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Refusing to Be Buffaloed by DIBELS Edicts

Dear Susan,

My son just started Kindergarten. I was sent a letter stating the following: Your child is well below benchmark and is likely to fail third grade.

The DIBELS test showed that he could only say 7 of the Alphabet words in the time frame--but I've been getting good reports on his classwork.

Can DIBELS really predict school success four years from now?

Worried Mom

Dear Mom,

Request no more DIBELS testing. You can cite research showing that:

  • "After second grade, any benefit of an early mastery of these skills on reading comprehension disappears."--Gerald Coles, FairTest

  • The DIBELS Tests: Is Speed of Barking at Print What We Mean by Reading Fluency?-- S. J. Samuels

  • Is DIBELS Leading Us Down the Wrong Path?
  • --Robert J. Tierney & Catherine Thome

  • The Relation Between DIBELS, Reading Comprehension, and Vocabulary in Urban First-Grade Students --B. W. Riedel

  • The truth about DIBELS: What it is, what it does --Kenneth Goodman, ed.

  • Explain that you are pursuing an expanded version of literacy with your son, which includes reading aloud with him every night--stories he enjoys. Research has shown this has great effect in developing good readers.

    The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease offers good advice. Let the teacher know you're following his advice.

    These last two suggestions are important, showing that your family is actively engaging in your son's literacy development.

    I wish you and your son well, and I'd like to know what happens.

    — Susan Ohanian




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