As teachers, we can often become so accustomed to hearing certain professional terms that we do not always consider that they are not part of the public vernacular. One example of this I saw when I was a teacher was with DIBELS scores. I would rattle off acronyms like PSF or NWF and assume that parents knew what I was talking about and what the implications were for their child. It has become clear to me that they often did not. So, to save you some time I created a handy reference sheet you can use with research supported data when talking to parents about their child’s DIBELS scores. 

It is important to know that DIBELS can also give parents some major anxiety. While it is not a perfect measure, it can be an accurate predictor of future reading outcomes, but in order to understand possible outcomes, they first must understand what is tested and what each score means. I find it helpful to go over each subtest individually with them. If you need some more information on that, this blog geared towards parents can be a great place to start. 

It is crucial for parents to understand the scoring system. Parents will need to know if their child is Well Below Benchmark, Below Benchmark, At Benchmark, or Above Benchmark. You can give them this information as well as their child’s composite score. 

Once they have the score, it is helpful to break down exactly what each one of these scores means for their child.

  • Above Benchmark: If your child scores Above Benchmark it means your child is performing well above the average for their grade level. Given appropriate core classroom instruction, the chances that they will meet literacy goals is above 90%.
  • At Benchmark: If your child scores At Benchmark they are performing at an average level for their grade. Without intervention and with only effective core classroom instruction, the likelihood that they will reach early literacy goals is 70% to 85%. Students who score at the lower level of At Benchmark are likely to need some strategic intervention to reach reading goals.
  • Below Benchmark: If your child scores Below Benchmark, it is very likely that classroom support will not be enough for them to reach subsequent reading goals. In fact, with only core classroom instruction, the likelihood that students who score Below Benchmark will achieve reading goals is only about 40% to 60%. If your child scores in this area, it may be time to think about an effective reading program for them.
  • Well Below Benchmark: If your child scores Well Below Benchmark goals, it means they are significantly behind grade level norms. Without appropriate intervention, the likelihood that they will make reading progress is only about 10% to 20%. These students need intensive reading intervention.

Once parents understand their child’s scores, they have more information and can find the best way to support their child at home. Providing intervention for struggling students supports your classroom goals and helps ensure that all of your students are successful. 

Becky Welsch

Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.
Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy.