The ten Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs) work in partnership with school districts, state departments of education, and others to use data and research to improve academic outcomes for students. Fundamentally, the mission of the RELs is to provide support for a more evidence-reliant education system.
The RELs are charged with three main activities:
- Conduct applied research that seeks to solve practical problems and advances fundamental understandings of education problems and processes
- Facilitate the flow of actionable, credible, up-to-date research evidence (and information, ideas, and approaches that are clearly based on credible research evidence) among researchers, practitioners, and policymakers
- Provide technical assistance related to application and use of scientifically-valid research through extensive, ongoing, or customized support to meet the needs of particular stakeholders.
The RELs do work that bridges the worlds of education research and education practice. Though these worlds share a common desire to improve education outcomes, they often differ in their incentive structures, time constraints, priorities, and communication practices. The RELs serve as a bridge by:
- Differentiating support based on need: Each REL provides its region with access to the most sophisticated research expertise. It also offers support on basic, introductory-level data and research topics when needed.
- Providing information in the short term, and developing evidence over the long term: Each REL responds to immediate needs of practitioners and policymakers for products to inform decisions, usually within a short time horizon. REL researchers craft research projects so that they also make empirical and theoretical contributions to long-term, enduring issues in education research.
- Addressing local issues that can also benefit the nation: Each REL responds to regional needs for research, dissemination, and technical support as articulated by its education stakeholders. To the extent possible, the RELs craft its work to address the research needs of local partners while also informing broader scholarly and policy debates.