actions and become better. They can pass! Offer regular encouragement, positive feedback, and support in whatever way they need. Don’t get mad or be upset, even if you have to explain to them that they need to improve. Help them understand why they need to improve, and how it will help them out.

Be patient with your kids—they’re still learning and growing! You can encourage them to grow and succeed without putting pressure on them, and without making them associate their identity with letter grades.