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A Parent's Plea

NOTE: DIBELS is mandated by the Reading First portion of NCLB. You can learn more about it by visiting the (Not the Official) DIBELS Clearinghouse, a site dedicated to informing the world about how harmful this product is.

This parent lament of what DIBELS has done to her child was posted on this website, as are the notes of advice. This parent raises a critical question: In what world has one minute of a teacher's time been all that is required to assess the values of 9 years of raising and reading to a child?

From a parent: I have a daughter who is 9 and in second grade. She was held back in kindergarten. Her teacher, based on her low DIBELS scores is referring her to SPED services.

My daughter has handled her 2nd grade cirriculum pretty well. Her report cards are not alarming in any way. She completes her homework without struggling and enjoys doing what work is required of her; she enjoys school.

My daughter is concerned over her inability to be a fast oral reader, I try encouraging her and have her practice reading aloud at home.

If DIBELS says she should be at said scoring based on grade and time of year and she is not, should she be placed in special education? She is currently receiving Title I services.

In what world has one minute of a teacher's time been all that is required to assess the values of 9 years of raising and reading to a child?

My daughter's oral reading experiences has gone from expressionate, delightful and careful reading, brief description of what she thought the story meant....To fast spit out as many words as you can and retell the words you just read rather then express any kind of real comprehension of what was just read.

Any experience, guidance, advise on anything simular would be helpful.

Frustrated Parent

Answer I am so angry about what's being done to your daughter I'm almost beside myself.

You put your finger on the core of the problem here: The school reliance on DIBELS is causing her to being pushed into thinking that speed is more important than comprehension. Some children are much more deliberate and careful than others. Although we want children to be able to read at a reasonable speed, it may happen later rather than sooner and in and of itself is no basis for special ed placement. My guess is that it's school pressure that's causing your daughter's oral reading "problem."

It's really good that you're reading with your daughter at home, but this should be fun, not some drill for school. Everything I know about children and reading is that they improve their skills by reading books they enjoy. (And being read to!) I'd continue to have her practice oral reading a bit but with no huge emphasis on oral. And speaking of fun, here's a suggestion. There is a quite fun series of riddle books written by Katy Hall:

Dino Riddles
Batty Riddles
Fishy Riddles
Turkey Ticklers: And Other Amazingly Corny
Thanksgiving Knock-Knock Jokes
Boo Hoo! Halloween riddles

And on and on. You can see a list of titles at amazon.com by entering "Katy Hall." One good thing about these "genre" riddles (all the riddles in a book are built around the same subject, such as fish) is that the puns and such teach young readers a lot about language--word meanings, synonyms/antonyms--as well as giving them a good time.

I wish you well--and I'm very relieved to know you have such a clear picture of your daughter's strengths. These strengths are what are important.

Hang tough. Susan Ohanian

Another Answer: Your concern about the judgements being made of your daughter based on Dibels scores of speed and accuracy on a one minute test are quite justified. The so-called benchmarks for each grade for words read per minute are totally without grounds and judging her reading on that basis instead of on what she is understanding is misrepresenting her ability. It is not surprising that she is upset that she can't read as fast as the test requires her to. That may be because she can't avoid trying to understand what she is reading. This test overvalues kids who skip words and only read the words they know they know and undervalues kids concerned about meaning. I would insist that any decisions about either retaining her in 2nd grade or classifying her as special education be based on a full evaluation following the proper guidlines . I would also insist that you as her parents have the right to refuse such decisions. If you need support in fighting for your daughter let me know where you live and I may be able to suggest a professional willing to help youo.

Ken Goodman

More Answers: Several teachers wrote,

  • Get your child out of that classroom immediately!

  • Don't wait until the end of the year to remove your child from that classroom. Great harm is being done.
  • — A Parent
    Not the Official Dibels Clearinghouse



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