Team Members:Katherine AliMichaela LavoieNina McCorryAlina Swiadas

DIBELS data system
Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills

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DIBELS:The DIBELS program is an assessment tool used for all students in grades K-6 in order to assess student's early literacy skills. The five early literacy components that DIBELS assesses include phonological awareness, alphabetic principle, vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency with connected text. The DIBELS assessments are short, one minute tests used to monitor the progress of students' basic early literacy skills. The goals of DIBELS include (1) to develop and conduct research on effective assessment and curricular tools that can be used to improve reading outcomes for children (2) to provide high quality professional development for educators on research-based programs, strategies, and tools to improve outcomes for children and support school success (DIBELS Goals)


$1 per student per academic year.
Billing is usually directed to the district. Therefore, the district must hold an account.
Primarily used to benchmark and monitor students' progress on an individual level, why it costs $1 per student. This is an individualized assessing program to gain information about students' reading abilities.

  • STEPS in the DIBELS PROCESS: Adminstration, Data Entry, Progress Monitoring, Reports, Data Exports, Large Scale Data Analysis, Content and Resources, and Expert Development Team.

    • Some literature on the website is able to be accessed without cost, but teachers who use DIBELS in their classroom are provided with palm pilots and different workbooks containing the testing reading materials.
    • As the student reads various passages or words aloud, the teacher indicates errors by tapping the palm pilot. The palm pilot produces an identical passage on its small screen, allowing the teacher to electronoically mark the student's mistakes and write comments about the student's performance.
    • The palm pilot can be connected to the computer and the results can be uploaded onto the teacher's computer.
    • These technological advancements help improve efficiency by automatically computing accuracy and creating graphs based upon the student's results.
  • USE IN THE CLASSROOM: DIBELS is an easy-accessible system for all teachers to use - inclusion teachers, resource room teachers, special educators, general education teachers, etc.
  • TRAINING: Teachers who use DIBELS receive approximately six hours of training from literacy coaches. Ms. Bissitt attended two three-hour training seminars during professional development days with other teachers in the area to learn to use DIBELS.

Final Reflection on the DIBELS data system
As first year special education teachers, we would use the DIBELS data system with our students struggling with early literacy skills. DIBELS does not require extensive training (only 6 hours), is a very efficient system (it consists of short assessments and results can be quickly recorded electronically which will be beneficial particularly if we have larger case loads), and clearly allows us to monitor our students’ strengths, weaknesses, and progress in areas related to early literacy. While some have found fault with the DIBELS data system (see the article “DIBELS Draws, Doers, and Doubters”), particularly claiming that it does not allow for best instruction practices in reading, in certain cases, we think the DIBELS data system would be beneficial and not a detriment to a child’s development of early literacy skills. For example, one of our students is a kindergartener struggling in literacy. He can currently only name four letters of the alphabet consistently and struggles with identifying the sounds letters make which is an essential part of reading. The DIBELS data system easily allows his teacher to assess and monitor his progress in identifying letters and their corresponding sounds which will help her to determine how prepared for reading he is becoming.

Many people fear that DIBELS focuses too heavily on speed and fluency in reading and not enough on whether or not students actually understand what they read. While this may be a valid argument, we still believe in many cases DIBELS can be useful and is, after all, a system supported by research. As long as we as special educators keep in mind all of the components of reading and best practices in teaching early literacy skills, the DIBELS data system can be extremely useful. If one of our students is struggling with such things as letter naming, phoneme identification, blending of sounds, fluency, etc. (all essential aspects of reading) the DIBELS data system is highly appropriate as an assessment tool and should be used to guide instruction. If comprehension or another area is of much greater concern, then perhaps another specialized reading program would be more appropriate. But many times, particularly with the early literacy skills required to be able to develop the skill of reading, DIBELS would be helpful to us as special educators as an assessment tool.
Journal Article: DIBELS Draws, Doers, and Doubters

  • Dessoff, A. (2007). DIBELS Draws Doers & Doubters. District Administration, 43(8), 38-43. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database
  • Kristen Bissit, Special Educator at the Veazie Street School, Providence, RI, 02908


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