Academic journal article School Psychology Review

An Empirical Review of Psychometric Evidence for the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

An Empirical Review of Psychometric Evidence for the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills

Article excerpt

In the current era of educational accountability, teachers and administrators are increasingly proactive in identifying and providing interventions for students at risk for reading failure (Good, Kaminski, Smith, Simmons, Kame'enui, & Wallin, 2003). Extensive evidence indicates that without early intervention, students with deficits in early literacy skills experience poor learning trajectories of reading growth (e.g., Cunningham & Stanovich, 1998; Juel, 1988; Stanovich, 1986). Thus, efficient measures are essential to monitor young children's development of early literacy skills (Fuchs & Fuchs, 1999). In response to this need, progress monitoring methods such as curriculum-based measurement (CBM) have been developed to follow students' academic skill development and identify students who may benefit from early intervention.

Alphabetic knowledge, phonemic awareness, and fluency are strong predictors of future literacy performance (Adams, 1990; Good, Simmons, & Kame'enui, 2001; Lundberg, Frost, & Petersen, 1988; Torgesen, 2002). Alphabetic knowledge involves associating letters with corresponding sounds (Byrne & Fielding-Barnsley, 1989). Phonemic awareness incorporates the skills of isolating, blending, and segmenting words into phonemes, or the ability to manipulate individual sounds within a word (Blachman, 1991). Fluency refers to automaticity, or reading at an appropriate pace with little cognitive effort (Hasbrouck, 1998). As such, these factors should be incorporated into early literacy progress monitoring measures to maximize predictive validity.

One of the most frequently used measures for screening and/or progress monitoring of these early literacy skills is the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS; University of Oregon, 2009; see Kaminski & Good, 1996). DIBELS encompasses a set of brief standardized measures for students in the primary grades (K-3), with additional measures available for students in the intermediate grades (4-6). DIBELS was developed to assess three of the key early literacy domains (phonological awareness, alphabetic understanding, and fluency) identified by the National Reading Panel (2000). Scores from DIBELS have been linked to reading fluency in later elementary years, which enables educators to identify and provide early intervention to struggling students at risk for future problems (Kaminski & Good, 1996). Like CBM, DIBELS is a form of general outcome measure, or a brief standardized measure with parallel forms that can be used to assess global skill growth over time (Hintze, Christ, & Methe, 2006). However, DIBELS differs from reading CBM in that it features standardized content rather than using materials sampled from a district's curriculum. Kaminski and Good (1996) describe the measure as "dynamic" because prereading skills are assessed on a continual basis and as "indicators" because they measure key components of basic early literacy skills.

DIBELS benchmark assessments are administered three times per year (fall, winter, spring). Scores can be compared to empirically derived decision categories for a student's grade level, thus allowing educators to identify struggling students and provide an appropriate reading intervention. Low-risk performance indicates that students have an 80% chance of achieving future proficiency. Some-risk performance denotes that students have a 50% chance of achieving future proficiency. Finally, at-risk performance indicates that students have an 80% chance of not achieving future proficiency (University of Oregon, 2009). In addition to the benchmark assessments, DIBELS includes multiple parallel forms of each measure that can be used monitor skill progress for students receiving additional instructional support.

DIBELS Overview

DIBELS (Good & Kaminski, 2002) consists of five core indicators, each measuring a fundamental early literacy skill: Initial Sound Fluency (ISF), Letter Naming Fluency (LNF), Phoneme Segmentation Fluency (PSF), Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF), and Oral Reading Fluency (ORF). …

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