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Success Stories out of the Institute of Education Sciences' SBIR Program: Nimble Assessment Systems, Inc.

Nimble Assessment Systems, Inc.


NimbleTools delivers standard versions of assessment instruments and tailors embedded accommodation tools to meet the specific needs of students with disabilities. Some examples of the accommodation tools include a keyboard with custom keyboard overlays, the capacity of the system to read text aloud for students, an onscreen avatar presenting questions in American Sign Language or Signed English (see screen shot on the right), and the magnification of text and images for students with visual impairments.


All components of the product were developed and refined iteratively, including the user interfaces, each of the 18 accommodation tools, and the security system. Development of signed versions of item content was conducted in collaboration with experts at Vcom3d, a company that specializes in signing avatars. Throughout the project, code was developed using Flex to support the rapid development of stable and scalable code. To make the product market ready, specific interfaces were designed to support the use of NimbleTools for science, mathematics, reading, and writing tests.


Research on more than 2,600 students demonstrated the feasibility and validity of the tools as a method to meet the identified access needs of the students being assessed. In addition, performance findings from state science test administrations revealed a positive relationship between increased scores among students using NimbleTools on standardized tests versus similar students who used traditional paper-based test accommodations.

Path to Commercialization:

In September, 2010, Nimble Assessment Systems was acquired by Measured Progress, a New Hampshire-based non-profit organization. Measured Progress specializes in developing state- and district-level assessments and provides alternate assessments for students with cognitive disabilities. In addition, Measured Progress offers professional development services and products that assist educators in creating and using assessments to measure student achievement and improve instruction. Measured Progress has incorporated NimbleTools and other tools developed by Nimble Assessment Systems into its suite of products and services designed to improve the quality of assessment of all students and continues to use NimbleTools for operational test delivery for the NECAP program. As of 2013, NimbleTools is used across public schools in the state of Rhode Island.

Peer Reviewed Publications from this R&D:

  • Russel, M.; Hoffman, T.; & Higgins, J. (2009) NimbleTools: A Universally Designed Test Delivery System. Teaching Exceptional Children. 42, (2).
  • Russel, M.; Higgins, J.; & Hoffman, T. (2009). Meeting the Needs of All Students: A Universal Design Approach to Computer-Based Testing. Innovate. 5, (4).
  • Russel, M.; Kavanaugh, M.; Masters, J.; Higgins, J.; & Hoffman, T. (2009). Computer-Based Signing Accommodations: Comparing a Recorded Human with an Avatar. Journal of Applied Testing Technology. 10, (3).