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When the National Rural Education Association’s (NREA) annual convention convenes in Denver this October, researchers from five Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs) will come together to share with rural school policy makers, administrators, teachers, researchers, and others research and tools that address some of the most pressing issues in rural education.

REL Central, together with REL Northwest, REL Northeast and Islands, REL Southeast, and REL Midwest will present two back-to-back conference sessions addressing four NREA research priorities: teacher/leader recruitment and retention; technology integration to meet needs of rural schools; data-driven decision-making to improve student educational attainment; and college and career readiness/preparation for postsecondary experiences. The first session will explore capacity-building tools that can be used by rural educators and decision-makers, while the second will provide overviews of REL research projects.

“REL Central is excited to join with other RELs to bring an array of research, resources, and information to the NREA convention,” said David Yanoski, one of the REL Central researchers organizing the conference sessions. “Both sessions address some of the most important issues facing rural educators today and offer viable solutions and constructive ideas.”

The first session will provide practical tools that address college and career readiness and data-driven decision-making needs of rural education communities. Presenters will discuss tools that address instructional improvement for practitioners (REL Central), continuous improvement (REL Northeast and Islands), cross-sector counseling and advising professional learning communities (REL Northwest), evidence-based career counseling (REL Southeast), and education technology (REL Midwest). Each REL will provide an overview of the report or tool as well as its relation to building education agencies’ capacity to address their needs.

The research presented during the second session will focus on teacher attrition, mobility, and retention as well as the integration of technology into instructional practices in rural areas. REL Central will present its study Understanding Rural Teacher Workforce Dynamics and Factors Related to Teacher Mobility and Attrition in Four States, currently being conducted in partnership with SEAs in Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota. And REL Northwest will provide an overview of its work relating to rural retention patterns with the Alaska State Policy Research Alliance. This overview will include development of the alliance’s focus and agenda, and promising strategies for increasing retention rates. Later in the session, REL Midwest will discuss the Iowa Learning and Technology Networked Improvement Community’s current research, which centers on ways to develop policies and supports for technology integration in rural settings.

Attendees of both sessions will have the opportunity to ask questions of the presenters and discover ways to access further resources provided by the REL network such as its Ask A REL service.

Whether conference goers have been following REL rural work for years or are just being introduced to the laboratories, both sessions will offer a range of rural research, tools, and partnership-building practices, as well as insight into their development, that will be valuable to educators, policymakers and researchers alike.

To learn more about the session, or to receive a complete list of the resources to be discussed, please contact David Yanoski at