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Questions Regarding the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS)

If you are having difficuty with the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) data system, please check out the DIBELS frequently asked questions (FAQ) page by clicking here

Click on the topic below to go to questions and answers regarding the specific question.

Q. How do I order DIBELS Assessment Materials for use with the MiBLSi Project?

A. DIBELS Next assessment materials can be downloaded from the Dynamic Measurement Group website

DIBELS 6th Edition assessment materials can be downloaded from the University of Oregon DIBELS Data System website

Printed copies of the assessment materials can be ordered through Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency (KRESA), or purchased from Sopris West Educational Services.


Are You Ready to Transition to DIBELS Next: 7th Edition?

(updated March 12, 2010)

Things to consider:

  • Schools must be trained by a DIBELS Mentor (certified by the Dynamic Measurement Group) who is also certified to assist schools as they transition to DIBELS Next.
  • Schools may not switch from the 6th Edition to DIBELS Next partway through the year. This means that if a school is not prepared to transition starting Fall 2010, that school will need to wait until Fall 2011 to transition.
  • Developing screening capacity for DIBELS Next will be a gradual process.
  • Transitioning to DIBELS Next will require allocation of time (for training, additional screening time, fidelity checks, analyzing new reports) and resources (cost of training, complete replacement of testing materials).
  • Schools have 2 years to make the transition. By August 2012, use of the 6th Edition will no longer be an option.
  • Wireless Generation is a year behind. It is estimated that Wireless Generation users will be able to use DIBELS Next starting in Fall 2011.
  • The decision about when to transition will need to be made district-wide. Districts cannot have schools using different versions.

Click here to download a DIBELS Next planning tool












First Sound Fluency

Q. How do I know if the student is saying the schwa sound (/u/) after the initial phoneme or saying the initial sounds (the blend)?

A. This is a judgment call. You should be able to hear the difference between a student who says /fu/ for “fish” or /fi/ for “fish”. If you do not hear the /u/ sound after the initial phoneme, the student is most likely saying the blend or giving an incorrect response.

Q. What is the correct sound for /r/?

A. There are multiple sounds for “r” that are considered correct. You should accept /ir/ or /rur/ or /ruh/.


Phoneme Segmentation Fluency

Q. How do I Distinguish the scoring rules for PSF vs. NWF

A. Scoring PSF and NWF can become confusing because you must underline the sounds that the student says in both measures. However, it is important to remind yourself what the purpose of the measure is. PSF is assessing the student’s ability to segment a spoken word into its component parts. A student receives a point in PSF for each different, correct sound segment that is produced. Therefore, you would like the student to identify each sound in the word to receive the optimal amount of points for that word. On the other hand, NWF is assessing the student’s ability to blend letter sounds into whole words. A student receives a point in NWF for each correct letter sound (CLS) that is said either in isolation or as a blend. Therefore, you would like the student read or sound out the word correctly to receive the optimal amount of correct letter sounds for the word.

For example:

If a word for PSF was sit and the student said: /si/…./t/ the student would get a score of 2 out of 3 possible points, because the /si/ was blended.

If a word for NWF was kif and the student read: /ki/…/f/ the student would get a score of 3 CLS out of 3 because each sound in the word was read correctly.




Letter Naming Fluency

Q. Can I count “l” as correct if the student says “one” instead of “L” or “I”?

A. No. We are assessing letters, not numbers, so the student should only tell you the letter name.




Nonsense Word Fluency

Q. When does a student receive credit for a Whole Word Read (WWR)?

A. A student receives credit for 1 Whole Word Read (WWR) for each whole word read correctly without being sounded out. The word can only be read ONCE. If it is read twice, it does not count as 1 WWR, but the student does receive credit for the Correct Letter Sounds (CLS).



DIBELS Oral Reading Fluency and Retell

Q. What numbers need to be recorded for DORF on the front of the scoring booklet?

A. When scoring a student’s ORF score within the scoring booklet it will ask you to record the Total Words, Errors, and Words Correct. However, on the front of the scoring booklet you must record the number of Words Correct (WC) and the number of Errors. Do not confuse Total Words with number of Words Correct!

Q. Why don’t the administration instructions for DORF ask students to read the title?

A. DIBELS does not direct the students to read the title because they feel that starting the timer with the first word of the passage gives a more reliable assessment and is more closely aligned with the conventions of curriculum-based measurement. The title still remains part of the measure because DIBELS wants to communicate that we want students to read for meaning, even during a fluency assessment. Removing the title may make the task feel less authentic. The directions do not tell the student not to read the title, but DIBELS tells the assessor not to read the title. The reasoning behind this is that if there are words in the title that appear in the passage, we would never know whether the student could read the words or just remembered what we read earlier.

Q. Is it appropriate to tell a student to skip a word if they do not know the word?

A. No. In the directions it states, “Please do your best reading. If you do not know a word, I will read the word for you.” The student should try to read each word and if the student does not provide the word within 3 seconds you say the word and mark it incorrect. It is in the best interest of the student try to read the word, but if he or she cannot, the assessor should say the word. This will give the student an advantage if the word is encountered again in the passage.

Q. What do I do if the student skips a line of words during DORF? Do I redirect them or do I let them continue reading?

A. It depends on what the student does. If the student skips a line and continues to read without pausing, cross out the line of words that were skipped and count each word as an error. If the student skips a line, but then realizes the mistake and goes back to the appropriate word, do not count the originally skipped words as errors. If the student pauses and seems to have lost his or her place, you may point to the next word to redirect them.

Q. If the student read 40 words on their DORF passage, but also made errors, do I administer the Retell?

A. The student should read 40 or more words correctly in order to administer the retell. If the student read fewer than 40 words correctly, use your professional judgment in determining whether to administer the retell.

Q. If a student is giving me an off-track response for the retell, should I interrupt as they are speaking and say, “Tell me as much as you can about the story?”

A. No. If the student hesitates for 3 seconds after providing an off-track response, then you may say “Tell me as much as you can about the story” or “ Can you tell me anything more about the story?” If the student does not hesitate, let them continue to speak for the remainder of the minute.

Q. Can I leave the DORF passage in front of the student when administering the Retell portion?

A. No. You must remove the passage before administering the Retell. The student is not allowed to look back at the passage.

Q. How do I identify the median scores for DORF and Retell?

A. On the front of the scoring booklet there are four categories for which you must find the median: Words Correct, Errors, Retell, and Retell Quality. Circle the median (middle) score in each category. These circles may be in different columns, depending on what the scores were for each passage. If the student only engages in the retell for two passages, the median is the average of the two numbers.

Q. When administering the retell, the assessor is asked to rate the quality of the retell based on the number of details in a “meaningful sequence.” What is considered “meaningful”?

A. This is a professional judgment. The rule states that you count as correct any words in the response that are related to the passage. The judgment is on whether the student is on topic or off-track, not the quality of their connections to the story.




Q. How do I score an item if it was left blank but the student continued to answer other items after it?

A. An item is considered incorrect if it was left blank and occurred before the last item the student attempted within the 3-minute time limit. You would mark a slash through the item left blank. Items left blank because the student could not get to them in time do not count as incorrect responses.

Q. How do I calculate a student’s Adjusted Score if the (number of correct responses – incorrect responses ÷2) is equal to a negative number?

A. The minimum Daze Adjusted Score is 0. Do not record a negative number.

Q. Can I record the student’s number of incorrect responses as a half number (ex. 1.5)?

A. No. On the cover sheet, C designates the number of correct responses and I designates the number of incorrect responses. After both of these scores are recorded, then calculate the Adjusted Score (number of correct responses – incorrect responses ÷2). This score is then rounded up to the nearest whole number.


Additional Resources

DIBELS Next Assessment Manual: available for download from or purchase from Sopris West.

DIBELS Next website: for general questions about DIBELS Next administration, scoring, and data entry. See the DIBELS FAQ tab.

DIBELS 6th Edition website: for general questions about DIBELS 6th Edition administration, scoring, and data entry. See the HELP tab.

Click here to download a support document that reviews common questions and answers for each DIBELS Next measure.