Our History

An idea to transform education

In 1973, educators and researchers from Oregon and Washington state school districts formed an association to build a new kind of testing system. They were determined to create a new, precise way to measure an individual student’s academic level and growth—and then to use the resulting data as a transformational teaching tool. Four years after these innovators pooled their time and talents, Northwest Evaluation Association was incorporated in Oregon.


Over the decades, NWEA has grown from a collaboration of 14 school districts to a global organization. Today, our products and services support educators and their students in over 7,400 schools, districts, and educational agencies worldwide.

Founders and visionaries

NWEA founders Allan Olson (left) and George Ingebo

NWEA founders Allan Olson (left) and George Ingebo

Back when NWEA was established in 1977, paper-based testing ruled. So founders Allan Olson, George Ingebo, and Vic Doherty pioneered new ways to measure student growth using an empirically-derived scale based on Danish mathematician Georg Rasch’s Item Response Theory model. Their solution—our NWEA RIT (Rasch Unit) scale—accurately measures student growth term-to-team and year-to-year.

Our best-in-class scale, the RIT scale, continues to deliver results educators trust

The original NWEA assessments gave teachers data they could use to inform classroom instruction. 

The NWEA RIT scale

Educators across the country embraced the concept, and we built upon it when we introduced our first computer adaptive educational assessment in 1985. Our flagship interim assessment, Measures of Academic Progress® (MAP®), followed in 2000.

Our founders created the RIT scale because they required a consistent, precise tool that would provide accurate measurement of each student’s academic growth. Today, our mature, stable scale continues to support the strength of our MAP assessments by supplying educators with the valid, reliable, and predictive data they need to make a positive difference in every student’s learning and growth.

In addition to our founders, we’d like to acknowledge Susan Smoyer, Ron Houser, and Gage Kingsbury for helping to pioneer computer adaptive testing; thanks also to John Barber, for his foresight into how accurate data could inform instruction.

An enduring mission

As a not-for-profit organization, we continue to honor our founders’ spirit and their collaborative approach to improving teaching and learning. Our mission, Partnering to help all kids learn®, informs all aspects of our work.