To the Editor:
The article “House Panel Grills Witnesses on Reading First” (April 25, 2007) describes the contentious investigative hearing by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Education and Labor Committee about possible conflicts of interest in the federal Reading First program. During that April 20 hearing, committee members questioned the role of Roland H. Good III, a senior author of the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, or DIBELS, reading test. Some members alleged that DIBELS’ increased school adoption was because of Mr. Good’s involvement on the Reading First assessment-selection committee.
A study by one of my doctoral students indicates that DIBELS is an excellent test for predicting reading achievement. Kristi Sandvik compared 1st through 6th graders’ scores on DIBELS and two other early-identification reading tests with their scores on a comprehensive reading-achievement test. Her findings showed that DIBELS scores predicted reading achievement at each grade level, while the other two tests were only predictive on some subtests at some grades.
A study published this month in The Elementary School Journal by Stephen G. Schilling, Joanne F. Carlisle, Sarah E. Scott, and Ji Zeng confirmed this predictive value of DIBELS for reading achievement. The increased use of DIBELS may be a simple artifact of school personnel using the best test available.
Committee members’ allegations about Mr. Good’s possible conflicts of interest and profiteering seem bewildering. Publishers of the other 23 reading tests on the adopted list charge for their test forms, resulting in a significant expense to schools. In contrast, DIBELS forms are free from the DIBELS Web site. In addition, Mr. Good contributes profits from DIBELS (for example, from its automated reports and analyses, an optional service) to his university and the future development of that test.
Gary L. Adams
Professor of Educational Foundations
School of Education
George Fox University
A version of this article appeared in the May 23, 2007 edition of Education Week as Defending DIBELS Author Against Conflicts Charge