Press Releases

NIET announces Lowell Milken Founder's Award Recipient

Mar 22, 2019

2019 wildflower school az

New Orleans, Louisiana—Wildflower School in Goodyear, Arizona, is the recipient of the 2019 NIET Founder's Award, the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching announced today. The award is given annually to one school for exceptional implementation of NIET's principles to build educator excellence and give all students opportunities for success. It comes with a $50,000 cash prize.

NIET Chairman and Founder Lowell Milken and CEO Dr. Candice McQueen surprised Wildflower faculty with the award during the 2019 National NIET Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, before more than 1,000 educators, policymakers, researchers and other influential leaders.

"Wildflower School's commitment to educational excellence and to cultivating the knowledge, skills and experiences that prepare young people for a productive future makes it a worthy recipient of the 2019 NIET Founder's Award," says Lowell Milken. "Research and personal experience tell us that investing in people makes a difference. This belief is at the heart of NIET's work over the past two decades and is carried out in Wildflower's classrooms every day."

"Great teachers and leaders can transform student learning, and Wildflower's educators are an example to us about what's possible," Dr. McQueen says. "Their students' success is a tribute to the years of hard work that educators have put into growing and improving every single day."

Over the past 20 years, NIET has partnered with schools, districts, states and universities to ensure that all students have access to talented teachers every day. It does so by helping schools create formal structures for teacher leadership; regular, job-embedded professional learning; and a system for educator support, observation and feedback tied to high expectations and real-time needs of teachers and students. Today, NIET's initiatives are impacting more than 250,000 educators and 2.5 million students.

Located in Avondale Elementary School District #44, Wildflower was selected among five award finalists from diverse communities across the country: Alice M. Harte Charter School in InspireNOLA, Louisiana; Cross County Elementary Technology Academy in Cross County School District, Arkansas; Desert View Elementary in Gadsden Elementary School District #32, Arizona; and Dodson Branch School in Jackson County Schools, Tennessee.

Since working with NIET for the past eight years, Wildflower has put a greater focus on data-driven decision-making, opened doors to innovation, and worked as a team to reinforce strengths and address areas of need. These factors represent the school's motto, "all accelerate all kids"—commonly known as the "Wildflower Way."

Wildflower has created a positive school culture that has translated into gains in student achievement. Since the 2015-16 school year, students have increased their proficiency in English language arts from 40% to more than 50% by 2017-18 and from 39% to 61% over the same timeframe in math. Over 70% of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

About the NIET Founder's Award
Funded by the Lowell Milken Family Foundation, the NIET Founder's Award provides a $50,000 cash prize to be used toward instructional improvement efforts.

The finalists were selected based on their efforts to make instructional excellence the cornerstone of school improvement; plan for regular professional learning focused on daily needs of teachers and students; create a culture of collaboration and reflection; and create leadership teams made of teacher leaders and administrators.

NIET Founder's Award recipients are selected by NIET. The honor yields benefits that will strengthen the individual school and support its teachers. This is done by means of prominent public recognition and by opportunities to substantively interact on issues of educator effectiveness and student learning with leaders from government, business and academia.

Photos and videos from the NIET Founder's Award luncheon are available for download at

For interviews, contact Jana Rausch at or (310) 435-9259. For more information, visit Follow conference news on Facebook at NIETteach and Twitter @NIETteach or via #NIET19.  





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