Reading First, DIBELS, and School Psychologists
President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act in January of 2002. The goal of this act is to ensure that all children are reading at grade level by the end of third grade. To accomplish this goal, the federal government allocated more than 900 million dollars per year for states to implement research-based reading programs aimed at improving the reading performance of all students in public schools. The grant program through which states access their share of the 900 million dollars is referred to as Reading First. At this time all 50 states have been approved for Reading First funds.
To receive Reading First funds, eligible school districts must submit a proposal to their state outlining how they plan to teach their students to read using research based practices. These practices, referred to as Scientifically-Based Reading Research (SBRR), are based on the findings of an extensive review of the literature by the National Reading Panel in the mid-to-late 1990s. The specific requirements for programs may vary by state, but they must follow guidelines set forth by the federal government. These guidelines include, but are not limited to, providing instruction in the five critical areas of reading development (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension), using core programs that adhere to SBRR standards, dedicating a large block of time each day to reading instruction, and using ongoing assessment and progress monitoring to ensure that, in fact, no child is left behind in their reading development.
Reading First schools are required to assess students for several purposes, including screening, progress monitoring, diagnostic, and outcome. Screening helps teachers and staff to identify the skills that entering students have acquired and those that need additional development. Progress monitoring involves ongoing assessment to determine whether students are learning while instruction is taking place. Schools must use progress monitoring to ensure that their instruction is having the desired impact. If the assessment data indicate that students are not achieving the desired skills, changes can be made to instructional programs. The purpose of diagnostic assessment is to determine exactly which skills a student has mastered and which skills the student needs to learn. This will assist teachers in determining what to teach their students to achieve the greatest results. Outcome assessment occurs after instruction has taken place, and is used to evaluate whether an instructional program has led to the desired learning outcomes. Outcome assessment typically occurs toward the end of each school year. An additional purpose of outcome assessment is to determine whether schools will continue to receive Reading First funds.
To satisfy the assessment and evaluation component of SBRR, some states have required schools to use Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) for screening, progress monitoring, diagnostic, and/or outcome. New York is one of the states requiring schools to use DIBELS as a component of the assessment plan. This requirement poses a challenge for the limited number of individuals qualified to provide training and technical assistance to schools learning how to administer, score, and interpret DIBELS. The demand for training, while already high, may exceed the availability of the existing cadre of trainers once the Reading First schools are identified. To be successful, states will need to identify resources for providing technical support to Reading First schools as well as strategies for expanding the number of personnel who could provide quality training and assistance in the administration, scoring, and use of the data.
School psychologists have the potential of contributing significantly to the assessment efforts required by Reading First. Few school employees have as much background in standardized assessment and use of data as school psychologists. In fact, DIBELS and the DIBELS Data System were developed and refined by school psychologists, and the majority of national DIBELS trainers are school psychologists. A psychologist who has experience with DIBELS can provide training and assistance in the administration, scoring, and use of school-wide data, and will be an immense resource to a Reading First school. Anyone seeking employment as a school psychologist may want to highlight any training or experience with DIBELS when communicating with prospective employers, especially when applying for positions in districts receiving Reading First funding. Currently employed school psychologists who are interested in expanding their roles and assisting their schools with large-scale literacy development should seek opportunities to learn more about DIBELS and how it is used within a Reading First assessment plan. If your district has applied for a Reading First grant and has not yet included you in the process, talk to your curriculum director to learn more about how you can assist them with the assessment component.
For more information about Reading First in New York State, visit this link:
For more information about the Federal Reading First guidelines, visit this link: