Skip to Main Content

DIBELS Oral Reading Fluency and Retell Fluency

Description of the ORF and RTF Measures

DIBELS Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) is a standardized, individually administered test of accuracy and fluency with connected text. The DIBELS ORF passages and procedures are based on Stan Deno and colleagues' program of research and development of Curriculum-Based Measurement of Reading at the University of Minnesota. These procedures are described in Shinn (1989). A version of CBM reading also has been published as The Test of Reading Fluency (TORF) (Children's Educational Services, 1987). ORF is a standardized set of passages and administration procedures designed to (a) identify children who may need additional instructional support, and (b) monitor progress toward instructional goals. The passages are calibrated for each grade level. Student performance is measured by having students read a passage aloud for one minute. Words omitted, substituted, and hesitations of more than three seconds are scored as errors. Words self-corrected within three seconds are scored as accurate. The number of correct words per minute is the oral reading fluency score. DIBELS ORF includes both benchmark passages to be used as screening assessments across the school year, as well as 20 alternate forms for monitoring progress.

Retell Fluency (RTF) is intended to provide a comprehension check for the ORF assessment. In general, oral reading fluency provides one of the best measures of reading competence, including comprehension, for children in first through third grades. The purpose of the RTF measure is to (a) prevent inadvertently learning or practicing a misrule, (b) identify children whose comprehension is not consistent with their fluency, (c) provide an explicit linkage to the core components in the NRP report, and (d) increase the face validity of the ORF.

  1. The misrule that we want to prevent is that speed-reading without attending to meaning is either desirable or the intent of the oral reading fluency measure. With a prompted retell, children will be less likely to conclude, and teachers will be less likely to imply, that simply reading as fast as they can is the desired behavior.
  2. Teachers frequently are concerned about children who read fluently and do not comprehend. This pattern is infrequent but may apply to some children. This procedure may identify those children without unduly increasing the amount of time spent in the assessment.
  3. The National Reading Panel (2000) report is clear on the core components of early reading, and the DIBELS measures map explicitly onto the first three (i.e., Phonemic Awareness, Alphabetic Principle, and Accuracy and Fluency with connected text). Retell Fluency is included to provide a brief measure with an explicit score that corresponds directly to the comprehension core component.
  4. A primary concern teachers have about oral reading fluency is the face validity of the measure (i.e., some see it as solely a measure of "speed reading"). Incorporation of an explicit comprehension check may help teachers feel increasingly comfortable with oral reading fluency as an indicator of overall reading proficiency.

DIBELS 6th Edition Technical Adequacy of the ORF and RTF Measures

Oral Reading Fluency: A series of studies has confirmed the technical adequacy of CBM reading. Test-retest reliabilities for elementary students ranged from .92 to .97; alternate form reliability of different reading passages drawn from the same level ranged from .89 to .94 (Tindal, Marston & Deno, 1983). Criterion-related validity from eight separate studies in the 1980's reported coefficients ranging from .52 to .91 (Good & Jefferson, 1998).

Retell Fluency: Preliminary evidence indicates for students to be on track with comprehension, they should meet both of the following criteria: 1) meet the oral reading fluency benchmark goal, and 2) have a retell score of at least 25% of their oral reading fluency score. Retell Fluency should be administered to students who are reading at least 40 words per minute.

How do ORF and RTF link to the Big Ideas in Beginning Reading?

DIBELS Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) is a measure that assesses Accuracy and Fluency with Text, the ability to effortlessly translate letters to sounds and sounds to words. The fluent reader is one whose decoding processes are automatic, requiring no conscious attention. Such capacity then enables readers to allocate their attention to the comprehension and meaning of the text.

To learn more about accuracy and fluency with text, visit the Big Ideas in Beginning Reading: Reading Fluency pages.

Retell Fluency (RTF) is a measure that assesses comprehension, the ability to extract meaning from text.

To learn more about comprehension, visit the Big Ideas in Beginning Reading: Comprehension pages.