Dr. Andrews, thank you for reading the article on using the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) with students who are deaf or hard of hearing that was recently published in the American Annals of the Deaf, and for taking the time to craft a response sharing some of your perceptions of the article. Dr. Paul, thank you for inviting me to continue the dialogue. In an effort to further the discussion, I provide the following comments, responses, and questions.
Dr. Andrews, I agree with many of the points you made, including (a) the additional reasons for teaching literacy, (b) the potential limitations of how evidence-based practices (EBPs) are identified, and (c) the need for multiple paradigms for early literacy in the field of education of students who are deaf or hard of hearing. I also think that readers would benefit from some additional discussion of a few of the issues you note.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I want to begin by reminding you and informing readers that I asked you to serve on the panel to examine the DIBELS. You declined the offer (J. Andrews, personal communication, October 2, 2010). Two additional important points need to be highlighted to help frame this discussion.
First, the DIBELS is used for progress monitoring; that is “frequent and ongoing measurement of student knowledge and skills and the examination of student data to evaluate instruction” (Vaughn, Bos, & Schumm, 2007, p. 74). Progress monitoring is brief and repeatable, allows for error analyses, and helps educators to determine if an instructional adjustment needs to be made so that instruction can be more effective (Salvia, Ysseldyke, & Bolt, 2010). Progress monitoring data are recorded on graphs so that professionals can easily evaluate an individual’s progress, or lack of progress, over time. Progress monitoring has become an essential component of early prevention and intervention models. Data collected and reviewed during the progress monitoring process have helped move professionals from the position of teach and hope to the precise process of assess, teach, monitor, evaluate, and adjust (Wagner & Scierka, 2012). Progress monitoring measures are also used as efficient screening tools, providing educators with data to indicate which students may need additional assessment or supplemental instruction (Foegen, 2012). Finally, progress monitoring is considered one of the features of effective instruction (Vaughn Gross Center for Reading and Language Arts, 2007). Surprisingly, you did not address the topic of progress monitoring in your response, but instead chose to focus much of your discussion on the general topic of assessment.
Second, the DIBELS includes seven measures (i.e., Letter Naming Fluency, Initial Sound Fluency, Phoneme Segmentation Fluency, Nonsense Word Fluency, Oral Reading Fluency, Retell Fluency, and Word Use Fluency). Your discussion focuses on phonology and phonemic awareness, with no recognition of the other measures such as oral reading, retelling, and word use. In addition, there is a portion of the population of students who are deaf or hard of hearing who benefit from explicit instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics (Lederberg, Schick, & Spencer, 2013).
In the section of your letter you title “Alternative Views of the Assessment of Early Literacy,” you write,
Stallman and Pearson (2009) and Mason and Stewart (1990) advocate informal assessment that involves systematic observation and, for young children, performance samples of reading and writing. This type of evaluation can provide teachers with information on how to design more effective instruction. As an informal early reading assessment, it also allows teachers to understand how children comprehend, compose, decode, and encode in meaningful reading and writing activities like those that happen in the day-to-day classroom. [End Page 406]
I agree, informal assessments that can guide instruction are excellent. Would you share with readers a resource that you have found that delineates the early literacy behaviors of students who are deaf or hard of hearing that professionals and families can use to determine current levels of functioning and to establish early literacy goals and objectives? Interestingly, you only mentioned one assessment tool in your response, the Early Childhood Screening and Diagnostic Intervention (Mason & Stewart, 1989), which appears to be out of print. Also, I am unable...