An Interview with Katie Nicholson: About BRIGANCE

By Michael F. Shaughnessy

Katie, I grew up learning the BRIGANCE in grad school, have used the BRIGANCE in several settings, and now I teach the BRIGANCE. How pervasive IS BRIGANCE in the American Educational System?

BRIGANCE® products are extremely pervasive. As you noted, it’s a product line that educators have been familiar with for several decades (since the 1970s!) – learning it first during undergrad/graduate school, then often using it as a teacher, and if they move onto an administrative role, loving it in that capacity as well. As a result, it’s a brand that is highly recognized in the field (although this isn’t statistically proven, I’d guess 8-9 out of 10 special educators have at one time or another used BRIGANCE, or at least know of it).

In terms of current penetration, BRIGANCE is currently being used in at least one-third of districts nationwide (based on sales over the past five years, so I’d imagine this is even higher given the long life of these products).

Now, a historical question – is Albert Brigance still alive and if so, what is he doing?

No, unfortunately Al passed away in 2007. He lived an extremely good life, the last several decades of which he was settled in Tennessee with his family. He was vibrant, remaining engaged in education until he passed away. Curriculum Associates remains in contact with his family and continues to update them on the success of the BRIGANCE product line.

Could you bring us up to date on some of the  BRIGANCE essentials and features?

Specifically, the five current BRIGANCE inventories and key updates include:

Inventory of Early Development II (IED II): The criterion-referenced IED II offers developmental assessment for students functioning up to developmental age 7. In addition to the general updates noted above, this inventory was reorganized for greater ease of use and better alignment with IDEA skill area guidelines. Additional assessments were also added in the area of early literacy skills (e.g., phonological awareness).

Comprehensive Inventory of Basic Skills II (CIBS II): The criterion-referenced CIBS II offers academic assessment for P to year 9 skill levels; this inventory was significantly revised in late 2009 with major content additions. Specific changes/additions include:

Separate Reading/English and Mathematics inventories to accommodate more content in each subject area.

The Reading inventory has many of the same great assessments and grade-placement tests that users loved in the CIBS-R, but it also now includes both short and long passages for reading comprehension assessment (there was an entirely new section added on Reading Comprehension – Long Passages). In addition, it now includes a set of assessments on Responding to Writing Prompts. These content additions focus on addressing important topics covered in key content standards frameworks.

The Mathematics inventory was developed to more broadly address key math skills. The CIBS II Mathematics is in fact organized by the NCTM Focal Points; this inventory includes sections on Numbers and Operations, Algebra, Geometry, Measurement, and Data Analysis and Probability. The mathematics grade-placement tests were also expanded to ensure teachers have the support they need to determine a student’s current grade-level performance.

Transition Skills Inventory (TSI): Published in 2010, this new inventory incorporates assessment of independent living, employment, and other post-secondary skills to support transition planning for middle and high school students. The TSI offers assessments across a broad range of skills to ensure comprehensive coverage of key transition skill areas including functional academic skills, job-related knowledge and skills, communication and technology skills, various independent living skills/knowledge (e.g., food, clothing, housing, money/finance, health), and community participation skills. Customizable objectives are included with each assessment to support the writing of annual goals and objectives for students’ transition plans.

Together, these inventories support the full range of developmental levels from birth through high school, covering developmental, academic, and transition skills assessment. In addition, all five inventories are supported by a single Online Management System. This system offers 24/7 secure online access to assessment data for a class, school, or entire district.

Group reports make it easy to aggregate data across students to, for example, monitor class or school progress. At the individual student level, teachers can monitor student progress and find customizable goals and objectives based on the student’s assessment results (a great resource to support IEP writing). Additional reports, instructional planning tools, and family communication resources are also included in the BRIGANCE Online Management System.

BRIGANCE Early Childhood: This product families include developmental screening, ongoing assessment, and developmentally appropriate instruction.

Now, on to some tough questions – who essentially chooses to use or not use BRIGANCE products in the schools? Is it the parent, the school, the teacher, ? Or is it an administrative decision?

For the BRIGANCE Special Education inventories, the decision is usually at the special education director (or coordinator) level. Often there is a group of special education administrators (and sometimes several teachers and school psychologists/specialists as well) who will review the product together to come to a decision, but it’s generally a school level decision within the special education department. We do also see some smaller purchases made directly by school psychologists and diagnosticians. And there are those teachers that just love the product, so they’ll purchase BRIGANCE inventories themselves for their classrooms.

WHO would you say is BRIGANCE really for? Children with learning disability, or can any child be assessed?

We’ve included within the introduction of each inventory a section on how to work with students with or without learning disabilities and that’s because there is no specific population for which BRIGANCE products were designed. The criterion-referenced inventories in particular (IED II, CIBS II, and Transition Skills Inventory) can be adapted for a number of student needs to ensure strong assessment results regardless of the student’s developmental needs.

Now, what kinds of online training materials do you have, and what kinds of support do you have for school systems?

HBE hosts online trainings for each of its key product lines, including BRIGANCE. We have a section on our website for professional development . There is a series of online training videos that live here for the BRIGANCE Special Education product family, including an overview of the full product line, product specific trainings (focused on both the criterion-referenced and norm-referenced inventories), and an online demo of the Online Management System. We’ve found customers really love these online trainings because they are available to them 24/7 and they’re free!

Matthew Tabor

Matthew Tabor

Matthew is a prolific, independent voice in the national education debate. He is a tireless advocate for high academic standards from pre-K through graduate school, fiscal sense and personal responsibility. He values parents’ and families’ rights and believes in accountability for teachers, administrators, politicians and all taxpayer-funded education entities. With a unique background that includes work in higher education, executive recruiting, professional sport and government, Matthew has consulted on new media and communication strategies for a broad range of clients. He writes the blog “Education for the Aughts” at www.matthewktabor.com , has contributed to National Journal’s ‘Expert’ blog for Education , and interacts with the education community on Twitter and Google+.