The Predictive Utility of DIBELS Reading Assessment for Reading Comprehension among Third Grade English Language Learners and English Speaking Children

By Scheffel, Debora; Lefly, Dianne et al. | Reading Improvement, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview

The Predictive Utility of DIBELS Reading Assessment for Reading Comprehension among Third Grade English Language Learners and English Speaking Children


Scheffel, Debora, Lefly, Dianne, Houser, Janet, Reading Improvement


The study addresses the extent to which subtests on the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills Reading Assessment (DIBELS; Good & Kaminski, 2002) predict student success on a measure of reading comprehension and if prediction is consistent for native and second English Language Learners. 2,649 elementary students were assessed on a reading comprehension measure, of which 29.7% were English Language Learners. Descriptive and analytic statistics were generated including bivariate correlation analysis split by language proficiency. Critical measures and suggested cutoff values (Good. Simmons, et al., 2002) were evaluated for predictive utility by visualization of Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) curves (Swets, Dawes, & Monahan, 2000), and comparison of the area-under-the-curve (AUC) values. DIBELS better predicts children who are at "low risk" than those "'at risk;" however, DIBELS correctly classifies children "at risk" better for ELL than non-ELL students in third grade.

Key words: English Language Learners (ELL), DIBELS, Reading, Sensitivity, Specificity

Introduction

The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS; Good & Kaminski, 2002) is a measure designed to assess 3 of the 5 big ideas of early literacy espoused in the National Reading Panel report (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000): Phonological Awareness, the Alphabetic Principle, and Fluency with Connected Text. Measures of Phonological Awareness include Initial Sound Fluency (ISF) which assesses a child's skill to identify and produce the initial sound of a given word, and Phonemic Segmentation Fluency (PSF) which assesses a child's skill to produce the individual sounds within a given word. A measure of the Alphabetic Principle is Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF) which assesses a child's knowledge of letter-sound correspondences as well their ability to blend letters together to form unfamiliar "nonsense" (e.g., ilk, lig, etc.) words, and a measure of Fluency with connected text is Oral Reading Fluency (QRF) which assesses the number of correct words a child can read per minute in grade level connected text.

The authors of the DIBELS claim that its subtests are reliable predictors of reading underachievement and thus may be used to identify students in need of intervention and to reliably determine student progress (Good, Simmons & Kame'enui, 2001). DIBELS is being used in thousands of schools across the nation, often to provide formative data to schools accountable for increasing student achievement on end-of-grade-level state reading achievement tests. In spite of its widespread use, some question its utility in assessing reading comprehension, the undisputed goal of reading (Good et al., 2001). Samuels (2006) has been particularly critical of fluency measures on the DIBELS asserting that fluency involves both decoding and comprehending texts simultaneously, whereas the DIBELS Oral Reading Fluency measure focuses on decoding speed and does not assess comprehension. This may have particularly negative implications for the utility of DIBEILS with English Language Learners as they may be able to decode text rapidly without comprehending the passage due to impediments in vocabulary and syntax. Justifying the use of the DIBELS with children learning English as their second language, Kaminski et al. (2006) reported that "for English Language Learners who are learning to read in English, DIBELS are appropriate for assessing and monitoring progress in acquisition of early reading skills." Haager and Windmueller (2001) also assert that DIBELS have been used successfully with English language learners to predict reading underachievement, identify students in need of intervention and determine student progress. In addition, Riedel (2007) found that DIBELS Oral Reading Fluency and comprehension were more strongly correlated in ELL students than in non-ELL students, but because of the small size of the ELL sample in his study, further investigation was needed. …

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