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Reflections on 2022 and looking ahead to a new year

Midwest | February 08, 2023

An image of a roadway

With the start of 2023, we begin the second year of REL Midwest's current five-year cycle of work. During our first year, we launched six partnerships and designed the first project of what we see as a future seventh partnership. It was a busy year for our teams and our partners! Do you remember January of 2022? Omicron was in full swing. Our partners were dealing with yet another wave of the pandemic while also facing massive staffing shortages from bus drivers to teachers to school leaders. While school districts received Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding for services intended to improve student outcomes, it was difficult to recruit staff to provide those services.

In the midst of these stressors, champions in our partner organizations remained committed to working with REL Midwest staff on the development, implementation, and testing of research-based approaches to address education priorities. In the spring and summer of 2022, our partners identified collaborators to work with our teams to develop these approaches. We then began implementing the approaches in August for four of our partnerships. Development continued into the fall for the other two partnerships with implementation launching this month.

There have been many high points to celebrate over this past year:

  • In Wisconsin, our ENACT team partnered with four middle school teachers, two math coaches, and various district leaders from Milwaukee Public Schools to support improved math teaching and learning through the use of computational thinking strategies.
  • Our DILE partnership created a system to identify meaningful differences in how groups of students experience schooling in Iowa City middle schools.
  • Ten educators across eight Illinois districts partnered with a REL Midwest team to develop a toolkit to support evidence-based instruction for teaching fractions.
  • In Michigan, early grade teachers in Battle Creek and Lansing started implementation of phonics-based instructional strategies with training and coaching from our STIR team.
  • St. Louis Park school district in Minnesota partnered with our SIDEE team to develop and implement an approach to create more inclusive environments for teachers of color.  
  • In Ohio, our MESA team partnered with leadership from Akron Public Schools to develop an approach to increasing student sense of belonging through leadership coaching and a collaborative equity audit, which launched in late fall 2022.

As we learn from this first school year of implementation, we will expand our partnerships to include parents and students, who are on the receiving end of these approaches but often are not included in the discussions. We have long benefitted from working in partnership with teachers, principals, and administrators to better understand the context of their work. We are excited to hear from students and their families, and we are certain that their voices will inform our work and that of our partners in important ways.

We will keep you updated on our progress through our newsletters, but if you want to learn more, please don't hesitate to reach out directly.


Julie Kochanek
REL Midwest Director


Julie Kochanek

Julie Kochanek

Connect with REL Midwest