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NCLB Outrages

Educator Lambastes Popular Reading Tests

By Sid S. Glassner

BRANDON — The Vermont
Society for the Study of Education
will publish the nation’s first
critical look at DIBELS (Dynamic
Indicators of Basic Early Literacy
Skills) titled “Examining DIBELS:
What it is and What it Does.”
The book will be published this

The book’s main contributor and
editor is the nationally and internationally
renowned reading authority
Ken Goodman, Professor Emeritus
from the Department
of Language, Reading
and Culture at the
University of Arizona.
Goodman is past
president of the
International Reading
Association and the
National Conference
on Language and

Summing up the
DIBELS landscape,
Goodman sees it as “a
set of silly tests” that
“misrepresent pupils”
and “demeans teachers.”
However, his
ultimate depiction of
DIBELS is as the “pedagogy of the

Sweeping across America on
the coattails of the Reading First
Initiative, a component of the No
Child Left Behind Act, DIBELS,
according to the official website,
was in use during the 2004-2005
school year in 8,293 schools across
2,582 districts in 49 states and
Canada affecting the lives of more
than 1.7 million children in grades
K through 3.

Developers of DIBELS, the
Institute for the Development of
Educational Achievement (IDEA),
claim to have based their program
on the “big ideas” as derived from
the work of the National Reading
Panel. However, they have limited
the scope of DIBELS to the first
three “big ideas” — phonological
awareness, alphabetic principle,
and fluency with connect text.
Speed plays a significant role in
the administration of the sub-tests
for each one is limited to one minute,
said Sid Glassner, executive
director of VSSE. “Great value is
placed on what the young child can
do in that one minute. For many
young children, the feverish devotion
to performing
within a carefully prescribed
time frame is
particularly distracting
and highly fretful.”
With erudition, insights
and sagacity,
Goodman and his contributors
how DIBELS narrows
the aims not only of
reading but also of education

“Reading is far too
rich an experience to be
reduced to the competence
of a trained-seal response
within an arbitrary
period of time,”
said Glassner. “Such
antediluvian thinking
turns teachers
into compliant technicians,
literacy into a race for time
and students into test taking robots.
DIBELS is another form of hightakes
tests, in that failure brings
about repeatedly drastic effects.”
Sprinkled throughout the text of
the book are comments from teachers
who have worked with DIBELS,
revealing first hand accounts of its
effects on students, parents and

Copies may be purchased from
VSSE for the cost of shipping and
handling, $5.95. Orders, along with
a check, should be sent to VSSE,
P.O. Box 186, Brandon, VT 05733.
For more information, call 802-

— Sid S. Glassner
Addison Independent


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