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Under the U.S. Department of Education, the Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs) and the Comprehensive Centers (CCs) support education agencies across the nation. The main difference between these two programs lies in the nature of that support. Comprehensive centers primarily assist state education agencies (SEAs) in building capacity to implement and administer federal initiatives and programs. The RELs, on the other hand, partner with stakeholders at the state and district levels to support the use and development of research and evidence-based practices.

Recently, REL Central (one of ten RELS) and the North Central Comprehensive Center (NCCC) (one of 15 CCs) had the opportunity to combine efforts to meet stakeholder needs in Wyoming. NCCC requested assistance from REL Central in a project they were conducting with the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE). Specifically, NCCC was supporting WDE to define an ineffective educator in a way that conformed to federal reporting requirements under Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This act directs SEAs to define this term in order to ensure that the numbers of quality teachers serving disadvantaged and high-need students are not disproportionately lower than those serving other students. Consequently, WDE convened a stakeholder group of diverse Wyoming educators to determine what definition would be most suitable for the state.

To support WDE in achieving its goal of developing an ESSA-aligned definition, REL Central and NCCC each contributed expertise. REL Central, through its Wyoming State Support Research Partnership, compiled and presented research-based best practices in teacher evaluation—practices drawn from a variety of other SEA instruments that reflected current standards in Wyoming evaluation systems. Over a series of four meetings, NCCC facilitated Wyoming stakeholder conversations around how they could leverage those best practices, as well as information from other state ESSA plans, to define an ineffective educator. By the final meeting, the stakeholders had composed a draft definition that could be used for ESSA reporting. WDE has reviewed and finalized this definition, which will be included in the state’s ESSA plan and will ultimately help the state ensure all students receive a quality education.

Mark Bowers, Title II-A and IV-A program manager at WDE, expressed his satisfaction with the outcome of the work. “The team proved themselves an essential resource,” Bowers stated. “Throughout the process, their work was timely, professional, and invaluable to an end product that will help shape our state’s education policy for years.”

REL Central and NCCC look forward to further opportunities to join resources and expertise in order to build stakeholder capacity across our shared region. Learn more about the work of REL Central’s Wyoming State Support Research Partnership here. Also visit the NCCC website to discover more about the center’s services and activities.