Zones of Growth
Zones of Growth provides educators with an easy, empirically based way to set individualized student literacy goals and evaluate students’ progress towards those goals.
With the Zones of Growth tool and report, setting and tracking student growth goals is easy. Educators can review growth as months of growth or growth percentiles.
Zones of Growth combines students' baseline performance on key DIBELS measures with normative data regarding average and above-average growth for students with similar initial skill levels to help teachers set ambitious, yet realistic learning goals for students. Given the wide range of student skill in many classrooms, setting and evaluating learning goals for each student can be challenging. For instance:
- Should all students be expected to grow at the same rate?
- Did a student with a low baseline score make meaningful growth, even if she did not meet the end of year benchmark goal?
- Is it typical for students to grow 20, 30, or 40 words per minute on Oral Reading Fluency (ORF)?
- How much did my students grow compared to other students with similar scores?
Entering Student Goals
Once baseline* benchmark data has been entered in the DDS, use the Zones of Growth data entry tool to identify an individualized learning goal for each student. Simply select the desired rate of growth (i.e., average, above average, or ambitious growth), and the system will automatically calculate the corresponding learning goal relative to the student’s baseline score, and provide an indication of whether the specified rate of growth is sufficient to reach the end of year benchmark goal.
You may also choose to enter an IEP or custom goal (e.g., when a student does not have a baseline score) and use the notes feature to track changes to or provide more information about students’ goals as needed.
This Quick-Start Guide has complete information on entering Zones of Growth data and running reports.
*Baseline varies depending on the grade and version of DIBELS you are using. For DIBELS 8th Edition in grades K-8 baseline is equivalent to beginning of year. For DIBELS 6th Edition and Acadience® Reading (formerly DIBELS Next) in grades 2-6, baseline is equivalent to beginning of year. In kindergarten and grade 1, the Zones of Growth tool divides goal setting and reporting into separate beginning-to-middle and middle-to-end of year time frames.
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As middle and end of year benchmark data is entered, review the goals set for your students and their progress toward them using the Zones of Growth report. This report provides a more nuanced understanding of individual student performance than is available by simply comparing a student’s benchmark score to either a benchmark goal or a normative percentile rank.
View the web report or download a printable PDF to see the total number of students for whom a goal has been set and the percentage who are on track to meet or have met their goal. The report also shows growth percentiles, growth goals, months of growth* and progress towards the selected goal.
*Reporting growth as a number of months is a common practice for many states or districts. A typical school year has between 9 and 10 months of instruction, so the statement “This student made 9 months of growth” indicates that the student improved their score by approximately the same amount as other students with similar initial scores grew in one school year. This can simplify the process of communicating growth to parents or other agencies. The Zones of Growth report estimates months of growth relative to the average monthly growth for student with similar initial scores, and a time frame of 9 months between the beginning of year and end of year assessment periods. Months are reported as full or half, rounded down to avoid overstating growth.
Analysis for the DIBELS 8 th Edition Zones of Growth feature was conducted by the Center on Teaching and Learning at the University of Oregon, using a nationally representative convenience sample of more than 10,000 students enrolled in US schools that participated in DIBELS 8 research studies in 2017-18 and 2018-19. As part of continuous improvement, the University of Oregon has updated the national percentiles and Zones of Growth based on the large sample of data (2.8 million students) from both mCLASS and the DIBELS Data System from the 2021-2022 school year. These updates will better reflect the performances and growth of students. The new percentiles and Zones of Growth analysis are applied to reports across all years of DIBELS 8th Edition to bring present and past reports into line with the best and most up-to-date information.
For each measure in each grade, scores representing the 40th, 60th, and 80th percentiles for growth were calculated separately for groups (or zones) of students with similar baseline benchmark scores. Students were assigned to a zone based on the beginning of year (BOY) percentile ranks for each measure, calculated using the full sample of DIBELS 8 research participants. Students whose beginning of year (BOY) scores placed them below the 20th percentile were assigned to the first zone, whereas students whose BOY scores placed them at or above the 20th percentile but below the 40th percentile were assigned to the second zone, students whose BOY scores placed them at or above the 40th percentile but below the 60th percentile were assigned to the third zone, students whose BOY scores placed them at or above the 60th percentile but below the 80th percentile were assigned to the fourth zone, and students whose BOY scores placed them at or above the 80th percentile were assigned to the fifth zone.
Analyses for the Zones of Growth feature for DIBELS 6th Edition and DIBELS Next were conducted by the Center on Teaching and Learning at the University of Oregon, using a nationally representative convenience sample of more than 2 million students enrolled in US schools that used the DDS in 2013-14. For the predominant measure(s) in each grade (e.g., Nonsense Word Fluency Correct Letter Sounds from middle to end of kindergarten and beginning to middle of grade 1, Oral Reading Fluency Words Read Correct from middle to end of grade 1 and beginning to end of grades 2-6), scores representing the 50th, 65th, and 80th percentiles for growth were calculated separately for groups (or zones) of students with similar baseline benchmark scores. The size of the zones (or groups) was established empirically, based on the standard error of measurement for each assessment.
University of Oregon, Center on Teaching and Learning (2020). Zones of Growth for DIBELS 8th Edition (Technical Report 2001). Eugene, OR: Author.
Kennedy, P. C., Cummings, K. D., Bauer Schaper, H. A., & Stoolmiller, M. (2015). DIBELS Data System: 2013-14 Percentile Gains for Predominant DIBELS Next Benchmark Assessments (Technical Brief No. 1501). Eugene, OR: University of Oregon.