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VSSE Publishes First Critical Look of DIBELS

Susan Notes: Order your copy while the supply lasts! Filled with both research and anecdote, this short book will lead the resistance to DIBELS--and Reading First

The Vermont Society for the Study of Education will publish, this spring, 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'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 Literacy. Expertly evoking the DIBELS landscape, Goodman sees it as "a set of silly tests" that "misrepresent pupils" and "demean teachers." However, his ultimate depiction of DIBELS is as the "pedagogy of the absurd."

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 8293 schools across 2582 districts in 49 states and Canada affecting the lives of over 1.7 million children in grades K through 3. Its momentum has not slowed down.

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 Connected Text. Speed plays a significant role in the administration of the sub-tests for each one is rigidly limited to one minute. 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 illuminate how DIBELS narrows the aims not only of reading but also of education itself. Reading is far too rich an experience to be reduced to the competence of a trained-seal-response within an arbitrary period of time. 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 high-stakes tests, in that failure brings about drastic effects. Sprinkled throughout the text are comments from teachers who have worked with DIBELS, revealing first hand accounts of its effects on students, parents and teachers. The introduction is by a parent who stood up to DIBELS.

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. Phone orders can be placed by calling 802-247-3488.

VSSE maintains the anti-DIBELS Clearinghouse at http://www.vsse.net/dibels . We welcome contributions.

— Sid S. Glassner
Vermont Society for the Study of Education


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