Grade Transitions and Peer Group Placement

Throughout the school year, each teacher reports on how students have progressed. By the end of the school year, if a student meets or exceeds the majority of grade level curricular expectations, they are promoted (“passed”) to the next grade. If a student has not met most of the grade level requirements, a decision must be made about whether the student will be placed in the next grade level, or be retained (“repeat”) in the current grade.

The placement of a student in the next grade level is called peer group placement. This means the student remains with peers their own age and an education program plan outlines how the student’s needs will be met in the next grade level.

Every student’s situation and journey through education is unique. Regardless of the decision to place or retain a student, appropriate supports and programming must be in place to meet their specific strengths and needs.

Peer group placement vs ‘Social Passing’

The term “social passing” is used to describe a practice that neither challenges nor supports students. It allows for the passing of students regardless of whether they meet the majority of grade level expectations, without appropriate programming or support, and without the option of consideration for retention in the current grade. 

The NWT does not practice social passing and it is not an accurate reflection of current policy in the NWT. The Department of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) endorses peer group placement in NWT schools, which is not unique to the territory; it is reflected as a promising practice in a large body of research and is used in many jurisdictions across Canada and worldwide.

Who makes the decision? ‘Your Child, Your Voice’

When a student does not meet the majority of grade level curricular expectations, the classroom teacher along with the School‐Based Support Team (SBST) first meets to review the student’s evidence of learning, strengths, and needs and then prepares a recommendation for the student’s parents/guardians.

The classroom teacher and SBST will then meet with parents/guardians and outline the pros and cons of each choice, discussing appropriate programming, supports, and interventions for the student. The team will provide their recommendation and reasoning, including supporting evidence.

Parents/guardians then use the information presented to make an informed decision on whether to place their child in the next grade or retain them in the current grade.

Decision-making considerations include, but are not limited to, a student’s social and psychological well-being, as well as the programming, supports and interventions required. Through careful collaboration between the school and the family, the best decision for the student can be made. 

Research-based practice

Retaining a student in their current grade can be, and has been, successful with the involvement and agreement of parents, school staff, and, where appropriate, the student themselves.

However, the decision to retain a student is rarely made when parents/guardians understand the possible impacts of retention.

Research shows most students experience success in school if they stay with students their own age, with appropriate supports in place, rather than repeating a grade with a different group of younger students.

Repeating a grade also often results in higher rates of school dropouts than when students progress to the next grade with their age group.

Modified and Individual Education Programs

To support a student who is placed in the next grade level (peer group placement) an education program plan is developed. This may include: 

  • Modified Education Program: is an education program developed for students who are documented by evidence as working significantly above or below grade level in one or more core subjects yet retain the learning outcomes articulated in NWT curricula. A Modified Education Program may or may not contain regular programming elements of NWT curriculum. The Modified Education Program is based on student strengths, needs and interests and includes modified learning goals and evaluation procedures consistent with the principles of differentiated instruction. The Modified Education Program is recorded in a Student Support Plan (SSP).
  • Individual Education Plan: An Individual Education Program is a uniquely tailored student-specific program designed with growth-oriented, asset-based, flexible, and adaptive programming. The Individual Education Program is documented in an Individualized Education Plan. This plan is a comprehensive written education plan with individualized goals and objectives determined through a collaborative process, based on the specific strengths and needs of the student and may or may not contain regular or modified programming elements of NWT curriculum.

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