Sunday, April 22, 2012

Why DIBELS Testing Hurts Children

DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) is a mandatory series of timed tests administered to ASD students in grades K-2. These tests are supposed to assess early reading progress by measuring fluency, and letter and sound recognition. To test Kindergarten age children, a timer is set for 1 minute, and children are told to read a list of "nonsense words" like tuc and sep, by sounding out each letter. First of all, any kind of testing, other than for diagnostic purposes, is developmentally inappropriate for young children and results are inconsistent. There is no evidence that this test helps improve reading comprehension, or that measuring reading speed benefits young readers. According to educational research done by Ken Goodman:

"Furthermore the testers must judge accuracy, mark a score sheet and watch a stop watch all at the same time. And, to be fair, testers must listen carefully to children who at this age often lack front teeth, have soft voices, and speak a range of dialects as well languages other than English. Consistency in scoring is highly unlikely among so many testers and each tester is likely to be inconsistent."

Read more at about the corruption surrounding DIBELS, and why it is absurd:

DIBELS is about crony crooked corporate profit. It's not about helping children. Teachers should be pushing against this absurd test, not going along with it. Nonsense words confuse children, and could hurt their reading progress. And these are 5 year old babies! Many children this age have trouble pronouncing letter sounds. This is normal. They will have plenty of time to develop those skills. These children should be playing, developing social skills through drama, dress up, art, music and exercise. We should not be pressuring young children with a timed test.

I posted this at the Facebook page "Testing Hurts Kids", and it got a good response.

Yesterday, as a sub, I helped some really cute little Kindergarteners practice for DIBELS testing. I had to set a timer for 1 minute and kids had to read a list of nonsense words and I had to record how many correct letter sounds they got in a minute. Some kids had to pause to figure out if it was a d sound or a b sound (this confused some kids) so their score was low, and this test is about speed, not much else. 

It is crazy that teachers are required to put these little children through this. I joked and talked with the kids for a little while to make it fun. I told them I'll be coming in to teach them art next month, and they were real excited about that. One of the "words" was tuc. Several kids thought the t was an f, and said "fuck" loudly. Oopsie! This has got to be the most ridiculous test ever, and developmentally inappropriate, but teachers told me "it's the law of the land" and they have to do it. Also, there's a huge bulletin board about testing and measuring reading progress outside in the hallway, and I watched the reading consultant spend the afternoon working on this elaborate board, which used to display student work. These are 5 and 6 year olds!!!!!