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About REL Southwest

Regional Educational Lab (REL) Southwest partners with key stakeholders in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas to develop evidence that can inform consequential decisions about policy, programs, and practice. Key stakeholders include organizations with decision-making authority and the ability to influence education policy and practice, such as state and local education agencies, school boards, institutes of higher education, and student, family, and community organizations. RELs partner with these organizations on applied research and development; training, coaching and technical supports; and dissemination. Click here to learn more about the REL Program.

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PARTNERSHIPS

Helping Arkansas educators implement and evaluate high-quality interventions and initiatives that strengthen students’ college and career readiness. Learn more
Helping Oklahoma early childhood educators deliver research-based early learning practices that improve student outcomes. Learn more
Helping Texas state and local education agencies develop a comprehensive toolkit to support grade 6–8 educators and administrators in addressing gaps in reading achievement exacerbated by the pandemic. Learn more
Helping New Mexico educators deliver high-quality literacy instruction that supports all students, including English learner students, in developing stronger literacy and writing skills. Learn more
Helping Louisiana educators nurture and sustain aspiring and early career teachers to build a more diverse and supported teacher workforce. Learn more
Helping Texas educators provide high-quality advising and counseling that prepares students for postsecondary success and meets the state’s workforce needs. Learn more

OUR TEAM

REL Southwest is led by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) with support from the following partners:

  • Decision Information Resources
  • Empirical Education
  • Gibson Consulting
  • RAND Corporation
  • School Readiness Consulting
  • WestEd

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GOVERNING BOARD

The REL Governing Board helps REL Southwest prioritize the education needs of the region, provides strategic guidance on REL work to maximize local effectiveness, and leverages members’ regional networks to amplify and disseminate REL products. REL Southwest Governing Board members represent diverse expertise and experience.

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REL Southwest is providing coaching to Arkansas Department of Education staff on strategies to evaluate the agency’s THRIVE Leader Academy initiative, which trains Arkansas school leaders to support students’ positive behavior and mental health. The coaching is helping agency staff develop a logic model, explore analytic approaches for evaluating the program’s implementation and impact, and consider priorities for targeting recruitment and admissions to districts that are most in need of the program and representative of the demographic and geographic characteristics of the state.
REL Southwest is providing professional development and coaching for elementary school leaders and prekindergarten and kindergarten teachers as part of the Leading Early Childhood Achievement and Development intervention. This intervention is designed to increase teachers’ knowledge and use of research-based early learning practices, such as play-based learning and high-quality teacher-student interactions, as well as build the capacity of school leaders to support teachers’ use of such practices. Project activities include a two-day kickoff training for school leaders to learn about the intervention, five asynchronous training modules for school leaders and teachers to build their knowledge of research-based early learning practices, and five professional learning community sessions for school leaders to explore policies and practices that support teachers’ use of the early learning practices. REL Southwest will examine indicators of how well the intervention is implemented and will refine materials for a future cohort.
REL Southwest is providing training and coaching to build the capacity of instructional coaches and grades 4–8 teachers in using evidence-based literacy practices within their existing instructional units. The project consists of two phases. In the adaptation phase, REL Southwest will review and refine the Write to Succeed program materials to support their successful implementation in the varied education contexts in New Mexico. Next, in the implementation phase, REL Southwest will hold training institutes in the fall and spring for participating instructional coaches and provide ongoing support to these coaches as they train and support teachers to implement the evidence-based literacy practices.
REL Southwest is providing coaching to Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) staff on best practices in formative program evaluation, with a focus on evaluating LDOE’s comprehensive induction program, the New Teacher Experience. LDOE requested REL Southwest support in four key areas of program evaluation: refining the survey questions for teacher and mentor participants, supporting focus group protocol creation and administration, developing an implementation rubric that details district-level program fidelity, and identifying administrative data elements that participating districts collect, which can be used for a future study on New Teacher Experience outcomes.
REL Southwest is providing coaching to assist the Texas Education Agency in creating a rubric that schools and districts can use to inform the selection or development of high-quality materials, tools, and resources that support students’ awareness, exploration, planning, and preparation of college, career, and military opportunities. This coaching project builds on a related Ask An Expert presentation that summarized resources that support effective or promising student advising practices.
REL Southwest is providing coaching to staff at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) to support the development of an evaluation plan for studying embedded associate degree programs at Texas four-year colleges. By studying these programs, allowed in Texas since 2022, THECB can better understand how well Texas four-year colleges are providing embedded associate degree opportunities and whether the opportunities have led to an increase in students earning associate degrees in Texas.

REL Southwest is partnering with Texas school districts to develop a toolkit to support grade 6–8 educators and administrators in addressing gaps in reading achievement exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The toolkit will build educators’ and administrators’ knowledge of and ability to implement recommendations in the What Works Clearinghouse practice guide Providing Reading Interventions for Students in Grades 4–9 to meet the needs of students reading below grade level. Components will 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.

REL Southwest is partnering with New Mexico school districts to conduct applied research to optimize and test the efficacy of the Write to Succeed professional learning program. This research-based program provides scaffolded writing instruction designed to support all students, including the language needs of English learner students. First, REL Southwest is conducting an optimization study to examine whether the Write to Succeed program is feasible, useful, and supports progress toward desired outcomes. Next, REL Southwest will conduct an initial efficacy study using a multisite cluster randomized trial design to assess the impact of participating in the Write to Succeed program compared with business-as-usual professional learning.

As part of the Arkansas Initiative for Instructional Materials (AIIM), Arkansas educators receive high-quality professional learning (HQPL) to help ensure all students in the state have equitable access to high-quality instructional materials (HQIM), grade-level instruction, and responsive practices leading to opportunities to reach college, career, and life goals. Through a series of virtual coaching sessions, REL Southwest is building the capacity of Arkansas Department of Education staff to develop a survey to track how well districts are integrating HQIM and to develop a plan for administering the survey annually to conduct a formative evaluation of AIIM. Coaching topics will include best practices in formative evaluation, how to design a survey to collect data on the implementation of HQPL and HQIM, and how to use data for program improvement.

REL Southwest provided a series of coaching sessions to build the capacity of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) Tri-Agency Workforce Priorities partnership to develop a logic model and data inventory for the Effective Advising Framework (EAF). The EAF is designed to support Texas middle and high school students in planning for college and career success by providing strong counseling programs and individual career and academic planning. The logic model illustrates the structure, processes, and goals of the EAF. The inventory is helping TEA better understand what data elements are available to monitor the fidelity of the implementation of the EAF and study its effects.

REL Southwest facilitated an Ask An Expert presentation by Dr. Scott Solberg, a professor with the Boston University Center for Future Readiness, to support the statewide rollout of the Effective Advising Framework in Texas. Dr. Solberg discussed personal career and academic plans, also known as personalized learning plans, including key features and practices, the evidence base, a sample curriculum, related state initiatives, and lessons learned.

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