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Join the Data-Informed Leadership for Equity partnership

Midwest | March 12, 2024

Teacher interacting with children in a classroom setting

Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest is looking for school districts in the Midwest to join the Data-Informed Leadership for Equity (DILE) partnership, which strives to build school leader capacity to use data to reduce disparities in sense of belonging, disciplinary actions, and absenteeism among student groups in middle school.

The DILE approach

The DILE approach provides free, ongoing professional development for school leaders and staff on how to use data to identify student groups who are showing signs of disengagement and use student-focused practices to improve student sense of belonging to school. This professional development includes:

  • Action-based monitoring (ABM) alerts to help schools monitor student sense of belonging and engagement, such as attendance and discipline. The alerts update school teams regularly on their progress by comparing their current year to past trajectories, and forecasting whether the school is on track to achieve their desired outcomes.
  • Protocol guides for school leaders and staff to identify and address the policies, practices, and initiatives that might be leading to differences among student groups in sense of belonging and engagement. 
  • Training and coaching for school leaders and staff in student-focused practices that foster belonging and in the use of ABM and the protocol. 

Why is sense of belonging important?

Students with a stronger sense of belonging are less likely to be absent, less likely to engage in disruptive or risky behavior, and more likely to perform well academically.i Working to improve sense of belonging could help reduce student disciplinary actions and improve attendance.

Benefits of participating

The DILE approach is designed to support school leaders and classroom teachers to:

  • Integrate student-focused practices into school learning experiences.
  • Use data to identify disparities in sense of belonging and engagement.
  • Develop efforts to act on disparities in student experiences in middle school.

Who can participate?

All public school districts in the Midwest are eligible to join the DILE partnership. Some districts may choose to implement the DILE approach; others may choose to join the partnership to learn more about the work and consider opportunities for implementation in the future.

Districts that choose to implement the DILE approach should have one or more middle schools willing to participate in student-focused practices training, DILE protocol training, and periodic coaching.

Are you interested in joining the partnership or want to learn more?

We look forward to partnering with districts to cultivate lasting outcomes for their students. Please email the DILE project leads to learn more and get involved at

Other resources


i Healey, K., & Stroman, C. (2021). Structures for belonging: A synthesis of research on belonging-supportive learning environments. Student Experience Research Network.;  Korpershoek, H., Canrinus, E. T., Fokkens-Bruinsma, M., & de Boer, H. (2020). The relationships between school belonging and students' motivational, social-emotional, behavioural, and academic outcomes in secondary education: A meta-analytic review. Research Papers in Education, 35(6), 641–680.; Sánchez, B., Colón, Y., & Esparza, P. (2005). The role of sense of school belonging and gender in the academic adjustment of Latino adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 34(6), 619–628.


Katharyn Peterman

Katharyn Peterman

Connect with REL Midwest