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Jessica Webber

on 4 June 2014

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The Similarities and Differences Between DIBELS and the DRA and Fountas and Pinnell
The Similarities and Differences Between DIBELS and DRA/F&P
By Alysha Jannot and Jessica Webber

Why was DIBELS Designed?
A Quick Timeline:
What Do DIBELS Measure?
What Are DIBELS?
How Do You Assess?
Assessment is done through benchmark screening. Benchmark screening, according to dibels.uorgeon.edu, is the screening done for all students on essential skills predictive of later reading performance.
Benchmark testing is one part of a comprehensive assessment system that also includes: universal screening, progress monitoring, formative and summative assessments all of which are pooled together to make an informed instructional decision.
Benchmark screening is the link between assessment, instruction, and goal setting.
How Often is Screening Done and What Are Results Used For?
The DIBELS assessments all have been researched and validated for screening three times a year, kindergarten through grade 6.
Screening is done three times a year on all students, including students who previously met benchmark goals. The screening provides a data set that helps determine if reading instruction is effective for all students.
-Materials consist of grade-level booklets and display materials.
-Most testing is done one on one with each student and usually takes 5-10 minutes per student.
-Scores are used to determine how each student is doing in comparison with grade-level benchmark goals that are predictive of later reading success.
-Benchmark goals are criterion-referenced.
-Benchmark goals change across time to help ensure that student skills are developing in a manner that are predictive of continued progress.
Progress Monitoring
Provides differentiated and individualized reading instruction.
According to dibels.uoregon.edu, student performance and development of literacy skills should be monitored frequently for all students who are at risk for reading difficulty.
Data collected during progress monitoring should be used to make instructional decisions.
The assessment used to monitor progress should be aligned with instructional priorities of the supplemental reading instruction.
The level of assessment should match the student's instructional level, which means progress monitoring can be done with grade-level or out of grade-level materials because testing with the appropriate level of materials provides the greatest feedback for planning instruction.
Frequency and Duration of Progress Monitoring
Three levels of Identification:
a. Core (at benchmark/low risk): screening is done only during the three benchmark periods
b. Strategic (below benchmark/some risk): receives additional instructional support, should be progress monitored 1-2 times per month
c. Intensive (well below/at risk): received additional, intensive instruction; progress monitored 2-4 times per month
Duration each student is progress monitored may vary depending on student scores based on their plotted growth
from student's first data point to their target goal
So What's the Problem?

1. P. David Pearson writes, "I have decided...DIBELS is the worst thing to happen to the teaching of reading since the development of flash cards." He later writes, that, "DIBELS shapes instruction in ways that are bad for students (they engage in curricular activities that do not promote their progress as readers) and teachers (it requires them to judge student progress and shape instruction based on criteria that are not consistent with our best knowledge of reading development".

2. In a study conducted in 2005 on the predictive validity of DIBELS, Pressley et. al. concluded that..."DIBELS mis-predicts reading performance on other assessments much of the time...a measure of who reads quickly without regard to whether the reader comprehends what is read".
3. DIBELS does not test higher-level thinking, nor does it test comprehension.
What Other Types of Assessments Are There?
What is DRA?
DRA, Developmental Reading Assessment, is a standardized assessment for measuring children's accuracy, fluency, and reading comprehension.

DRA's are designed to provide classroom teachers with information about children's reading levels and abilities.
This assessment is modeled after an informal reading inventory where teachers conduct individual reading conferences.
During a DRA...
A child is asked to read a portion of a passage aloud, complete reading in their head, and then afterward, answer a series of questions related to the text.
Data that is gathered during this assessment is intended to provide teachers a way to measure student progress over time as well as to inform the direction of classroom instruction.
A Deeper Look At What A DRA Does...
Informs parents and teachers of student's current independent reading level.
Identifies strengths and weaknesses.
Identifies a student's instrustional needs.
Helps teachers plan for small group reading instruction and intervention
How DRA Levels and Testing Work Together
Tasks measured by the DRA test are divided into several skill sets.
In the phonemic awareness section, rhyming, alliteration, segmentation, and phonemic awareness itself are tested.
In the alphabetic principle/phonics section, letter naming, word-list reading, spelling, decoding, analogies, structural analysis, and syllabication are tested.
Under fluency, oral reading fluency or words per minute for contextual reading are tested.
A few other things that are tested are vocabulary,
comprehension, and reading engagement skills.
After The Test...
After the test is evaluated and scored, the child is assigned a numeric DRA level that goes from A1 through 80.
Children with stronger reading abilities yield higher numbers.
Teachers are easily able to give children books they can read by choosing a text with the corresponding DRA level.
Fountas and Pinnell
What is Fountas and Pinnell?
Fountas & Pinnell is a system of reading levels developed by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Punnell to support their guided reading method.
This method is an approach to small-group reading instruction.
Fountas and Pinnell
The reading text is classified according to various parameters, such as word count, number of different words, number of high frequency words, sentence length, sentence complexity, word repetitions, illustration support, etc.
Fountas and Pinnell decided to write about specific behavior and understandings so that teachers could easily notice and they can support learners at each level.
Fountas and Pinnell Levels
The levels that Fountas and Pinnell's books run by are from A-Z+.
These books include fiction and non-fiction.
Fountas and Pinnell's level of texts are associated with grade level.
The following slide is an example of the Fountas and Pinnell text level chart.
So Which Reading Assessment is Most Effective?
What do you think?
One Huge Comparison...
Most DIBELS subtests are not predictive of reading comprehension, whereas both the DRA and the F&P are.
...the closest the DIBELS gets to comprehension is through the 'reading fluency' portion of the test, when the teacher asks the student to tell what they just read, and then silently counts the words produced within a minute to indicate a comprehension score.
The DRA provides teachers the opportunity to observe student behavior and gather data and information to:
-diagnose student individual needs and plan for instruction as needed,
-determine the level at which the student is able to read independently,
-group students effectively,
-document changes over time in reading performance by monitoring students' abilities to use a variety of skills and strategies,
-identify students who may be working below proficiency and need further assessment,
-inform parents and other educators of student performance

Goal of F&P
Inform instruction based on student instructional needs, determine independent and instructional reading level for students, group students for instruction, assess the outcomes of teaching, identify student who need intervention, document student progress, create class profiles, inform parents and teachers
Final Conclusion?
Teachers should use the DRA or the F&P when administering reading assessments because they are the most effective assessment to show student's reading achievement.
Final Conclusion?
Teachers should use the DRA or the F&P when administering reading assessments because they are the most effective assessment to show student's reading achievement.
1970s-80s: DIBELS were developed based on CBM, developed by Deno and colleagues through the Institution for Research and Learning Disabilities at the University of Minnesota.
1980s: Initial research on DIBELS was conducted at the University of Oregon.
Since then, an ongoing series of studies on DIBELS has documented the reliability and validity of the measures as well as their sensitivity to student change. Research on DIBELS 6th Edition and DIBELS Next continues at the University of Oregon's Center on Teaching and Learning (CTL).
According to dibels.org, DIBELS were designed for use in identifying children experiencing difficulty in acquisition of basic early literacy skills in order to provide support early and prevent the occurrence of later reading difficulties
..."designed to be short (one minute) fluency measures used to regularly monitor the development of early literacy and early reading skills."
-DIBELS are comprised of seven measures to function as indicators of phonemic awareness, alphabetic principle, accuracy and fluency with connected text, reading comprehension, and vocabulary.
According to dibels.org, the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) are a set of procedures and measures for assessing the acquisition of early literacy skills from kindergarten through sixth grade.
The DIBELS measures were developed to be indicators
of the essential early literacy skills that a child must
master to become a good reader. These measures were
developed and designed to assess the Big Ideas in
The DIBELS measures three of the five basic skill areas
of early literacy: phonological awareness, alphabetic
principle and phonics, and accurate and fluent reading.
The Big Five
Big Ideas of
Literacy and DIBELS
Another Difference...
With DIBELS, research shows that students have learned how to pass the test by reading fast.
In an effort to increase student achievement in reading, the state of Alabama mandated grade K-3 implement the DIBELS measurements withing their schools to improve the scores on the state testing.
Results showed that after being identified in first and second grade as needing intensive intervention, which stresses reading fast and accurately, more then 23% of all students in the first study, and 36% of students in the second study were still at risk by the end of the 3rd grade.
What Information does Alabama Provide Us?
Unfortunately, Alabama scores are stagnant, according to
DIBELS What It Is; What It Does
. The expectation the state had that DIBELS would improve reading achievement was not fulfilled; it is time to look closer at assessments that focus on comprehension instead of just accuracy and fluency.
*Researchers conclude that the goal of DIBELS is to try and raise test scores, not teaching students to read.
What about DRA and F&P???
Full transcript