PUSD Set Up To Implement Reading Screenings At Elementary Schools

Emma Eisemon, Staff Writer

PUSD will implement the first round of the Dynamic Indicators of Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) screeners by January, 2023.  DIBELS screening is part of the California Dyslexia Initiative, which provides early intervention and support for students with reading disorders. 

The DIBELS screener is a set of standardized, individually administered tests that measure early literacy development. The screener aims to identify characteristics of reading disorders such as dyslexia. It has been used in schools nationwide for 40 years. 

 Douglas Harter, Director of Special Education, said that PUSD will be screening students at the beginning, middle, and end of each school year, kindergarten through fourth grade. The screener takes about four minutes for kindergarten and eight minutes for first through fourth grade.

The DIBELS screener will identify students who need additional data review and evaluation before possible placement in a reading intervention group. PUSD’s reading intervention groups are generally four to six weeks long followed by an evaluation of student progress. 

“We can also use DIBELS to monitor the progress every week or so of a student that is in reading intervention so we can be assured that the extra support is resulting in successful gains in reading skills,” Harter said. The student remains in the intervention group for another cycle if they don’t meet grade-level standards. 

“We are going to catch students who struggle quietly,” English teacher Mercedes Foster said.

Dyslexia is one of many language processing disorders that DIBELS screening helps identify. It affects 15-20 percent of students to varying degrees by impairing ability to comprehend, read, write and speak.  

“[Dyslexia] mostly just affects me when I’m reading or have to read out loud in school. It’s hard to follow reading directions too. I usually only understand directions if I hear them out loud and read them,” said a dyslexic PHS junior.

Early intervention is vital to younger students who struggle due to dyslexia or other reading disorders. 

“If children who have dyslexia receive effective phonological awareness and phonics training in Kindergarten and first grade, they will have significantly fewer problems in learning to read at grade level than do children who are not identified or helped until third grade,” according to California Dyslexia Guidelines, 2017.  

PUSD can use data from DIBELS to more effectively use limited district resources for language interventions and provide a baseline for measuring the effectiveness of language teaching techniques. DIBELS screening will identify more struggling students for further evaluation and early interventions.