AEPS History

At the October 1974 organizational meeting of the American Association for the Education of the Severely and Profoundly Handicapped, now called The Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, a group of frustrated people met spontaneously in a dining room over breakfast. The topic of conversation was the need for a functional and accurate measurement tool for young children with severe disabilities. The conversation was a magnet, drawing people from adjoining tables as well as those who happened to pass by. It seemed anyone within earshot who worked with young children was feeling a strong and urgent need for some alternative to standardized norm-referenced tests or homemade tests with questionable validity and reliability. The interest was intense then and has remained so for many into the new millennium.

From 1974 to 1976, periodic conversations ensued among a group of people highly motivated to address this pressing measurement need. In the spring of 1976, professionals from six universities met in New Orleans to discuss the possibility of developing a tool specifically designed for children who ranged developmentally from birth to 2 years of age that would yield educationally relevant outcomes. The group considered forming a consortium to develop this tool, and personnel from five of the six universities agreed to collaborate in order to fill this measurement gap. The initial participants included: Diane Bricker, then at the University of Miami; Dale Gentry, Owen White, and Robin Beck, then at the University of Washington; Lizbeth Vincent-Smith, then at the University of Wisconsin; Verna Hart, then at the University of Pittsburgh; and Evelyn Brown-Lynch, then at the University of Indiana.

A second official meeting was held in Madison , Wisconsin , in June 1976. The group, whose constellation had changed slightly, formalized responsibilities and became the Consortium of Adaptive Performance Evaluation. During two subsequent meetings, the Consortium formulated plans to submit an application to the Research Branch of the Division of Innovation and Development, Bureau of Education for the Handicapped (now the Office of Special Education Programs). The grant application, written primarily by Dale Gentry and Own White, was submitted in December of 1976, with the American Academy for Education of the Severely and Profoundly Handicapped as the sponsoring agency.

Once approved and funded, the grant permitted consortium members to formally continue the work they had begun. During the grant's 3-year period, several individuals from the five participating universities collaborated to develop the instrument. Major players included Dale Gentry, Diane Bricker, Own White, Lizbeth Vincent, Evelyn Lynch, and Verna Hart. During this period, contributors undertook both conceptual and empirical work. They refined the tool's underlying principles and conducted the first data collection on the preliminary instrument. Eventually, consortium members began to realize the magnitude of their adopted task. Owen White argued for developing, testing, and modifying one test area before tackling the others. Although outvoted, hindsight suggests he was probably correct, and development might have proceeded more rapidly had the group followed his suggestion. The size of the task was particularly intimidating, and other commitments prevented the major players from allotting sufficient time to the project. In addition, although the consortium members agreed on the need for a tool, achieving compromise between developmentalists and behavior analysts was time-consuming and exhausting Meetings were often contentious, but the ensuing instrument owes its strength, in part, to the divergent views represented.

In 1980, under Dale Gentry's leadership, and with Katie McCarton's able assistance, the University of Idaho provided support for the project through a supplemental award to the Handicapped Children's Early Education Project grant. (By this time Gentry had moved to Idaho and Bricker to Oregon. ). The Adaptive Performance Instrument (API), the first complete and usable assessment/evaluation tool, soon became available for comprehensive field testing. The data and informal feedback on the API were extremely interesting but troublesome. The API's depth of coverage-more than 600 items for the developmental range of birth to 2 years-provided detailed and useful descriptions of children's behavioral repertoires. However, it took 8-10 hours to administer. The tool's strength -- generation of detailed behavioral profiles -- was also its weakness --excessive administration time.

Upon termination of the federal supplemental grant, consortium members considered disseminating the API through a commercial publisher. Several consortium members, however, believed the test's psychometric data was inadequate and that continued study was necessary. In addition, the administration time remained a nagging problem. A complete copy of the API was sent to the Bureau for the Education of the Handicapped as part of the final project report. Copies of the API, made during the granting period, were also distributed to interested parties as long as the supply lasted.

During 1983-84, the Idaho and Oregon group found creative ways to support work on the instrument. They reduced the number of test items from more than 600 to less than 300, and extended the developmental range to 36 months. Most items were rewritten and the presentation format changed. Modifications were so extensive that the measure was renamed: the Comprehensive Early Evaluation and Programming System . In August of 1983, E.J. Bailey (Ayers) at the University of Oregon completed a dissertation examining the psychometric properties of the modified instrument.

Using the Bailey (Ayers) dissertation data as a base, a research grant was written and submitted to the field-initiated research program of the Division of Innovation and Development, Office of Special Education Programs. In October 1984, a 3-year grant was awarded to the University of Oregon , and another extensive revision was conducted on the instrument. The name was changed to the Evaluation and Programming System: For Infants and Young Children (EPS), and an associated curriculum was developed and field tested.

From 1984 to 1989, extensive data were collected on the EPS Birth to Three Years and have been published elsewhere (Bailey & Bricker, 1986; Bricker, Bailey, & Slentz, 1990; Cripe, 1990; Notari & Bricker, 1990). In 1993, the EPS Test for Birth to Three Years and its associated curriculum were published by Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company. At that time, the name was changed to the Assessment, Evaluation, and Programming System (AEPS) for Infants and Children to reflect accurately its purpose and use. In this first edition, the AEPS for Birth to Three Years was composed of a test (AEPS Measurement for Birth to Three Years) and an associated curriculum (AEPS Curriculum for Birth to Three Years). The success of the AEPS Test and Curriculum for the developmental range from birth to 3 years served as the major impetus for expanding the AEPS to cover the developmental range from 3 to 6 years.

From the time the AEPS Birth to Three Years was first field tested, there was pressure to expand the system to cover the entire preschool age range. In 1985, work was begun on the developmental of a test and associated curriculum to address the developmental range from three to six years. Slentz field tested the first version (1986). The results of this study served as a basis for extensive revisions of the test. The revised test was called the Evaluation and Programming System for Young Children -- Assessment Level II: Developmentally 3 Years to 6 Years (Bricker, Janko, Cripe, Bailey, & Kaminski, 1989). Selected psychometric properties of the revised test were examined by Hsia (1993). The findings from this study were encouraging and suggested only minor modifications in test items were needed in the third revision, entitled the Assessment, Evaluation and Programming System Test for Three to Six Years (Bricker, Ayers, Slentz, & Kaminski, 1992).

Between 1992 and 1995, a curriculum linked to Level II of the AEPS was developed. In 1996, Brookes Publishing Company published Volumes 3 and 4 of the AEPS series. . Volume 3 was titled AEPS Measurement for Three to Six Years (Bricker & Pretti-Frontczak, 1996) and Volume 4 was titled AEPS Curriculum for Three to Six Years (Bricker & Waddell, 1996). Following the publication of the second edition, Brookes Publishing sought and was issued a registered trademark for the AEPS.

Once the AEPS® became commercially available, its authors began receiving frequent training requests. Extensive AEPS training efforts, enacted by a cadre of experts nationwide over the past 20 years, have been supported through four outreach grants from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. The first outreach project, funded in 1988, addressed the needs of personnel in individual programs. Training was provided to more than 1,000 participants in 50 sites across 19 states. The second outreach project, from 1991 to 1994, also provided training to more than 1,000 participants in 54 sites across 16 states. The third outreach project, initiated in 1996, shifted the training focus from individual programs to a train-the-trainer model. This change was instituted in an effort to 1) meet growing requests for AEPS training and 2) produce systematic change throughout states. The fourth outreach project began in 1999 and also employed a train-the-trainer model. Individuals trained by these last two outreach projects have provided services to approximately 1,500 individuals in 50 sites across 13 states.

In addition to providing training to hundreds of AEPS users, the authors and major contributors met at the University of Oregon , Eugene during the summers of 1999 and 2000 to discuss changes in the AEPS® in anticipation of publishing the second edition. At the first meeting in 1999, data gathered on the AEPS® Test and information garnered from outreach training sessions were studied and discussed. Based on these discussions, the participants (Kristie Pretti-Frontczak, JJ Johnson, Kris Slentz, Elizabeth Straka, Betty Capt, Misti Waddell, Jane Squires, Natalya McComas, and Diane Bricker) proposed a series of changes and modifications to the AEPS®. During the ensuing year, this group completed changes and circulated them to the other participants. At the second meeting, held in the summer of 2000, additional changes and refinements were discussed. In the fall of 2000, the group finalized changes for the second edition.

The second edition of the AEPS®, published in 2002, is composed of a four volume series including: Volume 1: Administration Guide, Volume 2: Test for Birth to Three and Three to Six Years, Volume 3: Curriculum for Birth to Three, and Volume 4: Curriculum for Three to Six Years. In addition, at least some components of the AEPS have been translated into Korean, French, and Spanish. With the issuing of the second edition, training efforts expanded. AEPS authors and other AEPS experts offered a range of training opportunities both nationally and internationally.

In the fall of 2006, Brookes Publishing launched the first phase of a web-based electronic management system for the AEPS® called the AEPSinteractiveT. This secure, on-line management system was developed to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the AEPS®. Data can be entered directly into secure, individualized child files which then permit automatic scoring, progress monitoring and the creation of customized reports necessary to address local, state, and federal standards and requirements.

Since its inception, the AEPS® has significantly expanded both its associated materials and their use by practitioners. AEPS® developers and contributors consistently have placed a premium on improving the quality and effectiveness of the test and its associated components. To that end, as funding has permitted, a range of investigations focused on the AEPS® have been conducted and reported in early intervention/early childhood special education literature. (For a list of these studies see the Research section of this web site.) In addition, AEPS® authors have formed a non-profit corporation: Early Intervention Management and Research Group (EMRG). EMRG is dedicated to oversight of the AEPS® to ensure its continued improvement and an ongoing commitment to quality. A description of the non-profit corporation is contained in the EMRG section of this website.