Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/0126edpeck26.html
Program helping kids learn to read quickly
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 26, 2004 12:00 AM
Carol Peck Guest columnist
DIBELS, anyone?

Ever heard of DIBELS? Neither had I, but was delighted to find that DIBELS is an unusual name for an inexpensive, easy-to-use tool that's helping thousands of Arizona schoolchildren become better readers.

DIBELS stands for Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills. It's a set of short, individual assessments developed at the University of Oregon to monitor the development of pre-reading and early reading skills in kindergarten through Grade 3.

Mary Lou Chavez, assistant principal at Isaac District's J.B. Sutton School, swears by it. DIBELS is being used for the first time this year. She said children's reading scores have gone up tremendously in just one semester and teachers are feeling more confident that they can help every student.

"DIBELS is an efficient way for teachers to target instruction," says Gina Taylor, principal at Kyrene de la Paloma School, where DIBELS is in its second year. They can pinpoint problems, intervene quickly and monitor student progress.

Taylor said the program also helps parents get on board because information from the assessments provides vivid indicators.

Kids love it, too, she said, because they love the results.

The DIBELS assessments address essential components of reading instruction written into the federal No Child Left Behind legislation. It measures student awareness of sounds, letters, letter-sound connections, and reading speed and accuracy, all indicators of early reading progress and predictors of later reading proficiency.

"DIBELS sets the target and the timeline," explained Carrie Hancock, Reading First specialist with the Arizona Department of Education. "These measures identify exactly where students should be as they develop reading skills."

At Le Pera School in the Parker Unified School District, where there are high percentages of English language learners and Native American students, approximately 50 percent of the school's first-graders started each year as struggling readers. DIBELS K-3 assessments were begun in 2002, and one year later, only 5 percent of their beginning first-graders were identified as "struggling" readers.

School psychologist Tracy Gappa credits DIBELS with guiding instructional decisions that have made such gains possible.

Hats off to DIBELS and the dedicated teachers who make it work.

Readers can get more information about DIBELS at http://dibels.uoregon.edu.

Carol Peck is president and chief executive officer of the Rodel Charitable Foundation of Arizona. She is former superintendent of the Alhambra Elementary School District. Send your questions and ideas to her at rodel@rodelfoundations.org.


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