A Timeline of


Making research useful and relevant to daily life has been the focus of AIR since its inception in 1946 as a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization.

Founded in 1946, AIR has been at the forefront of innovation in education and the social and behavioral sciences for over seventy-five years.

AIR founder John C. Flanagan was a major figure in American psychology. During World War II he developed the aptitude tests that successfully identified the best candidates to serve as American combat pilots. At AIR he further developed the “critical incident technique,” which the Annual Review of Psychology called one of the "most important personnel selection milestones of the past 60 years." Flanagan went on to apply his technique to education. We now use many of those principles in health and other areas as well.

Our success is a direct reflection of the vast range of expertise that has driven our work and our mission of striving to improve people’s lives and well-being around the world. We are proud of the common threads—rigorous research, innovative methods, and making a difference in the lives of people—that are woven throughout our history. Below are just a few examples of the historic changes we have helped shape.

2010 and beyond

Expanding Our Reach:
2010 and Beyond

AIR is continuously building upon its long history of contributing to evidence-based social change. Our broad range of expertise and ground-breaking approaches are at the cutting edge of efforts to assist individuals, organizations, and governments in advancing human development and improving the quality of education, health care, and the workplace. Our ongoing work to improve education systems, schools, and communities reaches around the U.S. and across the globe. We are also leading efforts to improve the quality of health care, and we are providing opportunities for a better life for thousands in developing countries.

  • AIR Acquires IMPAQ, LLC and Kimetrica — AIR expanded its global reach in 2020 with the acquisition of IMPAQ, LLC and Kimetrica. The transactions brought together three mission-focused organizations with similar values, deep expertise and diverse portfolios of work. IMPAQ, a private company founded in 2001, conducts rigorous research and implementation in the areas of health and workforce development, as well as the education, international and human services sectors. They also have expertise in advanced analytics and the use of technology, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as training and learning solutions. Kimetrica is an international consulting firm that provides research and evaluation, surveys, information management, and modeling and simulation expertise to clients around the globe.

  • AIR Assessment Acquired by Cambium Learning — In August 2019, Cambium Learning Group, Inc. (Cambium Learning), a leading provider in education software and portfolio company of Veritas Capital, acquired AIR Assessment, the student assessment division of the American Institutes for Research (AIR). Launched in 2007, AIR Assessment was one of the fastest-growing brands in the assessment field. Leading the nation with its innovative design, AIR Assessment uses technology to measure student progress and provide educators and families with timely, relevant information about teaching and learning. In 2018, AIR Assessment delivered nearly 60 million online tests in more than 20 states. The newly combined entity brings together advanced K-12 assessment services with research-based, individualized instruction.

  • Website Allows Consumers to Evaluate the Performance of U.S. Four-Year CollegesCollege Measures, launched in 2012, was an interactive website that created options for evaluating the performance of four-year public and private colleges and universities in the United States. The project worked with state governments to help identify higher education credentials with high return on investment. Other work focused on wage outcomes of postsecondary graduates, jobs that present the best opportunities for students to launch exciting careers, and on skills that students need to get those jobs, with the goal of helping them find programs that allow them to lead the lives they want.

  • David Myers Becomes AIR’s Sixth President and CEO — David Myers, a nationally-recognized education researcher, was named president and CEO by AIR’s Board of Directors effective January 1, 2011. He joined AIR in 2006 and served as senior vice president and director of the Education, Human Development and the Workforce Division. He previously served as senior vice president and chief strategy officer of Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. Myers, who earned his Ph.D. in sociology from Washington State University, is an authority on the design, implementation, and analysis of experimental studies of education programs. He has played a major role in some of the largest randomized control trials on education conducted in the United States.

  • Creating the Community Forum on Effective Health Care — In 2011, AIR began leading the creation of the Community Forum on Effective Health Care, an initiative that will evaluate and develop approaches aimed at expanding the participation of the public and various stakeholder groups in improving the effectiveness of health care. The information generated helps patients and their families understand what treatments work best and how their risks compare, while allowing for choices for each individual patient. AIR is working with the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

  • AIR Company Mergers — Beginning in 2010, AIR joined forces with several leading organizations. These mergers demonstrated AIR’s ongoing commitment to research, evaluation and technical assistance, and an expansion of capabilities to serve federal, state and local needs on a variety of topics. These companies included: Learning Point Associates (2010);The National Center on Family Homelessness (2012);Education Sector (2013); and SEDL (2014).

  • Assisting with Haiti’s Educational Needs — Responding to the need to help Haiti recover from the devastating earthquake that struck in 2010, AIR has been assisting in efforts to restore and improve the country’s school system. We have assembled hundreds of transitional classroom structures, and helped provide teaching and learning supplies, and recreational equipment to help children and communities cope. AIR has an almost decade-long history of supporting educational improvements in Haiti through its work with USAID-funded Programme Haitien d’Appui à la Réforme de l’Education (PHARE). The effort builds the capacity of the Haitian Ministry of Education and Professional Training (MENFP) to plan, deliver, monitor, and evaluate educational services in public and non-public schools, including teacher and administrator professional development systems, school licensing procedures, community participation, and monitoring and evaluation of services.

  • Launching the “i know” Effort by CDC to Increase HIV/AIDS Dialogue Among African Americans — AIR supported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention (DHAP) with the official launch on March 4, 2010 of the “i know” campaign to increase dialogue about HIV/AIDS among African Americans aged 18-24 and their partners, friends, and family. AIR directed a national five-year multi-faceted effort designed to contribute to CDC’s goal of reducing the incidence of HIV in the United States.

  • The Communication Toolkit: Using Information to Get High Quality Care — In 2010, AIR developed a publicly-available online Communication Toolkit to help employers and other organizations communicate with consumers about key concepts in evidence-based health care and consumer engagement. Developed with funding from the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF), the Toolkit contains customizable materials to support consumers in identifying, understanding, and using health care information and evidence.

Educational and Global Leadership:

AIR became the nation’s leading educational research organization, involved in most aspects of the federal law governing elementary and secondary education as new requirements reached into every school district and classroom. Major growth areas include our cutting-edge international development programs that operate in every region of the world, our state-of-the-art assessment tests, and the expansion of our health program’s capacity to help people lead healthier and more productive lives.

  • New Admissions Tests in Ukraine Make College Acceptances Fair — A testing system, the Ukrainian Standardized External Testing Initiative (USETI), was created and implemented by AIR in 2009-2010 under a grant from USAID to help the Ukrainian government to reduce corruption in its public sector. In the past, Ukraine had no standardized testing, and each university and department in a university had its own admissions test. AIR and the American Councils for International Education helped the Ukraine educational system train and certify people to design and write the tests, which combines multiple-choice questions and brief essays.

  • Work in Malawi Empowers Youth — William Kamkwamba was able to bring free electricity to his village in Malawi by building a windmill that was based on information from a donated book sent to a local library by the Malawi Teacher Training Activity (MTTA), a program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and operated by AIR. The young boy used a science book to teach himself to build a windmill to provide electricity for his village, and shared his experience at AIR in 2009. His story has inspired may around the globe. AIR has worked in Malawi for over a decade to empower youth and to combat the HIV/AIDs epidemic there.
  • Breakthroughs in International Benchmarking — AIR has expanded assessment criteria to help educators and policymakers better gauge how well U.S. students are performing compared with those in other nations. AIR developed a method that calibrates U.S. and international mathematics tests on the same scale with the familiar letter grades of A, B, C, and D. This groundbreaking approach to international benchmarking, announced in 2009, allows parents and policymakers to see how students are performing in comparison with their counterparts in other countries.

  • AIR Supporting Say Yes to Education in Syracuse — Since 2008, AIR has supported an unprecedented district-wide effort to overhaul the public school system in Syracuse, NY. that is led by the Say Yes to Education Foundation, Syracuse University, and numerous other organizations. AIR is committed to providing $7.5 million in financial support and services to the project, including conducting a multi-faceted evaluation of the effort. The goal is to provide comprehensive support to students from kindergarten through high school, and to provide them with an opportunity to go to college.
  • Helping States Improve Their Medicare Services — From 2007 to 2014, AIR was asked to support an effort to strengthen the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), a federally funded, state-based program that offers one-on-one counseling and assistance to Medicare beneficiaries and their families. Counselors assist beneficiaries with their Medicare questions and problems, such as how to deal with benefits and claims, through telephone and face-to-face meetings, public education presentations, and media activities.
  • AIR’s Assessment Program Expands to Provide Cutting-Edge Testing Services — During the 2000s, AIR’s Assessment program grew into a leader in providing a full range of testing services for states like Delaware, Hawaii, Oregon, and Ohio, including test development, online and paper-based services, and scoring and reporting. By 2007, AIR produced reports using data that guide students, parents, and educators to improve teaching and learning, while psychometricians and statisticians provide world-class information that informs policy and curriculum decisions.

  • AIR’s TeamSTEPPS: Helping Reduce Medical Team Errors — Beginning in 2007, AIR, at the request of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the TRICARE Management Activity of the U.S. Department of Defense, developed TeamSTEPPS (Team Strategies and Tools to Enhance Performance and Patient Safety) in an effort to improve patient safety and reduce medical errors. TeamSTEPPS is an award-winning training curriculum that AHRQ has made available as the federal standard for training teamwork skills in health care, and is available free of charge to public and private hospitals.

  • AIR Plays Pivotal Role in Two Studies of No Child Left Behind Act — Beginning in 2006, AIR played a pivotal role in two congressionally-mandated studies — the National Longitudinal Study of NCLB (NLS-NCLB) and a Study of State Implementation of Accountability and Teacher Quality under NCLB (SSI-NCLB). Together, these studies constitute the major data sources for the National Assessment of Title I, which provided Congress with information prior to the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

  • Advancing Education in Egypt — In 2004, AIR began helping Egypt facilitate education reform by establishing effective and efficient decentralized education models and by strengthening non-formal education programs. Just 57 percent of Egypt’s total population over the age of 15 is literate, with less than half of Egypt’s women able to read and write. With help from AIR and USAID, Egypt has begun to change the better. In 2008, AIR opened the Princess Neemat Palace School complex, in the Al Marg district of Cairo, a facility benefiting 4,600 students and the largest school complex in Egypt.
  • AIR Works to Improve Quality of Life Among Elderly by Focusing on Nursing Home Care — The issues of aging and long-term care are assuming increasing prominence in the national dialogue. In 2001, AIR was selected by the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) to participate in two important initiatives aimed at improving the quality of nursing home care by strengthening the inspections process and refining guidelines used to determine the severity of nursing home deficiencies so that appropriate remedies can be applied.

  • AIR Plays Role in Preparing Nation in the Event of Bioterrorism — In the aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001, improving the way federal, state, and local health officials communicate with the public about such events has become of great importance. AIR was selected in 2002 to develop a crisis communication training program for federal, state, and local staff with responsibility for public health communications during a biological or chemical terrorist attack.

  • Sol H. Pelavin Becomes President and CEO of AIR — In 2001, AIR’s Board of Directors named Sol H. Pelavin the organization’s fifth president and chief executive officer, after serving as AIR’s executive vice president and chief operating officer since 1994. Pelavin became a senior executive at AIR when the firm he founded, Pelavin Associates, a leading education research organization, was acquired by AIR. He retired in December, 2010 after leading the organization through the most dramatic growth in its history.
  • Five-Year Study of Proposition 227 Finds No Conclusive Evidence Favoring One Instructional Approach for English Language Learners — California voters approved Proposition 227, which required that school districts across the state teach English language learners “overwhelmingly in English” under a one-year English immersion program. It was assumed that English immersion programs would produce better results than bilingual education. Beginning in 2000, AIR researchers conducted a five-year study of the impact of Proposition 227 and found no conclusive evidence to support either approach over the other.

Turning Complex Data into Usable Information:
The 1990s

The 1990s saw AIR helping to bring about equitable personnel policies in the military, as well as enhancing learning in the classroom through technology and spearheading an effort that helped safeguard the nation’s blood supply. AIR expanded its work throughout the world of education — from developing voluntary national tests in reading and mathematics (linked to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the “Nation’s Report Card”) to evaluating the nation’s largest program for strengthening high-poverty schools, from investigating the value of smaller classes to creating nationally recognized centers that share information on effective programs for children with special needs and identifying the best education technology.

  • AIR Helps California Evaluate Class Size Reduction — In June 1999, amid growing discussion of class size reduction as a tool for education reform, AIR and the RAND Corporation reported small achievement gains for California’s third-grade students, relative to students in larger classes. The gains were made regardless of student ethnicity, income status, or English language ability. At the same time, the study showed state funds did not cover many school districts’ costs for creating smaller classes.

  • AIR Develops Voluntary National Tests in Reading and Mathematics — In 1998, AIR, with six partners, won a contract to develop voluntary national tests of reading at the fourth-grade level and math at the eighth-grade level. Scores on these standardized tests linked student performance to achievement levels used by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). AIR developed test items, scoring rubrics, and evaluated some of the test items with students in cognitive labs. 
  • AIR Develops National Reporting System for Adult Education — AIR has led the National Reporting System (NRS) for Adult Education for the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) since 1997. AIR developed the adult education accountability system and, from its inception, developed a parallel line of technical assistance activities to ensure its effective implementation and use.

  • AIR's Acquisition of Pelavin Associates Adds to the Organization's Expertise and Resources — AIR's acquisition of Pelavin Associates in 1994, one of the nation's foremost consulting and research firms, resulted in a significant expansion of AIR's work in the fields of education and human development. AIR now has an unmatched capacity to address issues in the fields of program evaluation, international education, adult education, child development, education finance, and research on the specially challenged.
  • AIR Completes the Largest Personnel Evaluation in the History of the U.S. Army — In 1990, AIR played a central role in Project A, the largest personnel evaluation in the history of the U.S. Army. Over a period of nine years, AIR researchers tracked the careers of more than three million Army personnel. Analysis of the collected data greatly improved the selection, classification, and utilization of Army personnel.

  • A Study for the FDA Leads to Nationwide Changes in Blood Donor Screening — In a project sponsored by the Food and Drug Administration, AIR developed print and video materials to communicate information about AIDS more effectively to prospective blood donors. The 1990 results of the study, which also included updated procedures and interview protocols to encourage self-exclusion for those at risk of AIDS, led to nationwide changes in donor screening practices.

Improving Research Methods:
The 1980s

By the 1980s, AIR was creating one of the first usability-testing laboratories, and became involved in the statistical analysis of personnel actions for employment discrimination cases. It also improved the accessibility of air travel for those with disabilities, and examined how participation in intercollegiate athletics affects student athletes.

  • AIR Studies Intercollegiate Athletics for the NCAA — How does participation in intercollegiate athletics affect students? These and other questions about educational aspirations, expectations, and experiences of student-athletes were part of a unique study AIR conducted for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), surveying over 4,000 students to present a unique national picture of the effects of participation in college athletics from the perspective of the student-athletes. The research provided a baseline for improving the experiences of intercollegiate athletes throughout the U.S., and informed the legislative process at the 1989 NCAA Convention, as well as other reforms.

  • David A. Goslin becomes President and CEO of AIR — In 1987, David A. Goslin was selected by AIR’s Board of Directors to lead the organization. Prior to joining AIR, Goslin served 13 years as executive director of the National Research Council’s Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. He authored several books and articles on the sociology of education, the social effects of standardized testing and socialization theory. He retired from AIR in 2001.
  • AIR's Specialized Wheelchair Design Improves Aircraft Accessibility — AIR emerged as one of the leading organizations working to improve the accessibility of air travel for people with disabilities in 1986. In a project sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration, AIR developed the federal advisory standard on aircraft boarding chair design, and patented a specialized wheelchair for use in the narrow spaces of commuter aircraft. 

  • Pioneering Work in Computer Technology — AIR’s involvement with computer technology includes a pioneering effort in the 1980s called SISters Using COMputers, or SISCOM. The goal of the program was to offer computer instruction to girls to reduce the discrimination many of them experienced when it came to technology. By offering girls the opportunity to become familiar with computer technology in a relaxed environment.

Better Research and Protocols:
The 1970s

An early example of AIR’s work in health care involves a set of studies that began in the 1970s to improve the treatment of asthma. During that period, AIR created the Gerontological Research Institute to promote the more effective use of research on aging. Later, when concerns mounted about AIDS and the nation’s blood supply, the Food and Drug Administration turned to AIR to update blood-screening procedures and protocols. During the decade, AIR also led groundbreaking research on juvenile delinquency and recidivism.

  • The Gerontological Research Institute Promotes Effective Use of Research on Aging — In 1979, AIR established the Gerontological Research Institute under a cooperative agreement with the Administration on Aging. The Institute set research agendas, gathered and synthesized research on aging, and developed recommendations for public policy based on its analysis of current data. Each year, the Institute focused on a certain aspect of aging; in its first year, it examined long-term care of the elderly.

  • AIR Begins Studies to Improve Asthma Treatment — In 1977, under a grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, AIR began work on the first of a series of programs to teach children and adults with asthma the skills necessary for effective participation in their own care. Over the years these programs included Wee Wheezers, an educational program for young children with asthma; the Fresno Asthma Project, designed to reduce the high mortality rate from asthma in Fresno County, CA; and Breathe Easier, an asthma education program for adults.
  • AIR's Research Contributes to the Effectiveness of Anti-Delinquency Programs — In its fourth decade, AIR emerged as a leader in the research and evaluation of domestic social programs. Beginning in 1976, AIR conducted a series of studies on juvenile delinquency for the new Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. AIR's research sometimes contradicted popular assumptions about the causes of juvenile delinquency and recidivism, and contributed to the formation of public policy. 

  • Paul A. Schwarz becomes President and CEO of AIR — Paul A. Schwarz, a noted psychologist and researcher who was director of AIR’s International Division, was named President and CEO by the organization’s Board of Directors in 1973. He served until 1987.


Effecting Change:
The 1960s

During the 1960s, the scope of AIR’s work grew dramatically. The results of our studies were being used to improve the treatment of diseases. AIR’s work overseas began changing how foreign aid programs were viewed, moving from short-term relief to long-term development. AIR simultaneously sought to accelerate human performance and build individual potential.

  • Raines Wallace Becomes President and CEO — In 1967, the AIR Board of Directors named Raines Wallace as AIR’s second president and CEO. Wallace, a psychologist, had joined the organization shortly after it was formed and worked closely with AIR founder John C. Flanagan. Wallace served until 1970.

  • AIR Develops Aptitude Tests for Developing Nations — To help meet Africa's growing need for skilled workers, AIR developed a set of 21 scholastic and vocational tests to classify Nigerian students for entry into secondary, technical or alternative schools in 1963. Students selected showed dramatic improvements in performance in training and professional programs. With similar tests, AIR then assisted other developing nations, including Liberia, Ghana, Mali, Brazil, and Korea.

  • AIR Prepares Training Manuals and Develops Criteria for Selecting Peace Corps Volunteers — Beginning in 1961, AIR conducted studies for the Peace Corps to define the critical requirements for effective performance and to improve the process of matching volunteers to specific assignments. AIR subsequently evaluated the impact of the volunteer program and prepared training manuals, including “Working Effectively Overseas” based on an extensive study of American behavior abroad.

Pioneering Techniques:
1946 Through the 1950s

After AIR’s incorporation as a not-for-profit, non-partisan organization in 1946, John C. Flanagan developed the critical incident technique (CIT). In the 1950s, AIR experts created research models in aptitude and placement tests that remain as standards today. Through these and other related projects, AIR provided people with the information they needed to build better lives.

  • AIR Begins Ambitious Project TALENT Program — In 1957, AIR began the first of several phases of Project TALENT, which identified ways to encourage high school students to develop and use their potential talents. AIR measured the aptitudes and interests of a national sample of 440,000 students and conducted follow-up surveys one, five, and eleven years after they graduated. The database became a national resource for improving education through vocational guidance and curriculum development.

  • SCORES Test Improves Selection and Placement — AIR began to develop a method of classification to improve the selection and placement of higher level personnel, such as engineers, scientists, salespeople, and administrators. The classification system, developed in 1957, measured abilities of Supervision, Creativity, Organization, Research, Engineering, and Sales ability (SCORES). The SCORES test drew on AIR's pioneering evaluation techniques to make the most effective use of individual aptitudes and skills.
  • AIR Studies Improve Highway Safety — In 1956, AIR began an extensive program of research on highway safety. The initial studies, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, analyzed driver behaviors and other factors responsible for highway accidents. The results of AIR's research were used to improve vehicle and highway design and to develop new guidelines for driver training.

  • Developing a Screening Process for Commercial Pilots — AIR’s first project was a request from Trans World Airlines to develop a screening process to help them select their commercial airline pilot candidates. Many of those techniques are in use today.

  • AIR Founded in 1946 by John C. Flanagan — The American Institutes for Research was incorporated in 1946. John C. Flanagan served as AIR’s first president and CEO from 1946 until 1967, when he gave up the titles to focus on research, including the development of the Critical Incident Technique (CIT). He assumed the duties of president and CEO in 1970 until 1973.