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The Regional Educational Laboratory Program: About Us

The ten Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs) work in partnership with school districts, state departments of education, and other educational stakeholders to use data and research to improve academic outcomes for students. For more than 50 years, the RELs have collaborated with school districts, state departments of education, and other education stakeholders to help them generate and use evidence and improve student outcomes.

The RELs bring together people with disparate areas of expertise and interest to provide technical support, conduct research, and offer learning opportunities that inform changes to policy and practice in an effort to improve educational outcomes for students. To learn more about the REL work, see the Our Work page.

The current authorization for the REL Program is under the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA) of 2002, Part D, Section 174, (20 U.S.C. 9564), administered by the Institute of Education Sciences' (IES) National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE). The ten RELs each operate under a five-year contract with IES. The current REL contract cycle runs from 2017–2022.

Regions

  • Appalachia
    Serving Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia
    Contractor: SRI International
  • Central
    Serving Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming
    Contractor: Marzano Research
  • Mid-Atlantic
    Serving Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C.
    Contractor: Mathematica Policy Research
  • Midwest
    Serving Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin
    Contractor: American Institutes for Research
  • Northeast & Islands
    Serving Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, U.S. Virgin Islands
    Contractor: EDC
  • Northwest
    Serving Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington
    Contractor: Education Northwest
  • Pacific
    Serving American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Hawaii, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau
    Contractor: McREL International
  • Southeast
    Serving Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina
    Contractor: Florida State University
  • Southwest
    Serving Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas
    Contractor: American Institutes for Research
  • West
    Serving Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah
    Contractor: WestEd

History

Title IV of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 authorized the establishment of a network of large-scale labs, with a focus on basic research and the development and dissemination of educational innovations. At the beginning of the REL Program in 1965, there were 20 labs. Over the years, the number has varied. The current REL Program supports a network of 10 RELs.

The goals set for the REL Program have changed throughout its history.

  • Before 1985, the RELs were charged with pursuing the broad goal of general education improvement. Beginning with the 1985 REL awards, the U.S. Department of Education sought to enhance the impact of RELs in their regions by identifying school and classroom improvement as the two main priority areas.
  • In the 1990–1995 REL competition, the education of at-risk children became the focus area.
  • For the 1995–2000 contract cycle, two priority areas were set: (1) promote excellence and equity for all students and (2) scale up reform to encompass all schools, all levels of educational administration, all programmatic areas, and diverse social contexts.
  • In 2000–2005, RELs were asked to (1) create procedural knowledge of the best practices for transforming low-performing schools into high-performing learning communities and (2) promote use of such knowledge.
  • In the 2006–2011 contract cycle, RELs were framed as "emissaries of science," with the goal of providing policymakers and practitioners with training and technical assistance to inform effective decision-making. RELs were required to provide technical assistance that was based on the highest-quality evidence, as defined by scientifically valid research principles. RELs were also expected to engage in high quality, rigorous research to address the effectiveness of programs, policies, and/or practices intended to improve educational outcomes.
  • The 2012–2017 REL program sought to address the disconnect between researchers and practitioners through researcher-practitioner partnerships known as research alliances.
  • The 2017–2022 REL program continues to build on and extend its recent history of high-quality research, genuine partnership, and effective communication.