If students haven't mastered most of a grade's requirements they shouldn't be moved into the next grade, says Michael Zwaagstra of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.

Michael Zwaagstra

Extra resources should be used to prevent students from falling behind, not help them catch up, says Michael Zwaagstra. (AIMS)

Zwaagstra said this practice of grading students regardless of their performance, known as social promotion or placing, has become a blanket policy in many school districts across Canada, including P.E.I.

As a high school teacher, Zwaagstra said he thinks it would be far better to decide what's best for the student on a case-by-case basis.

"Certainly we should start from a basic premise that a pass should be earned, that if you're going to move from one grade to the next you have to be at least at the level where you have mastered at least most of what you need to master," he said.

"There's no point in moving to the next grade if you're far below that level, because it's almost impossible then for next year's teacher to help you get caught up, not if they're going to also teach the rest of the class at their grade level."

Zwaagstra has heard the argument that failing a student increases the risk they'll drop out of high school. But he believes kids are dropping out because they're struggling, not because they were held back.

He also questions the suggestion that extra resources could be used to help the students catch up, but suggests they would be better used to prevent the student from falling behind in the first place.