Whether you are a parent, teacher, principal, or policymaker, you may have questions about what works to promote students’ academic success and overall wellbeing. The 10 Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs) each offer the Ask A REL service, a reference desk providing one-stop, user-friendly answers to those questions. Anyone can submit a query and the service is free. After you submit a question, our researchers conduct a search of databases and websites maintained by federally funded organizations, research institutions, and education agencies, as well as online search engines. Then we prepare a memo response with annotated references and other resources.
Read on to learn about how Ask A REL has supported research-based decisionmaking and how you can submit your questions.
In 2015, REL West published a report called Identifying and Supporting English Learners with Disabilities: Key Issues in the Literature and State Practice which aimed to inform policymakers interested in developing or revising policies and procedures in this area of growing concern. One of the report’s findings piqued the interest of a consultant to the Chair of the Assembly Education Committee in California. The finding indicated that several states had developed guidance manuals to help practitioners distinguish between challenges related to second-language acquisition and challenges related to learning disabilities among their English learner students who were not making typical progress in school. Aware of the issues of under- and over-identification of English learner students in special education and curious to learn more about these manuals, this consultant reached out to the Ask A REL staff at REL West.
In response, REL West provided an annotated summary of the existing guidance manuals, whose number had grown since REL West’s report was published. Inspired by other states’ efforts, and drawing key information from REL West research and the Ask A REL memo, the legislative consultant drafted a bill to allocate funds for the development of a practitioners’ manual in California.
In September 2016, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 2785 into law, requiring the California Department of Education to develop a guidance manual with information on how to apply “evidence-based and promising practices for the identification, assessment, support, and reclassification” of English learner students with disabilities. The guidance manual will be available in July 2019.
Other policymakers in our region have reached out to the REL West Ask A REL team for research support to inform bills in development and to ensure that they are grounded in the latest research and data. This is just one example of how our memos have been used in education decisionmaking—we welcome education questions from anyone—parents, teachers, administrators, or policymakers. All of the resources included in Ask A REL memos are systematically selected and provide data and evidence for readers to examine and draw their own conclusions. Whether you’re an educator with a field-based question or a state leader with a policy inquiry, our Ask A REL team is here to provide you with resources to help make informed decisions in education. Visit our Ask A REL page to browse recent memos we’ve developed in response to questions from the field.
Access the Ask A REL page to submit your education queries.