The Next Chapter in the AIR Story

Since 1946, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) has been committed to improving people’s lives by conducting high-quality research and evaluation and working with others to put that evidence into action.

Over our 73 years, that commitment has included many different areas of work. We have developed aptitude tests to identify potential combat pilots. We have trained Peace Corps volunteers and evaluated intercollegiate athletics. We have helped states improve their Medicare services and empowered women and children in economically distressed countries. We have measured the performance of colleges and universities and studied and implemented numerous K-12 educational programs and interventions.

About 20 years ago, we began a new line of work: student assessment. It was a different kind of project for AIR. We wanted to build a better set of assessments that would provide robust, meaningful data about student achievement, giving us a barometer to better understand who is and isn’t benefitting from the educational system. The response was amazing. Thanks to the hard work of AIR’s employees and the company’s continued investment, AIR Assessment grew significantly and has become a real player in the K-12 testing industry. We currently deliver nearly 60 million online tests in more than 20 states.

Given this success, some may be surprised by the announcement that we are selling AIR Assessment to Cambium Learning Group, Inc., an education technology company. But this has been far from a quick decision.

For the past several years, AIR has essentially been running two distinct but complementary business divisions. Within AIR, there is one division with its roots in academia and a long history of conducting research and working with governments, non-profits, philanthropies and other organizations to apply that evidence. And the second division, AIR Assessment, has more of a start-up mentality and has been focusing on work with states and districts to design and administer state-of-the-art tests.

Both divisions are guided by AIR’s mission, however they have different needs. We’ve done a good job of balancing the two business lines within AIR, and as we look to the future we want to make sure both of these entities are positioned well for growth and for what needs to be accomplished. Given the current marketplace, AIR’s Board of Directors and leadership team felt that this was the right time to find a new partner for AIR Assessment. Through a long, exhaustive process, we’ve determined that Cambium Learning is the right fit.

Through this transaction, we are able to place AIR Assessment with a company that is well established in the education field. Their expertise and experience can help AIR Assessment maintain and expand its state assessment presence with the resources and network to grow into new areas of work.

Beyond this transaction, there is a remarkable opportunity to look to the future. We will use the proceeds of the sale to expand on our commitment to our core work of research, evaluation, and technical assistance in multiple content areas, and explore new areas and new topics where we can really make a difference.

The sale of AIR Assessment is undoubtedly a big change, but change has been a part of our story for more than 70 years. Throughout our history, we have adjusted our resources and our focus to meet the needs of our clients and the marketplace and fulfill our mission: to conduct and apply the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation towards improving people's lives, with a special emphasis on the disadvantaged.

With clarity and focus—and an outstanding, dedicated team—I believe in what we can accomplish together. I’m excited about the partnership between AIR Assessment and Cambium Learning. I’m excited and ready for us to write the next chapter of the AIR story. The future is bright, and we are walking towards it.