Last week I reminded us of an “old school” educational concept that isn’t talked about as much as I think it should be – “task analysis.” (

This week’s old school concept is Instructional Levels.

In our Response to Intervention (RTI) world, I would like to hear parents (and teachers) more frequently ask the question, “What’s his/her instructional level?”  It’s an important question to understand, not just about school. 

The question isn’t asked enough.

Using a non-school example to illustrate, let’s say seven year old Patricia comes to you and says, “Mommy, I want to make my own lunch.”  On one level, you are thrilled that she is taking the initiative, on another you know she isn’t there yet to do this task independently.  You don’t want to squash her spirit, but having her work in a frustration level will have the same effect.  You know she will need some support and guidance.

I get confused when parents bring me their current standardized testing.  “Proficient and Barely Proficient,” as it reads on the report, doesn’t tell much.  For any task the child faces (reading a chapter book, managing a worksheet, sitting still in church, making lunch, making a bed, crossing the street), ask yourself the following as a guide.

  • Can the child (or adult for that matter) do the task without any assistance? If yes, that’s the Independent Level.  With reading, listen to the child read.  If she reads smoothly and understands what she reads, that’s the Independent Level.
  • Is some assistance needed?  That’s the Instructional level.  For reading, she may need some help pronouncing or understanding certain words or concepts. 
  • If the task is over the child’s head,  it’s the Frustration Level.  With reading, if the child reads in a labored and strained manner and seems to not to get many of the concepts, that’s the Frustration Level.

Too many of the kids I see are swimming in Frustration Level waters.  

Read the Signs: