What is DIBELS?
‘DIBELS’ stands for ‘Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills,’ and it refers to a testing program to assess the literacy of young children from the time they are at kindergarten level up to the elementary sixth grade level. This particular testing program was developed by Dr. Roland Good and Dr. Ruth Kaminski and was aimed at monitoring the early literacy skills of school children. Through DIBELS, teachers will be able to tell which children need some assistance with reading, for example, and which need guidance in terms of their vocabulary.
The design of DIBELS involves short tests that last only for about a minute for each of the seven measures involved. These seven areas of literacy cover basic skill sets for school children which include alphabetic learning and phonemic awareness, or the ability to recognize sounds and divide words into phonemes. The literacy test also includes items to test children with oral reading to determine their fluency and accuracy in this subject. Comprehension and vocabulary are also part of the basic skills and literacy test.
The University of Oregon in the U.S. was the site of the first DIBELS test back in the latter part of the 1980s. Since then, many schools have adapted this kind of testing program as studies have shown its reliability and validity. For proponents of DIBELS, teachers can effectively measure the literacy skills of their students and will be able to help those who may need some assistance. There are also critics to this literacy testing program, though, with many of them pointing out that DIBELS focuses too much on speed since the measures for each segment are done for only one minute. With speed emphasized on the tests, the literacy results may not be very reliable for some students who may actually need more time to understand the principles included in the tests. Despite criticisms, though, many schools still use DIBELS to help assess the skills of their students.