Level grade: Lexile Reading Level Chart by Grade

The Difference in Student Levels: Grade Level, Instructional Level, and Ability Level

Understanding the differences in a student’s levels can lead to more effective teaching, improved comprehension, and increased student success.

And not only does understanding the “level language” help the child, but it also helps you write better IEPs.

When it comes to how a student can and will learn and at what “level”, you have to think of 3 things:

  • Grade Level
  • Instructional Level
  • Ability Level

And for neurotypical students, teachers don’t often have to think about all of these different terms. But special education teachers, we do.

Because we could have 10 students in our class, on 4 different grade levels on 10 different instructional levels, on 10 different ability levels. And that’s a lot of moving pieces to think about when it comes to lesson planning – and ultimately writing a child’s IEP.

The Definition of Student Language Levels

There are many terms thrown around when discussing a student’s language level. Each of the terms is important to understand so that teachers and parents know what to expect in terms of intervention and current levels.

Here are the definitions of some of the most common language level terms used in IEPs:

Grade Level

The term Grade Level refers to the grade in which a child is placed and the expectations for students in that grade. This term can vary by state, so if a child moves during the school year, the original grade level parameters may not apply.

Instructional Level

While Grade Level refers to a student’s current grade, Instructional Level refers to where they are instructionally. The Instructional Level usually falls somewhere between their Ability Level and their Grade Level for students with language goals.

For many students, the Instructional Level is one level above their Ability Level. Consider this level to be the “growing” level to work towards Grade Level.

It is important to note that the Instructional Level material should not be so complex that the student frequently reaches their frustration threshold. Still, it should keep them moving forward and progressing toward their grade level goal.

Ability Level

Ability Level refers to where a student’s current abilities are at that time. It is what they can currently do independently with a high percentage of accuracy. Ability Level is sometimes referred to as Independent Level as it relies on the student completing the work with no assistance.

How Student Language Levels are Addressed in IEPs

When a student has a language goal, there is a lot of data that must be collected beforehand to make sure that the goal is addressing the need. If the goal is too low, the student will make little progress. If the goal is too ambitious, the student will reach his frustration threshold before making progress. It is a bit like Goldilocks and finding just the right fit for each student.

IEPs will typically list the student’s Ability or Independent Level first. This should include data about the percentage of accuracy over time and demonstrate that the student has mastered this level.

The Grade Level expectations may be addressed next as a baseline for what students in the current grade are expected to complete independently with a high degree of accuracy. This is important because the ultimate goal is to help the child reach that Grade Level proficiency and “catch up” to his peers.

When discussing the Instructional Level and goals in the IEP, there should be clear, specific, measurable goals that can be accurately assessed throughout the school year. They should include a percentage of accuracy and indicate what constitutes success.

Without understanding where a student’s Ability Level is and what the Grade Level expectations are, it is nearly impossible to write goals at the appropriate Instructional Level.

“Needs drive goals, and goals drive services.

Dr. Kelli Sandman-Hurley of Dyslexia Training Institute

Without understanding the needs, it is impossible to create appropriate goals. Without appropriate goals, the services provided will most likely not drive the student forward.

For a reading level correlation chart, go here.

The Importance of Educating Parents

Teachers may understand the language used to describe student levels, but it is equally as important that parents understand. Take the time to educate your students’ parents on what the levels mean and why each must be given space in the IEP.

When families know what you are referring to, it makes them feel included and part of the IEP team.

How do you explain this to families during IEP meetings or conferences? Tell us in the comments below!


  • Planning Academic Centers in a Special Needs Classroom
  • What to Do When You’re Burned Out Writing IEPs
  • Introducing The Intentional IEP

A Guide to the US Education Levels

In the United States, public school usually starts between age 4 and 6 and continues until around age 17 to 18. You can also send your children to pre-school at an earlier age. Learn about the different U.S. education levels, class placement, and grade level placement for students new to the USA.

In the United States, the law requires all children to go to school. Elementary, middle, and high school are all free if your child attends public school. The ages of the students for each grade can vary from state to state. 

The U.S. education levels

In the USA, there are 12 grade levels after the first year of kindergarten. The four levels of education are:

  • Preschool (early childhood education)
  • Elementary school
  • Middle school
  • High school

Early childhood education

Early childhood education can mean different things. It refers to learning that happens before kindergarten. It is not required by law.

Early childhood education includes daycare and preschool. Ages can vary based on the place you choose to take your child. Daycare can start a few months after a child is born. Preschool can start as early as age 2. 

You usually have to pay for daycare and preschool. There are free preschool options for low-income families through the Head Start program.

Children in preschool learn how to be with other kids and get ready for kindergarten. 

Elementary school

Children begin elementary school with kindergarten (grade K) around age 5. The next year is grade 1 and it goes up each year to grade 5. They finish elementary school around age 10.

Children in elementary school usually learn different subjects from one teacher in a single classroom. They learn to develop writing and math skills, reading, critical thinking, and problem-solving.

Middle school (also called junior high school)

Students attending middle school are around age 11 to 13. It starts with grade 6 and ends with grade 8. Middle school students usually switch from classroom to classroom. They may have different teachers in one school day.  

In middle school, students learn:

  • English (grammar, spelling, reading comprehension, and sentence structure)
  • Mathematics (fractions, decimals, percents, solving equations)
  • Sciences (earth science, basic biology, basic chemistry concepts)
  • Social studies (civics, government, and basic economics)

In some communities, children will not switch schools to go to middle school. They will keep going to the same elementary school.

High school

Students attending high school are around age 14 to 18. It starts with grade 9 and ends with grade 12. The classes are arranged by subjects. A student usually has different teachers throughout the day.

In high school, students learn:

  • English (classic literature, essay writing, and critical analysis)
  • Mathematics (algebra, geometry, calculus)
  • Science (biology, chemistry, physics)
  • Social studies (US history, world history, and civics) 

Some students can take advanced classes and prepare for work or college.  High schools also have clubs, sports, work-study arrangements, and other activities. 

There are names for students in each grade:

  • 9th grade: freshman 
  • 10th grade: sophomore
  • 11th grade: junior  
  • 12th grade: senior
Secondary School

A secondary school is an alternative option to a high school. It covers grades 9th to 12th. It offers technical and vocational training, such as carpentry and automotive technology.

Post-high school education

After getting a high school diploma, students can go to college. Students need to find a college or university and learn the requirements. You will have to apply and pay tuition. If you need help paying for college or university, there are scholarships for immigrants and refugees.

Class placement

Students can be split up by their learning level in different classes. This is more common in middle school and high school when students attend classes by subject with different teachers. Some levels of classes are harder and some are easier. 

Class placement can be decided based on:

  • How well the student understands English or their test scores
  • Parent/guardian recommendations
  • Standardized test scores
  • Willingness to complete challenging assignments
  • Student interest or motivation
  • Teacher or counselor recommendation
  • Samples of student work

The names of the classes sometimes describe the level of difficulty. The names can be different depending on the school.

  • Classes that are easier or use easier English levels can be called:
    • Inclusion
    • Basic skills
  • Classes at a typical level for the grade can be called:
    • Regular
    • Non-honors
  • Classes at a higher or advanced level can be called:
    • Honors
    • GTE (Gifted and talented education)
    • Advanced Placement (AP)
    • IB (International Baccalaureate)

Grade level placement for students new to the USA

Grade level placement means deciding which grade a student will start in when they move to the USA.  

Students may take some tests before the start of the school year or at the very beginning of the school year. The tests might be written or with an adult reading the questions to the student. It can be different depending on the school.

Many refugee students may have missed school while they were in camp or fleeing their country. They may be at different grade levels than a typical American student of the same age. Some students might be at a high-grade level but do not speak English yet. Those students may have trouble in harder classes until they learn English better. 

If you think your child is in the wrong grade, you can talk to the teacher, principal, or the school staff who tested and placed your child.

  • Ask, “What was your reasoning?” The school can help you understand their decision.
  • Explain why you think the placement is wrong. They may be able to change the placement if they agree with your reasons.

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Approbation of the model of level assessment of teachers’ competencies

Assessment and development of a teacher’s professional competence at different stages of his professional career is one of the most important directions of state policy in the field of education.

The President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin proposed at the end of 2015 (Instruction Pr-15GS, p. 1d) to create a nationwide system for the professional development of teachers, aimed, in particular, at establishing levels of proficiency in professional competencies for teachers, confirmed by the results of certification.

The relevance of the task of creating unified approaches and tools for assessing the competencies of teachers is confirmed by the results of studies of the quality of education conducted in the Russian Federation in accordance with the orders of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation.

At the moment, the advanced training of teachers, as well as certification for the assignment of a qualification category, are carried out in the Russian Federation mainly at the regional level. At the same time, there are no uniform mechanisms for Russia to ensure the quality of teachers’ work. Thus, one of the urgent tasks of modernizing the general education system is the organization of an objective assessment of teachers’ competencies based on approaches common for Russia, which would allow, on the one hand, to use the results of the assessment to assign qualification categories, and on the other hand, would give impetus to the development of the training system. and professional development of teachers.

This autumn, the testing of the national system of teacher growth, the methodology of the level competence of a teacher, organized by the Federal Service for Supervision in Education and Science as part of measures to assess the quality of education in the Russian Federation, will be tested. Its goal is to test unified approaches to assessing the level of teachers’ qualifications.

At the first stage of development and introduction of federal assessment materials, 13 regions were included (Leningrad, Moscow, Volgograd, Ryazan, Yaroslavl, Kurgan, Tomsk, Kabardino-Balkaria, the Republic of Adygea, Ingushetia, Chechnya, Tatarstan, Khabarovsk Territory). 300 schools and at least 4,000 teachers will take part in the testing.

In the Leningrad region, 400 teachers of Russian language and mathematics from all municipalities will take part in this study.

Order of the Committee for General and Vocational Education of the Leningrad Region dated July 28, 2017 No. 1895-r “On Conducting in the Leningrad Region in 2017 Procedures for Approbation of the Model of Level Assessment of the Competences of Russian Language and Mathematics Teachers” approved:

  • plan – schedule for the preparation and implementation of procedures for testing the model
  • list of educational institutions – points for conducting a unified state exam in the Leningrad region, on the basis of which on September 25-27, 2017, teachers will be diagnosed – participants in the testing of model
  • list of those responsible for carrying out the procedures for testing the model in the Leningrad region
  • list of teachers of municipal educational organizations of the Leningrad region participating in the testing of unified federal assessment materials for the level of qualifications of teachers
  • a list of experts involved in evaluating the results of testing the assessment procedures for the qualifications of teachers – participants in testing the model.

Participation in the new project of the Federal Service for Supervision in Education and Science to test the model of the level assessment of the competencies of teachers of the Russian language and mathematics will successfully solve the problems of developing a system of teacher growth.

Updated on 07/12/2023


Model of level assessment of teacher’s professional competence

Science for Education Today, 2019, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 151–168 ., Tryapitsyna A. P., 2019


37.082 + 37.086 + 37.087

Pisareva S. A. 1 (St. Petersburg, Russia), Puchkov M. Yu. 900 58 1 (St. Petersburg , Russia), Rivkina S. V. 1 (St. Petersburg, Russia), Tryapitsyna A. P. 1 (St. Petersburg, Russia)

1 Federal State Budgetary Educational Institution of Higher Education “Russian State Pedagogical University named after A. I. Herzen ”


Problem and goal. The article is devoted to the problem of assessing the professional competence of a modern teacher, which makes it possible to take into account the complexity and variability of this activity. The purpose of the article is to present the substantiation of the competency-based model for assessing the professional activity of a teacher, which is an alternative to the existing model of teacher certification.
Methodology. The study was conducted within the framework of the activity approach, which made it possible to analyze the professional activities of teachers in the unity of the value-motivational, content and procedural components of the activity. Appeal to the activity approach led to the consideration of professional activity as an activity to solve professional problems. The tools for assessing the professional competence of a teacher were diagnostic work and a criterion scale for evaluating a lesson. The model was tested by 2,300 Russian language teachers and 2 295 mathematics teachers from 13 subjects of the Russian Federation, as well as 197 experts.
Results. The presented competence model allows taking into account the essential characteristics of modern pedagogical activity, focusing on supporting the teacher’s motivation for self-improvement and removing barriers that prevent an adequate attitude to external evaluation. In the course of the study, the semantic content of the concept of “professional competence of a teacher” was revealed; the system-forming function of the pedagogical component in the structure of professional competence is substantiated; the expediency of using the hierarchy of professional tasks for assessing the professional activity of a teacher has been proved; the conditions for the stage-by-stage organization of the evaluation of the teacher’s professional activity are revealed.
Conclusion. In conclusion, an interpretation of the results obtained is given, the risks of approbation, teachers’ difficulties are revealed, a conclusion is made about the need to help the teacher in mastering a new (leading) function of professional activity – promoting the education of a student.

Key words:

level assessment; level assessment model; level of competence; professional competence of the teacher; professional task.

WoS/RSCI URL: https://www.webofscience.com/wos/rsci/full-record/RSCI:38538213

Relevance percentile SciVal : 94.487 Classroom Management | Self Efficacy | Pre-service Teachers



Pisareva S. A., Puchkov M Yu., Rivkina S. V., Tryapitsyna A. P. Model of level assessment of teacher’s professional competence // Science for Education Today. – 2019. – No. 3. – P. 151–168. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15293/2658-6762.1903.09


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