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How REL Appalachia Supports Partners in Achieving Equitable Learner Outcomes

Appalachia | November 30, 2022

Perhaps you've heard about the Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs), and you've seen invitations to partner and connect, but you aren't sure what that might entail.

REL Appalachia is one of 10 RELs funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the nation's leading source for rigorous, independent education research, evaluation, and statistics. Each REL has a team of experts ready to collaborate with educators and leaders to collect, create, and implement evidence-based solutions specific to local challenges.

In this blog post, we provide an overview of how REL Appalachia joins forces with educators and leaders in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia to strengthen the education system and improve opportunities and outcomes for all learners. We also provide concrete examples of products that have resulted from our partnerships to spark your thinking about how REL Appalachia can serve your needs.

REL Appalachia in a nutshell

What does REL Appalachia do to support regional partners?

REL Appalachia partners with educators and leaders across the region to engage in rigorous research, coaching, and technical assistance that are change-oriented. The REL Appalachia team never swoops in with a pre-packaged solution. Instead, we partner with educators and leaders who have the most insight into a persistent educational challenge to co-design a set of activities, always grounded in research, to improve teaching and learning. When our projects are complete, our partners have greater capacity to sustain the efforts without us because they've been involved in every step along the way!

How does REL Appalachia support capacity-building?

REL Appalachia builds the capacity of partners by:

  • Conducting research that answers questions addressing high-priority topics, helps educators and policymakers understand challenges, and learn what's working in their schools and institutions of higher education.
  • Providing training, coaching, and technical support related to data collection, analysis, and interpretation, and for understanding and implementing evidence-based practices.
  • Sharing important findings with educators and leaders in a timely, accessible, and actionable manner.

From research to practice: Across the region

How does REL Appalachia capacity-building look in action?

Here are examples of ways we've supported our partners throughout the region:

Map of Kentucky

In Kentucky, rural educators needed evidence-based practices to strengthen students' successful postsecondary transitions. Finding few options, our staff designed and delivered a three-part training (also with partners with similar needs in Virginia) to help inform local practice. We then supported partners to use a continuous improvement approach to systematically implement these promising practices. To address the root problem of limited evidence, the REL Appalachia team, with rural educators and researchers, hosted a webinar for policymakers and funders to encourage the engagement of rural communities in rigorous research with the goal of building the knowledge base for everyone.

Map of Tennessee

In Tennessee, we partnered with the state department of education to explore ways to assess the statewide implementation of response to intervention (RTI) efforts. Our exploration prompted our partner's interest in learning how to systematically study program implementation. So we developed a pilot study resource and helped local leaders use it in a new context—to examine and improve implementation of a new literacy tutoring program. This blog post shares the types of questions leaders can use the resource to answer, using the literacy tutoring program in Tennessee as an example.

Map of Virginia

In Virginia, school division (district-level) partners wanted to ensure all students have equitable access to and success in advanced mathematics courses, including Algebra I, in middle school. We carried out a research study to describe the status of access and success in advanced mathematics courses in grades 7–9. We then partnered with division staff to replicate the analyses locally using a memo with the methods and templates to facilitate regular use. Our staff also provided training and coaching to local leaders, supporting them to develop professional learning models to improve mathematics teaching. This infographic, on how to embed research-based practices into professional learning for mathematics educators, shares resources derived from that coaching.

Map of West Virginia

In West Virginia, state leaders wanted to support students and educators impacted by trauma. Our staff provided on-demand training modules for educators, developed a set of materials to monitor implementation and student outcome data for the Handle With Care program, and hosted a two-day Trauma Support for Schools Virtual Summit to share best practices.

How can REL Appalachia support your local or state educational needs?

The REL Appalachia approach to outcomes-focused partnership is:

  • Designed for equity, which means that our activities contribute to establishing an education system in which each student receives what they need to develop their full academic and social potential.
  • Aimed at improving use of rigorous research findings to inform decisions, particularly those that influence teaching and learning directly.
  • Focused on improving teaching and learning by supporting educators to use data and to support their use of effective teaching practices.

Our staff bring content and methodological expertise across a range of critical education topics and needs to co-design and co-implement partnership activities. In 2022, we launched the following seven partnerships, and our work will evolve over time to continue to meet the needs of the region:

Map of REL Appalachia's four state region with 7 partnerships represented on each state

Engage with us!

For nearly 60 years, the RELs have collaborated with school districts, state departments of education, and other education stakeholders to help them generate and use evidence to improve student outcomes.

REL Appalachia is deeply committed to supporting educators in our region. Whether you have the time and energy to tackle a large project, or if you just have questions about what research says on a particular challenge you're facing, we want to hear from you. Engage with us in whatever ways make sense for you to improve outcomes for your learners.


Laura Kassner

Laura Kassner

Kerry Friedman

Kerry Friedman

Kori Hamilton Biagas

Kori Hamilton Biagas

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