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ERIC Number: EJ759562
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2005-Sep-28
Pages: 2
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0277-4232
National Clout of DIBELS Test Draws Scrutiny
Manzo, Kathleen Kennedy
Education Week, v25 n5 p1, 12 Sep 2005
Just a few years ago, a set of tests known as "dibbles" would have elicited little more than a chuckle from educators or anyone else. Today, they're taking it seriously, because the acronym DIBELS has come to symbolize the standard for early-literacy assessment throughout much of the country. Teachers in Reading First schools in more than 40 states now use the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills to screen K-3 pupils for potential reading problems and to monitor their progress. And state officials are collecting the data from the short reading fluency tests to determine whether schools receiving some of the $1 billion given annually in federal Reading First grants are making adequate progress in getting students up to grade-level proficiency. Furthermore, developed by researchers at the University of Oregon, DIBELS has become a catchphrase in the schoolhouse and the statehouse as officials look to test data to inform instruction, to identify children at risk of failure in reading, and to hold schools accountable for student achievement. But while teachers, administrators, and researchers praise the tests for their ease of use and reliability in predicting which children may have reading difficulties later, the use of DIBELS has drawn criticism from some in the field. Critics cite the tendency of some educators to teach to the tests or give the measures too much weight in gauging reading ability, as well as the often aggressive promotion of DIBELS by federal employees and consultants to the Reading First program. Some critics charge that DIBELS got the competitive edge not because of its superiority, but because its developers and their colleagues at the University of Oregon, located in Eugene, were key consultants to the U.S. Department of Education for Reading First. Some researchers also questioned whether children's speed at reading nonsense words or carefully crafted passages has anything to do with the ultimate goal of comprehension, according to P. David Pearson, the dean of education at the University of California, Berkeley. Furthermore, Michigan State's Mr. Pressley is completing a technical report on DIBELS. So far, he said, his analysis shows that it is an accurate indicator of how pupils will perform on high-stakes state tests in reading. But DIBELS does not show whether students are on target for developing higher-level reading skills, such as vocabulary and comprehension.
Editorial Projects in Education. 6935 Arlington Road Suite 100, Bethesda, MD 20814-5233. Tel: 800-346-1834; Tel: 301-280-3100; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Education; Grade 1; Grade 2; Grade 3; Kindergarten
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Oregon