Lowell Milken's reputation as a visionary leader of education reform has been honed by more than three decades of education research, policy and practices -- as well as firsthand visits to thousands of classrooms and the creation of major national initiatives.
Under Lowell Milken's guidance since its establishment in 1982, the Milken Family Foundation has become one of the nation's most innovative private foundations, developing groundbreaking programs in K-12 education as well as medical research, as well as helping to fund more than 1,000 organizations worldwide with compatible missions.
Among his contributions to strengthening K-12 education, Lowell Milken conceived the Milken Educator Awards, first presented in 1987, to recognize the importance of outstanding educators and to encourage talented young people to choose teaching as a career. With a network of 2,500 recipients, the Milken Educator Awards is the nation's preeminent teacher recognition program, coined "the Oscars of teaching" by Teacher Magazine.
Lowell’s lifelong commitment to education reform has led to some of the country's most innovative means to dramatically improve teacher effectiveness, including TAP™: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement. Founded in 1999, TAP was conceived by Lowell Milken to significantly improve teacher recruitment, retention, practices, motivation and performance. A comprehensive school reform system, TAP provides powerful opportunities to teachers and administrators to pursue multiple career paths, receive ongoing daily-applied professional growth, participate in instructionally focused accountability and earn additional compensation and bonuses based on multiple measures of performance. TAP’s multi-tiered formula has resulted in higher levels of achievement with students and schools where TAP is implemented in comparison to respective non-TAP counterparts.
Based on the rapid growth, strong results and high demand of the TAP system, Lowell created the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) in 2005 as an independent public charity to support and manage TAP nationally and to foster powerful teacher quality initiatives through the NIET Best Practices Center. Equipped with a staff drawn from the education and business communities, NIET forges partnerships with states, districts, schools, and non-profit organizations to ensure TAP's effectiveness and sustainability in a diverse set of urban, rural and suburban schools across America. The NIET Best Practices Center provides innovative services, support and solutions to schools, districts and states to improve educator effectiveness. Based on over ten years of experience in teacher quality initiatives, the Best Practices Center works with states, districts and schools to design powerful systems for teacher evaluation, job-embedded professional development, performance-based compensation based on multiple measures, and teacher leadership in schools. Together, the Best Practices Center and TAP are improving the educational experience for more than 100,000 teachers and one million students.
The Lowell Milken Center discovers, develops and communicates the stories of unsung heroes who have made a profound and positive difference on the course of history. Through student-driven project-based learning, people throughout America and the world learn that each of us has the responsibility and the power to take actions that "repair the world" by improving the lives of others. Founded in 2007 in partnership with Milken Educator Norman Conard (KS '92), the Lowell Milken Center has engaged more than 600,000 students in 5,250 schools in 26 countries.
In 1990, Lowell created the Lowell Milken Archive of Jewish Music to explore the vast panorama of sacred and secular works reflecting 350 years of Jewish life in America. This historic recording project has grown to encompass 700 newly recorded works—500 of them world-premiere recordings—and more than 800 hours of oral history videos. The Milken Archive recently launched a new “virtual museum” website to make this content accessible to people of all faiths and cultures.
Further education efforts championed by Lowell include High Tech Los Angeles, a public charter school that engages students with a rigorous curriculum rich in technology and complemented by real-world internships. Officially dedicated in 2004, HTLA achieved California Distinguished School status in record time.
With the recent establishment of the Lowell Milken Institute for Business Law and Policy at UCLA School of Law, Lowell's work in education extends greater opportunities 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 faculty fellowships, student scholarships and awards. 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.
Recognition for Lowell's achievements in education has included awards from organizations such as the National Association of State Boards of Education, the Horace Mann League, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, Jewish Theological Seminary, Kappa Delta Pi international honor society in the field of education and UCLA School of Law. Hebrew Union College presented him with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
Named by Worth magazine as one of America's most generous philanthropists, Lowell is also an involved businessman who chairs London-based Heron International, a worldwide leader in property development, and Knowledge Universe, Inc., a leading company in early childhood education and educational programs and services—with over 38,000 employees worldwide.
Lowell is a product of California's public school system, graduating Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude from the University of California, Berkeley, where he received the School of Business Administration's Most Outstanding Student Award. He earned his law degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, with the distinctions of Order of the Coif and UCLA Law Review. His four sons inspire and deepen his commitment to quality educational opportunities for all young people.
“In business, the most important lesson I have learned is that there is one currency that always plays the key role in forming value, and that is human capital—the knowledge, skills and experiences of people. In K-12 education, the same principle applies. We know from research that aside from home and family, the single most important factor driving student performance is the quality of the teacher in the classroom. The difference between an effective and ineffective teacher can be a full grade level of student achievement in a single year.”