Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Okay, this one actually does relate to what I'm supposed to be studying.

DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Literacy Skills) is a test used to determine how well students can break words into sounds, how quickly they can read, and other phonics skills. In my school, it was the most important assessment used in the lower elementary grades and just about all your instruction had to revolve around helping students beef up their phonics skills in order to help them stay out of the red (below grade-level) scores and into the green and blue (on level or above level).

I believe the information from the test is useful, but it certainly should not be the be all, end all assessment to determine how well a child is learning to read. It doesn't test actual comprehension and it is assessed by people who do not know the child well in such a rapid fashion that I truly doubt the results are accurate most of the time.

Helping the kids prepare for this test really limited the amount of meaningful literacy experiences I could provide for my students, because people from Reading First, from the Miami School Improvement Zone, and from our own school administration were constantly walking in to see if we were teaching students skill-based exercises in centers and following the Houghton Mifflin teacher's guide to the letter. I felt like I was sneaking around to give my kids opportunities to read books they were actually interested in like Wayside School, Captain Underpants, and Matilda.

How frustrating to see that all the time we wasted prepping kids for DIBELS have done nothing to actually improve the students comprehension abilities!

I learned this while reading the blog Schools Matter. I don't always agree with what this blogger has to say, but this information does have me upset when I think of all the time that gets wasted preparing for this test when students can be engaged in literacy activities that excite them as well as expand their critical thinking, their creativity, and their writing.

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