Education Northwest Celebrates 50 Years With New Video and Timeline of Major Milestones


August 30, 2016


Photo showing images of students and leaders from 1965, 1966, 1984, 1993 and 2016.

Join us as we look back on our first 50 years with a new video featuring the voices of Education Northwest staff members describing how their work connects to civil rights by striving to create equitable opportunities for all students and a timeline of the major national and regional milestones that show how Education Northwest’s work has evolved since 1966.

Who We Are and What We Believe



New law sets the stage. Congress passes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which creates new federal roles in K–12 education. “By passing this bill, we bridge the gap between helplessness and hope for more than 5 million educationally deprived children…

”As a son of a tenant farmer, I know that education is the only valid passport from poverty.” —President Lyndon B. Johnson


Regional Educational Laboratories established. Designed to close the gap between educational research and practice by informing practice through research and technical assistance, the Regional Educational Laboratories (REL) were part of a holistic solution to solve educational inequities in the country. We were established under the name Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, and we were one of 19 original regional educational laboratories (RELs) authorized under the ESEA.

“We simply cannot allow the schoolchildren of this country to find their education frustrating, unrelated to life, or inadequate to their needs in our increasingly complex world.” —President Lyndon B. Johnson


Bilingual education emerges. Congress adds new programs to the ESEA for migrant children, as well as neglected or delinquent children, and passes the Bilingual Education Act. At the time, the Latino/Hispanic population was low across five Pacific Northwest states, ranging from 1.1 percent of the population (Montana) to 2.6 percent (Idaho). Fast-forward to today, and each state has a larger Latino/Hispanic student population, with Oregon and Washington each reaching over 22 percent—and we remain committed to ensuring all children and youth in our region have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

"The greatest barrier to the Mexican-American child's scholastic achievement … is that the schools, reflecting the dominant culture, want the child to grow up as another Anglo. This he cannot do except by denying himself and his family and his forebears, a form of masochism which no society should demand of its children." —A. Bruce Gaarder, specialist in foreign languages with the U.S. Office of Education, El Paso, Texas, Nov. 13, 1965


Law addresses needs of American Indian and Alaska Native students. The Indian Education Act of 1972 provides direct funds for the special needs of all Indian students in public schools. Priority funding was given to Indian tribes and organizations in use of discretionary program money. The act enabled the U.S. Department of Education to begin active work with Indian community colleges. Recognizing the importance of unique social and cultural environments within our region, Education Northwest began work on the Indian Reading Series as part of the development of a community-based reading and language arts program especially for Native American children. This series was created in partnership with elders of regional tribes, and Indian artists did all of the illustrations. The series is still available online.


More emphasis on underserved student populations. President Jimmy Carter signs the Education Amendments Act of 1978 and the Middle Income Student Assistance Act, which reauthorizes the ESEA. At the time, Education Northwest operated a Center for Bilingual Education, the Indian Reading and Language Development Program and a Women’s Educational Equity Program. These efforts further underscored Education Northwest’s commitment to student success and building a better future for our region.

“We've doubled funds for student aid and for educating handicapped children. We've tripled funds for basic skills education and provided new funds for the disadvantaged students in our urban centers. Through the Middle Income Student Assistance Act, we've brought college within the reach of every single student in this nation who's qualified for higher education. The idea that lack of money should be no barrier to a college education is no longer a dream, it's a reality.” —President Jimmy Carter


Birth of a new approach to student writing. Education Northwest partners with a team of 17 teachers from the Beaverton School District in Oregon to devise a better way to assess student writing. This program evolved into the 6+1 Trait Writing model. Since then, it has helped teachers around the world improve their students’ writing. A prime example of the actionable work Education Northwest does in partnership with schools and communities, the 6+1 Trait Writing model continues to adapt to meet the ever-changing needs of today’s classrooms. Check out 6+1 Trait Writing on Facebook and Pinterest.


Educational equity comes into focus. Education Northwest begins operating a regional Desegregation Assistance Center. This federal program was established in the 1960s to assist local education agencies in creating and implementing plans for the desegregation of public schools. In the 1980s, the role of the centers evolved to include a broader focus on educational equity. In 2000, the program changed its name to Equity Assistance Centers (EAC). Through 2016, the centers provide technical assistance and training in the areas of race, sex and national origin to public school districts to promote equitable education opportunities, civil rights and school reform. Operating the Region X EAC is an integral part of Education Northwest’s commitment to addressing social and economic disparities -- and building a better future for our region.


New center aims to assist schools in serving all students. The Northwest Comprehensive Center (NWCC) begins operation at our organization, providing services that aim to assist schools with barriers to providing a high-quality education for all students, particularly underserved ones. At this time, American Indian and Alaska Native students had a high school dropout rate that was twice the national average, with the rate exceeding 50 percent in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. Today, through strong relationships and authentic collaboration with state education agencies, the center meets the most pressing needs regarding their highest-priority state initiatives.

Ending poverty and empowering communities through national service. President John F. Kennedy envisioned a national service corps in 1963, and less than two years later, President Johnson made it a reality; just like Head Start, the Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) program was created by the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 to serve the needs of the poorest Americans. VISTA was founded in 1965 and incorporated into the AmeriCorps network of programs in 1993. For 20 years, Education Northwest has been a technical assistance provider for Corporation for National and Community Service programs, including AmeriCorps, facilitating training for VISTA members and supervisors across the country.


Education research gets a new look. The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is established under the Education Sciences Reform Act to improve educational outcomes for all students through partnerships with school districts, state departments of education and other stakeholders using data and research to better inform education policies. IES takes on the responsibility for administering the regional educational laboratories, including REL Northwest.


A statewide leadership network embraces equity. The Oregon Leadership Network (OLN) alliance begins to focus on being a champion for educational equity in the state. More than 40 percent of Oregon’s student population is represented in this alliance through member school districts, education service districts, and organizations. Through networking, mentoring, and leadership training, the OLN builds education leaders’ capacity to sustain research-based equitable practices and eliminate disparities, ultimately resulting in student success.


A new name. The Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory changes its name to Education Northwest “so that our name better reflects what we care about,” according to Carol Thomas, the organization’s former CEO.


Changing face of students in the Northwest. The percentage of white students in U.S. K–12 public schools falls to 50 percent, down from 59 percent in 2003, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. By contrast, the percentage of Hispanic students increases from 19 percent to 25 percent between 2003 and 2013. Additionally, three Pacific Northwest states — Idaho, Oregon, and Washington — now have higher rural English learner population rates than the national average. In Alaska, minority students make up more than half of the rural student population, and in Montana, 13.7 percent of students are American Indian. Regardless of demographics, Education Northwest strives to partner with schools and communities in our region to maximize opportunities for student success.

The LEAD Tool gives leadership teams an equity boost. The OLN releases a pilot version of the LEAD Tool, an online rubric consisting of 10 school-based practices designed to build leadership teams’ capacity to eliminate inequities throughout a school and promote educational opportunity for all students. In 2016, a refined version of the LEAD Tool is released and draws interest from all over the country.


An opportunity to better serve youth. To more fully support youth development in the region, the Institute for Youth Success joins Education Northwest. The merger creates a full-service, innovative regional center to promote best practices at youth-serving organizations. It also further supports Education Northwest’s dedication to ensuring all children and youth in our region have the opportunity to reach their full potential. The institute provides professional development to volunteers and staff of youth programs (including camps and after-school programs), provides relevant, evidence-based information on topics ranging from recruitment to program management and offers services that create efficiencies and strengthen youth-development programs.

Another law sets another stage. President Barack Obama signs the Every Student Succeeds Act into law and says, “This bill upholds the core value that animated the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act signed by President Lyndon Johnson—the value that says education, the key to economic opportunity, is a civil right. With this bill, we reaffirm that fundamental American ideal that every child, regardless of race, income, background, the zip code where they live, deserves the chance to make out of their lives what they will.”

Education Northwest is proud to have served our region and its children for the past 50 years, and we look forward to doing so for 50 more—and beyond!

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. —Barack Obama