Whenever we get the chance to share information about the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) program with the public, we’re often asked, “How are the 2022-2027 RELs different from past REL cycles?” In this blog, we focus on one major new effort that each REL is undertaking: the creation of a toolkit for educators based on one of the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) Practice Guides. Each REL toolkit will include a set of resources for educators to implement and institutionalize evidence-based recommendations from a WWC Practice Guide. Importantly, each REL is co-developing their resources with educators, school, and district leaders or with postsecondary faculty and staff to ensure the toolkits’ relevance and actionability. Following the toolkit development phase, RELs will partner with educators not involved in developing the toolkits to test the usability of each toolkit and its efficacy in improving student and teacher outcomes. The RELs have current partners for toolkit development and usability testing but are looking for partner schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions in which to test the efficacy of the toolkits. These efficacy-testing partners will be among the first to benefit from the evidence-based toolkits.
Why this investment of REL and partner time and resources? WWC Practice Guides are among IES’ premier resources for translating evidence on effective practice into accessible and usable strategies for educators. Each Guide is based on a synthesis of the most rigorous research on teaching a particular subject or achieving a particular education goal. Each Guide is also based on the input of a panel of expert practitioners and researchers and includes—
- Key recommendations for educational practice based on a synthesis of rigorous research
- Supporting evidence for each recommendation
- Steps to carry out each recommendation
- Examples of the practices
- Discussions of common implementation challenges and strategies for overcoming those challenges
RELs Emphasize Active Learning to Support Implementation of Evidence-Based Practices
Although WWC Practice Guides are some of IES’ most popular products, we also know that teachers and leaders cannot simply read about a new practice to master it. Instead, they need to engage in active learning by observing the new practice, discussing it, implementing it, receiving feedback on the practice, and continuing to improve. The REL toolkits are designed to support educators in the creation and implementation of a professional learning community (PLC) focused on the evidence-based practices outlined in a WWC Practice Guide. In these PLCs, educators will learn about the Practice Guide recommendations by reading about the practices, discussing them with colleagues, and by developing plans for implementing the practices in their classrooms. Educators will also put those plans into action and then debrief on those implementation experiences. To support this work, the toolkits will include PLC guides, workbooks, self-study guides, and rubrics. Some toolkits will also include videos of teachers effectively implementing the practices.
Each toolkit will also include the following:
- An initial diagnostic and ongoing monitoring instrument for assessing instructional practices against the practices recommended in the WWC Practice Guide
- A tool that enables teachers, teacher leaders, and administrators to assess the extent to which their school, district or postsecondary institution supports the implementation and ongoing monitoring of the evidence-based practice recommendations
- A discussion of implementation steps for institutionalizing supports that help educators, building leaders, and other administrators adopt the evidence-based practices and sustain them over time
Some RELs have already started usability testing of their toolkits. Across 2025 and 2026, nine of our 10 RELs will publish final versions of their toolkits and efficacy studies on their toolkit. Both will be freely available on the REL website. Visit our Newsflash page and sign up to receive newsflashes from the RELs and the IES center that houses the program—the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE).
Partner with RELs: Help IES Study REL Toolkits
RELs will soon recruit partner schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions in their regions to conduct the toolkit efficacy studies. If you are interested in having your school, district, or institution participate in an efficacy study and benefit from being one of the first users of these toolkits, please email us at Elizabeth.Eisner@ed.gov or Chris.Boccanfuso@ed.gov. The efficacy study for each REL’s toolkit must take place within each REL’s region. Not sure which REL region is yours? Check out the “About the RELs page” on the IES website or the map visualization on our program homepage.
If you have other questions, concerns, or ideas about this work, please reach out to us. We welcome your input so that you can help IES and the RELs make the toolkits as useful and effective as possible.
Liz Eisner, Associate Commissioner for Knowledge Use
Chris Boccanfuso, REL Branch Chief
 REL Southwest’s contract started 11 months after the contracts of the other 9 RELs, so the REL Southwest toolkit will be released in 2027.
 You can also sign up for Newsflashes from IES and its other three centers—NCES, NCER, & NCSER.