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Success Stories out of the Institute of Education Sciences' SBIR Program: Children's Progress, Inc.

A still from the Children's Progress Demo video speaking about the benefits of the program

Last Updated: April, 2023


The computer-adaptive dynamic assessment (CPAA) for early childhood covers concepts in early literacy and mathematics for students in pre-kindergarten through grade 3. The CPAA facilitates student learning through animated interactive scaffolding procedures and instructional activities. The CPAA also delivers immediate formative assessment information to teachers through graphical, progress, and narrative reports that help pinpoint and address specific areas for individualized instruction. The product also provides parental reports that explain assessment results in user-friendly language and suggest targeted "at-home" instructional activities.


Through years of collaboration between Columbia University researchers and technology developers at MIT, a new adaptive assessment platform was developed to deliver items based on how a student responded to each question (correctly, incorrectly, or correct with a hint) and to deliver individualized narratives for each student. These narratives provided a targeted description of the student's assessment experience, indicating areas of strength and weakness. The specific assessment items for this project were designed to align to relevant standards and were iteratively developed though four steps. First, skeleton narrative storyboards were developed for each of the content areas that the CPAA addresses. Second, the production team authored the necessary artwork, Adobe Flash based animations, and voiceovers to create each item. Third, the items were field tested through "think alouds" between researchers and individual children and though beta-tests with larger groups of students. Fourth, modifications to the prototypes were made based on the feedback from this research.


Once completed, pilot testing to validate the CPAA was performed in 32 schools with more than 2,400 students throughout New York City, Philadelphia, and in New Haven, Connecticut. Results demonstrated feasibility (the CPAA ran on a wide-range of computer hardware with minimal requirements), usability (students and teachers were able to use the CPAA to supplement normal classroom practices), and reliability (the CPAA performed consistently across three different administrations). Further, the external validity of the CPAA was demonstrated through testing in 5 schools with more than 800 students in Arizona. In this research, CPAA scores were consistent with results generated from other standardized tests including the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, the Terra Nova Achievement Test, and the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards. Further research is currently being planned to test the efficacy of the CPAA to support student learning.

Path to Commercialization:

As of 2012, the CPAA was used by more than 1,200 schools in 40 states (and internationally), including grade schools across the state of Mississippi and schools in cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The product renewal rate was maintained at 92%. On April 1, 2012, Children's Progress was acquired by Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), an Oregon-based global non-for-profit educational services organization. NWEA partnered with educational organizations worldwide to provide computer-based assessment suites, professional development and research services. NWEA incorporated the CPAA into its suite of products and services designed to adaptively assess students, and the technologies were used at a large scale afterward. In 2023, NWEA was acquired by HMH. Read more about this acquisition here.