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Education Reform

 A committed philanthropist for more than three decades, Lowell Milken’s work in comprehensive K-12 education reform has provided hundreds of thousands people improved educational experiences and opportunities to move on to the next stage of learning and life.  Upon the founding of the Milken Family Foundation in March 1982, Lowell said:

            “The Foundation’s mission is based on the abiding belief that one of the most powerful ways of stimulating human and social progress is by maintaining standards of excellence and by celebrating the achievement of outstanding catalysts for change. We wouldn't have established this Foundation, and we wouldn't be pursuing our mission if we didn't believe in the possibilities for people to help themselves and those around them to make their lives better.”

These words are deeply rooted in trust, trusting that students, educators, administrators and parents, armed with the right skills and knowledge, will want to succeed and foster success in their families and communities. Based on his personal experiences, research and thousands of visits to classrooms across the country, Lowell concluded that education was the means most conducive to provide the fullest opportunities for fulfilling one’s potential. In short, the future belongs to the educated.

Celebrating Excellence in Education

To ensure this secure future, Lowell Milken has developed successful education reform systems and programs, on a national scale, that have and continue to serve as calls to action, signaling educators, policymakers and community leaders to champion innovative strategies to improve the American K12 system. Conceived in 1985, and with the first formal awards presented in 1987, the Milken Educator Awards publicly recognizes the exceptional work of outstanding teachers and principals with unrestricted $25,000 awards. Over the past 27 years, the program has grown into the most preeminent teacher-recognition program in America, now encompassing a network of educators of more than 2,600 strong and growing. This extraordinary group has elevated the teaching profession, instilling in students the confidence to reach for and attain higher levels of achievement, and inspiring students to consider becoming teachers themselves.

Creating and Sustaining Opportunities  for Teachers and Students

In 1999, Lowell Milken founded what has become the nation’s largest and longstanding multi-year, multi-state effort to create performance-based teacher and principal compensation systems. Recognizing that sufficient numbers of quality teachers would never result from current education practices, Lowell Milken introduced TAP™: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement with the goal of enhancing teacher effectiveness and boosting student achievement. A comprehensive strategy to attract, develop, motivate and retain high-quality teachers — backed by years of research and real-world experience in classrooms across America —TAP creates a school environment with powerful opportunities for career advancement, professional growth, teacher accountability and competitive compensation. TAP’s system of school-based, professional development has driven increases — sustained increases — in teacher skills and student achievement in hundreds of the most challenging schools in the nation. Presently, TAP impacts more than 100,000 teachers and one million students across the country.

As a result of TAP’s rapid growth, powerful outcomes and increasing demand, in 2005 Lowell Milken established the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) as an independent public charity to support and manage the TAP system nationwide through the NIET Best Practices Center. With a dedicated staff drawn from the fields of education and business, NIET creates partnerships with schools, districts, states and community organizations to ensure TAP's effectiveness and sustainability in a diverse set of urban, rural and suburban schools across America. President Barack Obama has pointed to the "promising work" of TAP in serving to ensure that "anyone entrusted with educating our children is doing the job as well as it can be done."  NIET also operates the Teacher Quality Best Practices Center, which provides technical expertise, professional development and training modules to those implementing a diverse range of teacher quality reforms.

Recent Innovative Education Reform

The Lowell Milken Family Foundation was also established to support and provide funding for organizations and initiatives that strengthen communities through education and life-long learning. A deep dedication to fostering innovative learning environments led Lowell Milken to lend his time, ideas and support to the formation of Lowell Milken High Tech Los Angeles (HTLA), a public charter school that engages students with a rigorous curriculum rich in technology, self-directed study, and complemented by real-world internships. Officially dedicated in 2004, HTLA achieved California Distinguished School status in record time.

In 2007, Lowell founded the Lowell Milken Center with a mission to discover, develop and communicate the stories of unsung heroes who have made a profound and positive difference on the course of history. The Lowell Milken Center aims to demonstrate through student-driven, project-based learning that people are inherently endowed with the responsibility to impact the world by improving the lives of others.

With the establishment of the Lowell Milken Institute for Business Law and Policy at UCLA School of Law in 2011, Lowell’s work in education extends greater opportunity to UCLA law students, faculty, young law practitioners and alumni.  Building on UCLA School of Law’s already outstanding programs, the Lowell Milken Institute provides expanded studies on business law and policy, clinical experience, additional research opportunities for faculty, along with student fellowships.  The knowledge, skills and experience available through the Lowell Milken Institute will help ensure that students are prepared to not only assume leadership roles in the practice of law, but also in the areas of business, government, and philanthropy.   

As Lowell Milken enters his fourth decade as an advocate for education reform, his aim remains steadfast: to enrich people's lives and nurture human potential. He continues to foster programs that develop and advance innovative ways to prepare people with the skills, knowledge and experiences that will allow them to take advantage of life's opportunities.

Quick Facts


  • Lowell Milken’s work has provided hundreds of thousands of people with improved educational experiences and opportunities
  • In 1985, Lowell first conceived of the the Milken Educator Awards 
  • The Milken Educator Awards has grown into the most preeminent teacher-recognition program in America
  • In 1999, Lowell Milken TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement
  • In 2005 Lowell Milken established the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) 
  • High Tech High (HTLA) was formed in 2004 with support of the Lowell Milken Family Foundation
  • Lowell founded the Lowell Milken Center in 2007