Getting started with DIBELS in your school?
DIBELS stands for: Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills.
DIBELS are a set of procedures and measures for assessing the acquisition of literacy skills.
The subtests are designed to be short (one minute) fluency measures that can be used to regularly detect students at risk, and monitor the development of foundational literacy and reading skills from (NZ) Year 1 to Year 9.
DIBELS has been developed and researched by the University of Oregon.
🗣️ Pronunciation: The researchers who created this assessment suite pronounce DIBELS to rhyme with ‘dribbles’.
I’m supporting some New Zealand schools to trial using DIBELS this year, as they continue their shift towards evidence-based literacy teaching and assessment. We are looking forward to the informative data these screening tools will give us regularly throughout the year as we build a clearer picture of our learners, and monitor the effect of our teaching on student learning.
Australasian Version of DIBELS 8 Released by the University of Oregon
DIBELS has released new DIBELS 8th Edition: Australasian Version Materials.
These replacement Benchmark materials have British spelling, and a few vocabulary / word changes. For example Mom ➞ Mum; and dollar bill ➞ dollar note. Also there is an updated 2023 Administration & Scoring Manual provided.
You will also need to download the original Progress Monitoring materials (not altered for Australasia). It’s fine to use these – DIBELS research indicated there was no difference in performance by Australian students when given materials with American vs. British spelling.
Make your materials NZ User-Friendly
Before you print the materials out for use in your setting, take a little time to add some clear markings to every single page of the PDF documents, indicating the New Zealand year level, as shown below. You can do this by digitally printing each file to PDF, and “adding a watermark”. This really helps everyone locate and use the correct materials when assessing their students. It’s easy to get mixed up with the American or Australian Grade levels, which don’t match ours in Aotearoa.
DIBELS are normed on American children in US grades K-8: the benchmarks are not based on a sample of New Zealand children. However, I feel that in the absence of NZ normative data, when used consistently throughout a school DIBELS will:
- build a detailed picture of specific teaching and learning needs,
- sensitively identify learners at-risk for reading failure, and
- detect rates of progress over short time-frames to see if the teaching we are doing is WORKING to help student catch up and keep up. The progress monitoring assessments can be used fortnightly to help guide our responsive teaching.
Learn how to use DIBELS:
Here are my suggestions for freely available readings and webinars to help you get started:
I’d also like to recommend joining an excellent Facebook group based over in Australia: DIBELS in Oz , who have an active community discussing the implementation of DIBELS in their schools. Lots of useful resources are generously shared, including the amazing spreadsheet (below) that categorises subtest scores (colour coded) into the different score bands, and calculates the composite scoring for you! Teachers are such awesome humans!!
Update June 2023: We also now have our very own Facebook group: DIBELS in New Zealand – come and join the conversation!
DIBELS data spreadsheet
Here is the most up to date version of the data collection and scoring spreadsheet that I have been using and tinkering with. I really recommend using Excel over Google Sheets for your data – the protection of the cells is much better, so your data & formulas should be less prone to getting broken. The password to EDIT the Excel sheet is DIBELS .
Current version: V0.5 updated Sept 27, 2023.
Updates: Excel + Google sheet now both cover NZ Years 1-9.
Errors fixed: NZ Year 2 BOY composite calculation was incorrect; NZ Year 4 EOY Maze was formatted as %
I hope you find this info helpful, and would love to hear from you in the comments how it goes for you, and what you find out about your learners.
Ngā mihi mahana,