New Features and Benchmark Goals

July 2012
Information about the new features of the UO DIBELS Data System including the unbundling of the composite score and new recommended benchmark goals.


Narrator: New Features of the DIBELS Data System. The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, commonly known as DIBELS, is a widely used system of measures for assessing early literacy skills of students in Kindergarten through 6th grade. The DIBELS Data System, or DDS, was the first web-based system of its kind and is now used by 20% of the nation’s elementary schools. The DDS is the leading online system for utilizing the DIBELS assessment data. There are two important changes in the DDS that we think users of DIBELS will find very meaningful to their work: the composite score has been unbundled so that some measures are now optional and the establishment of new benchmark goals. Unbundling the composite score has two important features. First, it is no longer required to administer all measures during benchmark testing. Second, the DDS is using a new rating system for each measure. Let’s take a look at these features and the benefits they provide.

Kelli D. Cummings Ph.D., CTL Research Associate: We received strong and clear feedback from schools that they didn’t like all of the additional assessment time that it took to give all of the other additional measures that are required to obtain the composite score.

Scott K. Baker Ph.D., CTL Associate Director: So the alternative is to look at selected individual measures and make instructional decisions based on those measures.

Narrator: The DDS has created a new rating system for each measure.

Dr. Cummings: In our research we found that all measures don’t contribute equally to the prediction of later reading outcomes. Some predict much more strongly than others.

Dr. Baker: It should be an option for schools to weigh the cost benefits of administering more tests that take more time or using that time to provide extra instruction, for example, and so we feel that providing an option is really the way to go. There are three categories of measures: Those that are Required in order to get an instructional recommendation; Those that are Optional, that we Endorse; and those that are Optional, but we do Not Endorse them.

Narrator: Using our new rating system, you will see that Daze is Optional, Endorsed. However, Retell Fluency is Optional, Not Endorsed.

Dr. Cummings: By omitting Retell for universal screening with all of your students, that can save an average K-6 school 44 hours per year in assessment time alone.

Dr. Baker: It saves you a lot of time and it saves you a lot of money in test administration and scoring.

Narrator: The second major change to the DDS is the establishment of new benchmark goals for each of the required DIBELS Next measures. The establishment of new benchmark goals has three important features. First, a strong research base; second, a nationally representative sample; and third, a prevention-oriented framework.

Keith Smolkowski Ph.D., Research Scientist, Oregon Research Institute: The DIBELS family of assessments is probably one of the most researched groups of curriculum-based measures in the country.

Narrator: Improvement to the DDS comes from rigorous technical evaluations of DDS data and feedback from users. CTL conducts its own research and then receives independent external reviews from leading researchers at other universities.

Edward J. Kame'enui Ph.D., CTL Director, Dean-Knight Professor: The most important thing for the data system is that it’s reliable and trustworthy.

Narrator: During the 2010-2011 school year, 12,954 schools serving students in grades K-6 used the DDS, and a sub-group participated to create a nationally representative sample. This sample was used to develop the new benchmark goals.

Dr. Smolkowski: A representative sample is a collection of students that represent the students that are in schools across the nation.

Dr. Cummings: We want to make sure that the benchmark goals hold true, not just for one set of students in one type of school, but for most students in most schools around the country.

Narrator: Finally, the new benchmark goals are aligned with a prevention-oriented framework. The true benefit of using the recommended goals is that educators can make sound research-based instructional decisions that will positively impact the lives of the students they teach.

Dr. Cummings: When the new benchmark goals for DIBELS Next are used within a prevention-oriented framework, teachers can feel very confident that they are identifying students early and that they’re identifying the correct students who have a need for additional instructional support.

Dr. Smolkowski: They do a better job of identifying which students really need support, which students need more intensive support, and provide a better opportunity for teachers to improve and work with those students, improve their reading skills before it’s too late.

Narrator: Thank you for your time. We think these new features of the DIBELS Data System are important to effective reading assessment and instruction. We wish you the best in the year to come in the valuable work you do as educators. For additional information please explore our website or call us at 1-(888)-497-4290.