As our nation addresses the challenge of improving academic achievement for all students, the role of evidence in shaping practice and policy becomes even more critical. The Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) program, sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) at the U.S. Department of Education, has significantly advanced the quality and reliability of available evidence through its focus on producing and disseminating high-quality, rigorous research.
The 10 Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs) serve the education needs of designated regions using applied research, development, dissemination, and training and technical assistance to bring the latest and best research and proven practices into school improvement efforts. They do this by hosting events that bring together researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to learn from each other about current and emerging research and its practical applications; by creating tools that facilitate the implementation of research findings; and by providing technical assistance to help identify problems, assess current understandings, and develop plans to answer questions of interest.
The current RELs, launched in 2012, promise further strides in building an education system in which decisions are firmly grounded in data and research. RELs are working in partnership with nearly 70 "research alliances" comprised of education practitioners and policymakers at the district and/or state levels. In collaboration with the RELs, research alliance members identify specific, pressing education challenges in their region. Then, they analyze data and conduct research to gain a more nuanced understanding of the challenges and to develop and test strategies for improvement.
The goal of this work is to build capacity to use data and research by:
- Assisting states, districts, and schools in using their data systems
- Conducting and supporting high-quality studies on key regional priorities
- Helping education policymakers and practitioners to incorporate data and research into everyday decision making
Research alliances operating in each region are addressing critical issues such as:
- Providing effective early education
- Identifying and retaining effective teachers and principals
- Adopting and implementing rigorous standards and assessments
- Increasing college readiness, access, and completion
- Improving low-achieving schools
Many alliances address the needs of subgroups, such as rural or charter schools, or special populations, such as American Indian, Alaska Native, English language learner, Pacific Islander, low-income, or special education students.
Primary Source: Institute of Education Sciences, Regional Educational Laboratory Program, http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/about/