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Home Blogs What’s on the horizon for 2024: Building on a strong foundation to advance REL Southwest partnerships

What’s on the horizon for 2024: Building on a strong foundation to advance REL Southwest partnerships

Southwest | January 31, 2024
Governing Board Meeting in Austin, TX, December 2023

Governing Board Meeting in Austin, TX, December 2023

We have a lot to celebrate as we enter 2024, and our five partnerships are at the top of the list. Over the past year, Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Southwest launched partnerships with educators in each of the five states in our region. These partnerships vary in focus but have the same North Star: to improve student outcomes. We maintain this steadfast commitment as we continue our work in 2024. Here's a sneak peek at what's to come in the year ahead!

  • Our Southwest English Learner Literacy (SWELL) partnership will continue developing and refining Write to Succeed in partnership with the New Mexico Public Education Department and educators from three New Mexico school districts. Write to Succeed is a professional learning program that aims to help teachers improve their literacy instruction through peer collaboration and role-play, with the ultimate goal of improving literacy achievement for all students and English proficiency for English learner students. In the fall, the team will scale the refined program to additional New Mexico school districts and test the program's efficacy. We'll be looking for more New Mexico school districts to participate, so be on the lookout for additional information to share with your networks!
  • In Oklahoma, our Leading Early Childhood Achievement and Development (LEAD) partnership will continue codeveloping a professional learning program that aims to support educators to use research-based early learning practices, including play-based learning and high-quality teacher–student interactions. Oklahoma educators participated in a kickoff training earlier in January and will begin asynchronous training modules and learning activities later this month. As we learn more about their experiences, we will refine the program and prepare to scale it to additional school districts.
  • Our Providing Reading Interventions for Students in Middle School (PRISMS) team is hard at work developing content for a toolkit that will support the implementation of evidence-based interventions for middle schoolers with reading difficulties. The toolkit will build educators' knowledge of and ability to implement recommendations in the What Works Clearinghouse practice guide Providing Reading Interventions for Students in Grades 49. Educators in Texas are providing critical feedback on the usability and feasibility of the toolkit components, which include online professional learning modules to build knowledge, professional learning communities to deepen understanding and facilitate peer collaboration, tools to assess teacher practice and implementation, and resources for institutionalizing support for the toolkit.

This work would not be possible without the leadership of the REL Southwest staff and our outstanding governing board. In December, we celebrated the retirement of long-time REL Southwest Director Michael Vaden-Kiernan. Michael has been the foundation of REL Southwest for the past eight years, overseeing an extensive body of work with a singular focus on improving education in the Southwest region. Those who have had the privilege of working with Michael know how much he values collaboration, always seeking new perspectives and forming lasting relationships. I've been fortunate to learn from his deep knowledge of the region and I hope to carry forward the positive outlook and warmth he brings to every interaction as I step into the role of director.

It has been a privilege to serve as director of the REL Southwest over the past eight years. I've particularly appreciated the opportunities to establish trusting relationships with excellent partners in each of our states to address the use of research evidence to improve outcomes for teachers and students throughout our region. I know and trust that my colleagues on REL Southwest will continue this important work moving forward.

— Michael Vaden-Kiernan, outgoing REL Southwest Director

Also in December, our governing board met in Austin. To kick off our time together, we toured the Holdsworth Center, a nonprofit organization that focuses on developing the leadership skills of Texas educators. Following the tour, we shared with governing board members our progress to date and sought their advice on regional priorities. Three themes emerged from our conversations: the critical need to address teacher shortages by improving teacher recruitment and retention, establishing robust pathways to college and careers, and strengthening K–12 education through a focus on student engagement and school–family partnerships. As always, we are grateful to be able to partner with and learn from leaders in the region who keep our ears to the ground.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on the year ahead. You can reach us at



Amy Feygin

Amy Feygin

Connect with REL Southwest