What are DIBELS?

Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills

Roland H. Good, III, PhD and Ruth A. Kaminski, PhD

DIBELS® Overview

DIBELS Testing

DIBELS are individually administered measures of student skills in each of the key basic early literacy skills.

The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) are a set of procedures and measures for assessing the acquisition of early literacy skills from kindergarten through sixth grade. They are designed to be short (one minute) fluency measures used to regularly monitor the development of early literacy and early reading skills.

DIBELS are comprised of seven measures to function as indicators of phonemic awareness, alphabetic principle, accuracy and fluency with connected text, reading comprehension, and vocabulary. DIBELS were designed for use in identifying children experiencing difficulty in acquisition of basic early literacy skills in order to provide support early and prevent the occurrence of later reading difficulties.

History of DIBELS

DIBELS were developed based on measurement procedures for Curriculum-Based Measurement (CBM), which were created by Deno and colleagues through the Institute for Research and Learning Disabilities at the University of Minnesota in the 1970s-80s (e.g., Deno and Mirkin, 1977; Deno, 1985; Deno and Fuchs, 1987; Shinn, 1989). Like CBM, DIBELS were developed to be economical and efficient indicators of a student's progress toward achieving a general outcome.

Initial research on DIBELS was conducted at the University of Oregon in the late 1980s. Since then, an ongoing series of studies on DIBELS has documented the reliability and validity of the measures as well as their sensitivity to student change. The DIBELS authors were motivated then, as now, by the desire to improve educational outcomes for children, especially those from poor and diverse backgrounds. Research on DIBELS continues at DMG and at numerous universities and research institutions around the world.

References and Additional Resources

Download the DIBELS Next Information Sheet for details about DIBELS Next, the current version of the DIBELS assessment.

Click here to download a complete list of references related to DIBELS including technical reports and articles on the foundations of CBM.

For further discussion on DIBELS history and utility, please review "Best Practices in Using DIBELS for Formative Assessment and Evaluation" by Ruth Kaminski, Kelli D. Cummings, Kelly A. Powell-Smith, and Roland H. Good III, which is listed on the Publications and Presentations page.


Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) is the culmination of years of work by many individuals concerned with improving reading outcomes for children. Since the initiation of work on the development of a general outcomes measure for students in kindergarten and first grade in 1988, hundreds of people have directly or indirectly contributed to the development of DIBELS or its forerunner, Curriculum Based Measures of Pre-reading Skills (CBM-P, Kaminski and Good, 1996).

Our work on DIBELS is based on previous work on Curriculum-Based Measurement conducted by Dr. Stan Deno and a team of outstanding researchers at the University of Minnesota Institute for Research on Learning Disabilities that was begun in the 1970s and continues today.

From 1996 to 2001 research and development on DIBELS was supported by the Early Childhood Research Institute on Measuring Growth and Development (ECRI-MGD) funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The collaboration and support of Drs. Scott McConnell, Mary McEvoy and colleagues of the University of Minnesota, along with that of Drs. Judy Carta, Charles Greenwood and colleagues of the University of Kansas were critical in the further refinement of our initial DIBELS measures.

Graduate students, faculty members and staff, and researchers all over the country continue to conduct research and contribute substantially to the ongoing development of DIBELS.

Finally, thousands of children and their parents, teachers, and school administrators have participated in collecting data on the many iterations of DIBELS since 1988. This ongoing collaboration has helped ensure that DIBELS is a valuable as well as practical tool for educators.

Through 2005, DMG has made an annual donation equivalent to the amount of royalties from the sale of DIBELS that year to the University of Oregon to be used for research. In the fall of 2005, DMG established a permanent endowment at the University in the College of Education to provide funding for graduate students working in the area of early literacy. The Dynamic Measurement Group Research Award for Literacy Study provides annual stipends to students who are developing or conducting research on measurement, intervention, or instructional support regarding early literacy. Beginning in 2006, proceeds from the sale of DIBELS materials have been placed in a research account at DMG, and these funds are used to support ongoing research and development of the measures.