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!!!!!


Mrs. Dottie said...

After administering this ridiculous test to about 20 little 5 and 6 year olds, I realized that each child is different, with different strengths and weaknesses. I think teachers already know this, and don't need some expensive, time wasting test to determine this. But like Dr. Mayo said to me "don't treasure what you can't measure." (Uggghhhhh!!!!)

Some children would blend the sounds, some would pronounce each letter, some would have trouble with b's and d's, some would reverse the letters and read the words backwards, some had speech issues due to tooth loss, some Spanish speaking students struggled with certain letters, some would take their time and correct themselves (which is a good thing because they are being observant, thorough, and diligent, but this dumb test would penalize them for doing that). Some kids seemed concerned about the speed and tried really hard to say as many sounds as quickly as they could, some kids could care less about the timer, some were more interested in my necklace and clothing, some just wanted to get it over with, some wanted to do more, some were so quiet I could hardly hear them, some were LOUD and confident, some were confused by the font used on the test because the letters looked connected, etc, etc. SO many variables. I noticed some students scored much higher than the last time they took the test, some scored lower, some scored the same. Just my observations, I am not certified in early childhood ed, but I do have a lot of experience working with Kindergarten age children.

Mrs. Dottie said...

This test unfairly penalizes babies for pausing to think about their answers. That is so wrong. This is the business model of education that our district embraces- with rigorous assessments and data collecting, a rigorous curriculum (but we know that's a LIE since they have cut the arts, phys ed, library, and now maybe even social studies). By the time kids get to middle school, kids are expected to know what their "pathway to success" will be. (another lie, since they have not even been exposed to different subjects) Racing to the top, into the future with rigor and resiliency, and with rigorously high standards all nicely aligned with a script, pacing guide, and rigorously blocked schedule. There's no time for play. We have academic rigor and can compete with the charter school "Academies" which have extended school days for even more rigor. At the charter schools, children study foreign languages like Latin, Chinese, and French. It's RIGOROUS, damn it!

Horace Mann said...

Mrs. Dottie,

You need to "publish" share this on Facebook. If you don't, I just might.

I was about to publish a piece on this as well, after reading so much about it this weekend. I just happened to refer a new "FB" friend to the site and saw you beat me to the punch! ; ).

I'll use some of your non-obscenity filled quotes, if I can find any, and cite you on my page. I'm not sharing mine on FB. It's more for the locals.

Mrs. Dottie said...

Thanks Horace. I commented at your excellent post. Thanks for including my thoughts on the DRIBELS test. I wanted to include the obscenity in my post because it helps make my case about how ridiculous and obscenely absurd this test is. Listening to those little babies say "fuck" without even realizing what they were saying was something I won't forget. I don't care if people find that offensive. The fact that DRIBELS is the law of the land is far more offensive than the f word.

Mrs. Dottie said...

As I prepared my "art on a cart" for my upcoming artist in residency at my son's school, I noticed that all bulletin boards in grades K-2 hallways are creative displays charting how many words per minute each child can read. Am I crazy, or is this just really, really wrong?