Author: Alisa Dorman
Chief Operations Officer, Acadience Learning Inc.
Recently, I have been thinking about the significance of names. As I reflected on this, what came to mind first was the famous quote from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In the play, Juliet says, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” I imagine many have spent time in an English class discussing the meaning of this quote. Some interpret the quote as meaning a name by itself does not hold any significance, but instead serves only as a label to distinguish one thing (or person) from another. Another interpretation suggests that what matters most is what something is, not what it is called. So, this had me wondering. What is the importance of a name?
Names play a critical role in the perception others have of a business or team’s professional work. Sometimes, a name represents something specific related to a particular industry. Oftentimes names are associated with the standards or values guiding a business or professional work such as excellence, confidence, success. Names can also be acronyms which may be used to help convey something complicated in a less complicated way. The latter is exactly what happened over 30 years ago when Drs. Ruth Kaminski and Roland Good began their work in early literacy assessment. They were looking for a name that would represent their professional work. Something that would stand alone, but also represent to the education community what the work was and how it should be used.
In 1994, Drs. Good and Kaminski coined the name, DIBELS®, which is an acronym that stands for Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills. Their research and development of measures for screening and progress monitoring of early literacy development in grades K and 1 was based on pioneering work in the field of Curriculum Based Measurement (CBM) conducted by Stan Deno and colleagues at the University of Minnesota Institute for Research on Learning Disabilities. Drs. Kaminski and Good applied what was known about CBM to early literacy skills of phonemic awareness and basic phonics, developing measures such as Initial Sound Fluency (ISF), Phoneme Segmentation Fluency (PSF) and Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF). This had not been done by anyone else in the field of educational assessment. It was groundbreaking research. Brief indicators that represent larger skill sets which are essential for learning to read and predictive of future reading development. Benchmarks that clearly articulate minimum performance targets and the associated need for support associated with each.
More recently, Drs. Good and Kaminski along with others on their research and development team have expanded the family of assessments once known as DIBELS to include assessments in preschool literacy, middle school literacy, mathematics, and diagnostic reading assessments. They decided to evolve the name of their collective work to be inclusive of their latest research. Thus, a new name, Acadience®, was born to encompass this collective work and be inclusive of their latest research. The authors sold the name DIBELS to the University of Oregon who then used that name for a body of work not associated with Drs. Kaminski and Good.
Why is this important and what does it have to do with the quote, “What’s in a name?”
Over the past few years, I have been attending conference presentations and reading articles from journals and news outlets where the name DIBELS is referenced as if it is a generic name and not a specific one. Before 2018, any reference to DIBELS was singular and synonymous with the collective work of Drs. Good and Kaminski and others on the research and development team. Since 2018, however, it has become increasingly important that references to that name be clarified.
Drs. Kaminski and Good are the original authors of DIBELS including DIBELS 6th Edition, DIBELS Next (a/k/a Acadience Reading K-6) and all prior versions of DIBELS. They are not associated with DIBELS 8th Edition. DIBELS 8th Edition is not a new version of DIBELS Next or an extension of the work of Drs. Good and Kaminski, but rather a new work from a new authoring team using the name previously owned by Drs. Kaminski and Good. As such, it is helpful for understanding that any references to DIBELS be clarified whenever possible so everyone is clear on the appropriate attribution. References to DIBELS 6th Edition, DIBELS Next (a/k/a Acadience Reading K-6), any other assessment previously named DIBELS (e.g., DIBELS Math, DIBELS Deep) or any Acadience assessment are appropriately attributed to Drs. Good and Kaminski and the research team at Acadience Learning Inc. This means those assessments follow the same guiding principles related to research, the same approach to the test construction and use of the same interpretive framework known as the Outcomes-Driven Model for Decision Making.
Another way to think about this is in the way people reference soft drinks. Have you ever heard someone ask, “Do you want a coke?” and the response is, “Yes, I’d like a Pepsi.” In this example, the question is not specific to the brand, Coca-Cola, but rather a generic reference meaning cola. Similarly, when referencing CBMs broadly in articles or presentations, the writer/presenter is allowed to be generic. The acronym CBM represents a general approach to assessment that has been used by different researchers and authoring teams. When referencing a specific CBM, the writer/presenter can clarify by naming the correct CBM (e.g., Acadience Reading, Aimsweb, DIBELS 6th Ed. etc.).
Using a name to represent something general vs. specific also extends to social media and other communication platforms. I find the same broad use of the name, DIBELS, on these platforms. Some are using the name generically without regard to the specific authoring team or version of the assessment. Others are confused and may not know there are different versions and that there are distinct differences in the versions. I would advocate for clarity anytime there is reference to the name, DIBELS. What was once synonymous with the work of Drs. Good and Kaminski may not be as clear. Specificity is now required.
If we were to go back to the beginning of this blog and think about the answer to Juliet’s question, “What’s in a name?”, I believe the answer is, “More than you might think.” A name is significant, distinguishable and important in differentiating what something actually is. In the case of DIBELS, the name is central to its reference. If you are referencing the work of the original authors and researchers, pioneers in CBM assessment, a team that has dedicated their life to this work, it is important that the reference use the name, Acadience (or at least reference the specific version of DIBELS, such as DIBELS 6th Edition or DIBELS Next). This is the only way to ensure the reference is attributed correctly to Drs. Kaminski and Good.
What, you may ask, is synonymous with the name Acadience? Simply stated, a rich legacy of assessment research led by Drs. Good and Kaminski and their relentless dedication to improving outcomes for students, teachers and schools.
For more information on Acadience assessment or the history of the work of Dr. Ruth Kaminski and Dr. Roland H. Good III, please visit acadiencelearning.org.
Chief Operations Officer
Phone: 541-431-6931, ext. 150