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Our History

An Idea to Change the World

In the early 70s, a small group of Oregon and Washington educators decided to build a research-based testing system that would measure student learning and growth independent of grade. Their goal was lofty: Transform education with precise data. Today, we carry on their dream of partnering to help all kids learn.

Founded by Visionaries

NWEA founders Allan Olson, George Ingebo, and Vic Doherty built the first NWEA assessment scale using Item Response Theory (IRT). They used a specific IRT model designed by the respected Danish mathematician, Georg Rasch, in order to create the NWEA RIT (Rasch unIT) scale.

Making History

NWEA introduced the nation’s first computer adaptive educational assessment in 1985—but our roots go back to the 1970s, when paper-based testing ruled. That’s when NWEA founders Allan Olson, George Ingebo, and Vic Doherty decided to refine the measurement of student growth through a research-based system that could measure every student’s growth and progress. Whether student performance was above or below grade-level abilities, the original NWEA assessments gave teachers data they could use to inform classroom instruction.

With the help of our flagship interim assessment, Measures of Academic Progress® (MAP®), we’ve spent the last several decades growing closer to our goal of advancing EVERY student’s academic achievement.

Leading the Future


Today, more than 6,800 partners in U.S. school districts, education agencies, and international schools trust us to offer pre-kindergarten through grade 12 assessments that accurately measure student growth and learning needs, professional development that fosters educators’ ability to accelerate student learning, and research that supports assessment validity and informed policy. To better inform instruction and maximize every learner’s academic growth, educators currently use NWEA assessments with nearly 8 million students.


NWEA Research maintains the nation’s largest repository of student achievement data—the Growth Research Database (GRD™)—and supports two arms: Advanced Research & Development, which ensures educators can trust the validity of our products, and the Kingsbury Center at NWEA, which supports research that contributes to informed educational policy.

In the Classroom

Helping educators make great things happen for kids has been our mission from the start. Our NWEA professional development offerings are rooted in research-based best practices that improve educators’ ability—in the moment and over time—to use data-informed and targeted instructional practices. Nearly 40 years after we were founded, you’ll find we’re still partnering to move student learning forward.

Changing Hearts and Minds