Introduction to Children’s Progress Academic Assessment (CPAA)

NWEA's Childrens ProgressBack in April of this year, NWEA acquired Children’s Progress Academic Assessment (CPAA) to build out our assessment offerings to include early childhood development. Children’s Progress is a diagnostic adaptive assessment that adjusts in difficulty to student performance and produces instant reports as well as recommended activities to drive instruction.

CPAA, which has been used by more than 480,000 students in schools and early learning centers across the country, addresses the needs of younger students with developmentally appropriate and engaging content in literacy and mathematics. The product, which grew out of research at Columbia University, is also aligned to the National Association of Education for Young Children (NAEYC) standards for assessment.

It functions as an integral component of a comprehensive assessment program at the school, district or state level and consists of three parts:

1. An independently completed formative assessment
2. Immediately generated interactive reports
3. Recommended activities for one‐on‐one or small group instruction


CPAA connects assessment with instruction by providing actionable data that can be used by teachers immediately to address each student’s needs. The tool also enables educators to track student progress in service of meeting end‐of‐year learning standards in preparation for summative assessments.

Whereas traditional testing methods compare the results of an individual test with a normative group, the criterion‐referenced CPAA examines students’ underlying skills compared to end‐of‐year expectations and parses these results to gain a deeper understanding of students’ learning abilities and instructional next steps that can help them succeed.

Unlike traditional assessments, CPAA uses an adaptive structure to ensure that every student views material that is appropriately challenging. Correct responses are followed by more difficult questions and incorrect responses are followed by verbal and/or visual scaffolding. If the student struggles with the scaffolded content, the assessment presents him or her with less challenging material. Furthermore, the errors that each student commits are analyzed and different types of scaffolding are provided in response to different types of errors. For example, if a student is asked to identify the letter “B” and chooses the letter “V,” the assessment provides a specific hint designed to direct the student’s attention to “listen carefully.” On the other hand, if the student responds with the number “8” instead of the letter “B,” the scaffolding directs him or her to “look at the letters closely.”

Unlike traditional assessments, such as paper and pencil tests, which only reveal two polar states of understanding (unaided success and unaided failure), the CPAA uses scaffolding to dissociate what a child can do independently from what he or she can do with targeted assistance. With this information, teachers can pinpoint each student’s unique zone of proximal development (ZPD) and identify areas where instruction would be most effective for him or her. This extra step drives effective differentiated instruction across a broad range of early literacy and mathematics concepts.

Offering new assessment tools for early childhood development complements our existing suite of learning and growth tools, including Measures of Academic Progress® (MAP). We’ll be moving the CPAA website into our own early next year, but in the interim you can learn more about it at the Children’s Progress website.