Educators and advocates for education research, including some from the Pacific Northwest, voiced their support for the Institute of Education Sciences’ Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) program during a March 15 briefing on Capitol Hill.
The 10 RELs partner with states and local education agencies to improve outcomes for students across the country.
Specifically, the RELs help states and districts expand the use of evidence and data to address education-related issues, as well as implement policies and practices that are responsive to students’ needs.
About 60 people attended the briefing, which was held in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon delivered the opening remarks.
Bonamici said she supports federally funded education research, and she highlighted the role the RELs play in helping states implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (which emphasizes the development and use of evidence to guide decision-making).
Panelists who testified in support of the REL program included Jon Bridges, administrator for accountability at the Beaverton (Oregon) School District; Greg Keith, chief academic officer at the Minnesota Department of Education; and Muhammed Chaudhry, president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation.
The Beaverton School District works with a REL Northwest research alliance that seeks to reduce racial disproportionality in student discipline, and Bridges said the partnership has been beneficial.
“I don’t know where we would be without the REL,” he said after the briefing. “Districts in Oregon certainly don’t have the capacity to perform high-quality research independently, and the REL was the galvanizing force that brought—and kept—the districts together.”
The briefing was coordinated by Knowledge Alliance, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that advocates for the use of research to improve K–12 public education.
According to Michele McLaughlin, president of Knowledge Alliance, “The briefing clearly demonstrated how the federally funded RELs provide states, districts and schools with needed research capacity to solve problems that will ultimately benefit students.”