What is DIBELS?

Has your child come home telling you that he’s been DIBEL’d at school?  You may wonder what in the world he means.  I hope to explain what DIBELS testing is and what it means for your child’s future success as a reader.  The information that I am sharing with you is from the book, I’ve DIBEL’d, Now What? by Susan L. Hall, Ed. D.

Each fall, winter, and spring students in kindergarten through third grade participate in state mandated testing known as DIBELS.  DIBELS is an acronym for Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills.  The DIBELS is an assessment instrument that measures how well a child is progressing in the specific early reading skills which are most highly predictive of reading success (Hall, pg. 32).  While the assessment does not tell everything about a student’s reading development and skills, it does give critical information about the overall progress the student is making toward becoming a successful reader. 

DIBELS data is analyzed to determine whether all the major skills are in place for a student to read on grade level by the end of third grade.  A child’s score in each skill area falls into one of three levels: benchmark, some risk, or at risk of reading difficulty.  Classroom teachers use the data gathered from the DIBELS to identify student error patterns in reading and to plan sound, small group instruction.   Students who are “at risk” participate in 30 minutes of intensive intervention each morning during our protected reading time (8:00 AM-9 AM) and their progress is routinely monitored by the teacher.

At Odenville Elementary an assessment team consisting of the reading coach, interventionists, and other specialists administer the DIBELS one-on-one with each child in our school.  The assessment is brief, taking approximately 5 to 10 minutes per student.  Data on each student is reported to the State Department of Education where the scores are compiled and compared with other school in the state. 

Below are the five skill indicators which are measured in the DIBELS assessment:

  • Initial Sound Fluency (ISF) is the ability to recognize and produce the beginning sound in  words.

  • Letter Naming Fluency (LNF) is the ability to recognize and name a random mixture of uppercase and lowercase letters on a page.

  • Phoneme Segmentation Fluency (PSF) is the ability to segment or “breakdown” a short, spoken word into the individual sounds.

  • Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF) is the ability to read two letter or three letter “nonsense” consonant-vowel-consonant words.

  • Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) is the ability to fluently (smoothly) and accurately read a grade level passage aloud as measured by words read correctly per minute.