How to Use DIBELS Progress Monitoring with All Students

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What is DIBELS?

The DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) reading assessment is a test that teachers give to K-6 students to assess their literacy skills. It measures phonological awareness, alphabetic principle, and fluency with connected text. DIBELS is designed to be given quickly, less than 10 minutes a student, several times throughout the year (DIBELS progress monitoring), and usually to students in primary grades. The DIBELS test was first created by the Institute for Research and Learning Disabilities at the University of Minnesota in the 1970s and 1980s, according to the Official DIBELS website run by the University of Oregon.


What is Progress Monitoring?

According to the Oregon Reading First Center, DIBELS progress monitoring is when teachers give the same assessment to their students throughout the school year to see if students are making progress toward their reading goals and mastering curriculum objectives and state standards. When the DIBELS assessment is given at the beginning of the school year to all students, teachers can use that information to group students with the same ability levels together and to guide reading instruction. When the same assessment is given at other times throughout the year during progress monitoring, teachers can still use the data to group students and to guide reading instruction as well as using assessment results to check if students are making adequate progress. If students are making adequate progress according to DIBELS progress monitoring, then teachers will know their instructional techniques and strategies are on the right track. If not, then teachers can re-evaluate their methods and create new plans to keep students on track with reading.

How often do you Test Students?

The DIBELS assessment is set up to use DIBELS progress monitoring several times throughout the school year, depending on the students' reading ability level. If a student is at low-risk for reading below grade level, then he will be tested three times a year with the DIBELS reading tests. All students start out “low risk.” Progress monitoring will show whether or not progress is being made for students reading at any level. Once all students are tested the initial time, some may then be labeled as having some risk or at risk. This means, students may not be reading at grade level or show indications that they struggle with an area of reading such as phonemic awareness.

If students have some risk, meaning that they are reading slightly below grade level or have difficulty in one area of the test, then progress monitoring requires testing this student once a month. To some teachers, this may seem like a lot of testing, but the assessment is quick. Also, one teacher will not have too many students in this category. Most of the class will fall in the low risk category in a regular elementary classroom.

If a student is labeled “at risk,” a teacher will give him the DIBELS assessment every two weeks. These results will show teachers exactly what progress students are making and what teachers still need to focus on to move students toward reading on grade level. This progress monitoring is referred to as “intensive.” The benefit of testing so often is that an intervention strategy is implemented, and then teachers can see almost immediately if it is making any difference for the student.

The DIBELS site on the University of Oregon website ( has progress monitoring tools that teachers can use online. Teachers enter data into the program, and they can create different reports, including graphs. There is information to help teachers interpret data. There is a fee for these tools.

This post is part of the series: DIBELS information

These articles provide information about the DIBELS reading assessment from the University of Oregon.

  1. DIBELS Progress Monitoring and Assessment
  2. DIBELS Reading Assessment Pros and Cons