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Works in Progress

REL Midwest conducts research studies and offers training, coaching, and technical support to address our partners’ research questions, provide policymakers and practitioners with information they need to make decisions, and build individual and organizational capacity to understand and use research in education policy and practice. We invite you to learn about our projects that are currently underway.

Works in Progress are posted after project proposals have gone through a rigorous peer review process.

College and Career Readiness

Students Who Take Career and Technical Education Courses in Indiana And Minnesota: Who Are They and What Becomes of Them?

Many states face the challenge of helping students gain the skills necessary to succeed in college and the workplace. One way states are addressing this challenge is by developing career pathways and career and technical education opportunities aligned with those pathways. Stakeholders in Indiana and Minnesota want to know whether certain types of students or schools have higher enrollment and completion rates for career and technical education. They also want to know if participation in career and technical education courses affects high school graduates’ college and workforce outcomes. REL Midwest is assisting these stakeholder groups by examining high school graduates’ course-taking patterns, their enrollment in and completion of college, and their employment and earnings history.

Examining the Association Between Attending Different Types of High Schools in Indiana and Success in High School and Early College

This study is examining the high school and college outcomes of four consecutive cohorts of Indiana students. The findings will provide new information on high school quality by examining the association between attending high schools of different types—traditional public high schools, public charter high schools, and private high schools that participate in the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program—and factors associated with students’ high school completion, college and career readiness, and early college success.


Determining the Effect of Discipline Reform Plans on Student Suspensions and Expulsions in Minnesota

In 2017, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights determined that 43 school districts and charter networks in the state violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act by suspending and expelling Black and Native American students and students in special education programs at high rates. These districts and charter networks were required to create a plan to reform disciplinary practices in their organizations. This REL Midwest study will help the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and the Minnesota Department of Education better understand the effectiveness of this approach.

Early Childhood

Receipt of Professional Development and Literacy Outcomes in Grades P–2 in Chicago Public Schools

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has embarked on a multiyear initiative to improve literacy instruction for students in prekindergarten through grade 2, called the P–2 Balanced Literacy Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to spread best practices to more classrooms through professional development and coaching. While CPS has some preliminary findings that its approach to professional development is building teacher capacity, REL Midwest is conducting this study to help CPS extend its learning about what type and dosage of professional development matters for supporting teachers in implementing effective literacy instruction and whether it matters differently for certain subgroups of teachers and students. The district will use the findings from this research to refine its approach to providing professional support for its P–2 teachers and will then decide whether and how to scale it up to classrooms district-wide.

Analysis of Illinois District-Level Reading Achievement Outcomes in Kindergarten and Grade 1 by Student Characteristics

This descriptive study is examining whether reading achievement gaps observed in two districts in Illinois are present in kindergarten. If so, the study will examine whether those gaps widen for some subgroups of students more than others as they move across kindergarten into grade 1.

Educator Effectiveness

Initial Findings on a Culturally Responsive Practices Professional Development Training Program in Wisconsin

Improving educational outcomes among Black students is a priority in Wisconsin, and stakeholders formed the Midwest Achievement Gap Research Alliance to address this issue. One topic that the alliance prioritized is understanding how culturally responsive practices are related to student and school outcomes. This study will examine a culturally responsive practices professional development training program to determine whether completing this program is related to school outcomes.

Research Tools

Assessing the Implementation of the Minnesota Alternative Learning Center Networked Improvement Community: An Applied Research Methods Study

This study is evaluating the Minnesota Alternative Learning Center Networked Improvement Community (NIC) with the goal of developing a methodology for evaluating the implementation of networked improvement communities generally. The first part of this two-part project is a formative evaluation that assesses the functioning of the Minnesota NIC. Then, REL Midwest will write an applied research methods report that describes a methodology for conducting a formative evaluation of the implementation of NICs.

Teacher Preparation

Characteristics of and Outcomes for Students who Pursued an Education Major in Indiana’s Teacher Preparation Programs

The study is describing the characteristics of students who enrolled in Indiana’s teacher preparation institutions and examining the extent to which they persisted in and graduated from a teacher preparation program, entered into teaching, and succeeded in Indiana’s public schools.

Teacher Workforce

District-Level Supports Associated with Retaining Teachers in Michigan School Districts

A main strategic goal for the Michigan Department of Education is ensuring that all students have equal access to quality teachers. This goal is impeded by a trend observed in many states: Experienced teachers tend to leave low-performing, high-poverty school districts to take vacant positions in better performing school districts that serve lower poverty student populations. The Michigan Department of Education is taking several steps to help lower performing school districts reverse this trend. To help the department in this work, REL Midwest is conducting a study to identify promising district-level supports for teachers (that is, policies, practices, or programs) that may improve teacher retention.

Teachers Who Do Not Teach: Who Are They and What Would Motivate Their Return to Teaching?

In Michigan, public school students’ access to effective teachers is hindered by teacher shortages in rural and urban regions of the state and in certain subjects. Yet the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) estimates that approximately 105,000 teacher certificate holders who currently reside in Michigan do not teach. This study is providing MDE with information about the characteristics of nonteaching certificate holders, their reasons for leaving or never entering the teaching profession, and the incentives that could encourage them to enter or reenter the profession.