At Eduwonk today there's a link to this story from Susan O'Hanian about one teacher's experience with DIBELS. Her principal used it as a part of her year-end evaluation:
On the last day of school this year 18 teachers were given copies of our yearly evaluation and received "U"s, an unsatisfactory rating because of our DIBELS scores. I’m talking about dedicated, professionals who stay late, arrive early and do their best for the love of children.Here's where I'll argue both sides against the middle.
My Unsatisfactory "grade" was followed by the comment:
"This teacher’s students made minimal growth in her classroom this year."
Most of my children are reading on or above grade level. The amount of "progress/growth" made this year by most of my children was no where near minimal.
I asked my principal if she believed that statement that appeared on my evaluation.
She said "Yes, I do, based on your DIBELS scores!"
Her statement hurt me because I know the amount of work I did this year with my precious students. The amount of growth the children had in all areas was in no way "minimal." I mentioned that the reading levels of some of my first-graders were equal to the end of second grade. She said the district didn’t recognize non-standardized test scores.
The teacher may feel that she worked hard. Heck, she probably did. Using performance on one assessment to say that she's an unsatisfactory teacher may not be fair.
On the other hand, what's asked of the kids on DIBELS is *not that hard*. Letter identification, sounding words out, blending, etc. The one DIBELS test that I think is out of line is their fluency assessment--the passages that they've released for 1st and 2nd grade are completely out of line with what most kids are capable of doing--and if that's where this one evaluation comes from, the teacher has a point. If, however, the school was using the whole DIBELS suite to assess their kids, then I feel badly for her, but maybe a wake up call is in order.
As I was looking around for information I also came across this, from the Vermont Society for the Study of Education:
First, a bit of background information. This DIBELS story is about one of my students who is reading on grade level and has earned a sizable number of points on our district's Reading Counts program. The student recently failed the DIBELS test of "nonsense words."Reading Counts is the Scholastic version of the popular Accelerated Reader program, where kids read books and take comprehension quizzes to earn points.
The Reading Counts program is a computerized program that encourages students to read and take a test on any of the books in the RC list. Each book is categorized according to grade level and has a point amount that can be earned by passing a test on that book. Students complete the books, pass the tests and accumulate points to earn incentives and prizes.
Sometimes the best readers have the most trouble with the nonsense word tests, because they have that perception that the best readers have--they want the words to make sense and fit into the context of the story. Reading lists of garbled letters doesn't appeal to them.
It's not realistic, though, to say that because a kid has done well on the computer that they're a good reader. I've had kids in my own class work Accelerated Reader to get the maximum points, even if there are serious deficiencies in their own reading skills. Just like the ASCD has been pushing--you have to look at the whole child.
Does your school use DIBELS? If so, how's it going?