Tammy Hubley-Little

P.E.I. English Language School Board, leader of curriculum delivery Tammy Hubley-Little. (Laura Chapin/CBC)

A new approach to assessment and tracking should help struggling students get the help they need, says the English Language School Board.

The changes include identifying essential skills that students should have in math and language arts. It also includes new intervention methods and a newly designed report card that highlights what students need to work on.

"We do have 10 years, kindergarten through to Grade 9, to address any gaps. This new system that we're working with should really bolster our ability to do that," said the board's leader of curriculum delivery Tammy Hubley-Little.

"But there's no question that sometimes the gaps are too significant for us to be able to attend to those within the 10-year period."

Calls from parents led her to believe better tracking and intervention were needed, said Hubley-Little.

The changes were piloted at six schools last year. They will be implemented board-wide over the next three years, as part of its new strategic plan, expected to be released to the public soon, said Hubley-Little.      

The board hopes the initiative will also help students who have been passed to the next grade without the required learning, a practice the P.E.I. Teachers' Federation is discussing this week.

However, the board has no plans to change its policy on the practice, called placing or social promotion, said Hubley-Little. 

Research shows having a student repeat a grade actually decreases the student's chance of educational success, she said.

"If it didn't work the first time, what makes us think it will work again doing the same thing?" said Hubley-Little.

"So it's not so much about having them repeat the material, it's what's going to be different for that student and that's so key to this. It's important that we continue to respond to the learning needs."

Hubley-Little said an exception is made if a student has missed a significant part of the school year due to absence or illness, but she said the decision to hold a student back is not made lightly. She said it would be decided through consultation with the parents, teacher, principal and someone from the board.

For mobile device users: Do you think the new student tracking and intervention practices will benefit struggling students?