Sunday, October 22, 2006


I thought this test was a joke when I first heard about it -- but it is far from funny. Dr. Goodman has approved this article for sharing -- seen here in part. Since the article's first publication, the investigation of the committee that sanctioned this test has concluded that those who were to profit directly from this test's sale to thousands of schools were in fact the very same people who approved its use.

Read an article from the Washington Post entitled "Billions for an Inside Game on Reading"

Read entire article by Ken Goodman

Exerpt from an article by Ken Goodman on DIBELS --

"There are many things wrong with DIBELS.

It turns reading into a set of abstract decontextualized tasks that can be measured in one minute. It makes little children race with a stop watch.

It values speed over thoughtful responses.

It takes over the curriculum leaving no time for science, social studies, writing, not to mention art music and play.

It ignores and even penalizes children for the knowledge and reading ability they may have already achieved.

Reading is ultimately the ability to make sense of print and no part of DIBELS tests that in any way. In DIBELS the whole is clearly the sum of the parts and comprehension will somehow emerge from the fragments being tested.

On top of that the sub-tests are poorly executed- the authors do badly what they say they are doing. 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.

And lets add that DIBELS encourages cheating. There is a thin line between practicing the "skills" that are tested and being drilled on the actual test items, all of which are on-line to be downloaded.. With so much at stake why wouldn't there be cheating?

In summary DIBELS, The Perfect Literacy Test, is a mixed bag of silly little tests. If it weren't causing so much grief to children and teachers it would be laughable. It's hard to believe that it could have passed the review of professional committees state laws require for adoption of texts and tests . And in fact it has not passed such reviews. There is strong evidence of coercion from those with the power to approve funding of state NCLB proposals and blatant conflicts of interest for those who profit from the test and also have the power to force its use. A ongressional investigation is now underway into these conflicts of interest.

In training sessions for DIBELS, teachers are not permitted to raise questions and are made to feel that there is a scientific base to the test they lack the ompetence to understand. It is, after all, The Perfect Literacy Test."

Ken Goodman, Professor Emeritus
Language, Reading and Culture,


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the links!

The current administration has a real penchant for improperly labeling things as big-s Science when they're clearly not. And, of course, for lining the pockets of well-connected friends.

My outrage is over the real harms that are being done to the children. Is literacy really where we want to play Dice?

I can't help but wonder: How did literacy became the goal instead of an absolute minimum acceptable performance?

We pat ourselves on the back now because little Johnny "can" read? Though, from the descriptions in the articles, Johnny really doesn't even have to know how to read, he's only required to sound out the phonemes of completely nonsense letter-sets!

How do these kids ever discover the joy of reading? The mesmerizing power of a good writer? The experience of new ideas, of new thoughts, of reason, whimsy and fantasy?

Thinking back, I can't put my finger on how I discovered that something beyond the mechanical of reading. I'm glad I did, and I'd hope there was someone along the way, just like you, who showed me the joy of words.

Please keep helping kids and teachers see the power that comes from writing, from reading, and from performing beyond the absolutely minimum acceptable level.

Charles said...

This "on your mark, get set, go!" type of teaching is ruining the fabric of these children's lives and sucking the creativity and joy out of the teachers who have no choice (if they still want to have a job) but to teach it. What on earth ever happened to "going at your own speed?" The kids are learning by rote instead of learning by heart which I think will ultimately give them a negative reaction to reading later on down the line. When I was on tour with Poetry Alive I cannot even begin to tell you how many teachers told me "Charles I spend so much time getting the kids ready for the standardized test that I don't feel I'm doing any real teaching at all and the students are suffering as a result." And by real teaching I mean taking their time on various subjects instead of "go, go, go!" Students learn better at their own pace I sure as heck did. But for the love of Pete what can we do to help the situation? Yes we all have traveled across the country and some people the world teaching them how to learn in a different way (by performing, by audio techniques) but is it enough? Oh the fate of society!

michael salinger said...

To piggyback on Charles comment:

Forcing a single pace not only may be prodding along a student not yet ready to move on - it also holds back students that could move at a more accelerated rate since the whole class needs to be at the same point at the same time.

sara holbrook said...

What I worry about, is that there are so MANY wrongs perpetuated by this administration, that education won't even rate a blip on the election radar. NCLB is ripping the hearts out of teachers and kids nationwide all so that a few companies can report higher earnings.

Anonymous said...

Another great link to check out further DIBELS info. is the 9anti0 dibels clearhouse at: