While phonics seems to be a natural part of early reading instruction, some school systems have abandoned it, in favor of sight-word-based programs. I'm happy to note that the Adventist Language Arts curriculum does recognize the importance of phonics! Phonics instruction is a built-in part of our core Language Arts Curriculum for grades 1 and 2. It can also be included in grade three instruction for reinforcement.
As a teacher, I also tend to use phonics instruction as a remedial aspect, for some of my students who are lagging behind in their skills. So your student may have phonics classwork, even if they are in grade 4 or higher, simply because I am wanting to strengthen their reading skills. Some of our students come to us from other schools that do not use a phonics-based approach, and they may need to be taken 'back' to re-visit some of the skills that they missed, because of this. Please do not think that your student is 'behind' just because they are older than the typical first-through-third grader who normally has phonics. I think phonics skills are an important tool - helpful in spelling and writing too, and will sometimes even ask my 7th and 8th graders to do some phonics work, just to shore up their word-attach skills (how they figure out what a word is, that they are unfamiliar with) and strengthen their spelling and writing skills too, in the process.