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More Details Emerge on Regional Education Labs

As the future funding for the nation's regional educational labs remains in flux, details about the structure of the next round of labs is becoming clearer.

The Education Department has released a draft of the statement of work for the RELs' upcoming contract competition, due out March 25. (A hat-tip to Jim Kohlmoos at the Knowledge Alliance for providing a link to the draft.)

In the post-NCLB world, ED says the the RELs have moved from researching best practices for turning around low-performing schools to becoming "emissaries of science," training educators and policymakers in how to use data and research to make decisions. The RELS were also expected to conduct their own "gold-standard" randomized controlled research.

Now, in the face of shrinking state and local education budgets and mounting pressure for school improvement, RELs' top priority going forward will be to hep state and local educators make the most of their maturing state longitudinal data systems. The RELs will conduct research based on those data systems and help practitioners learn to use systems to answer their own questions.

The labs will also be expected to develop "research alliances" of educators, administrators and other stakeholders concerned with a specific topic. These would not replace the traditional regional governing boards, which help set the agenda for each lab, but seem instead to be like large-scale professional learning communities "that are not dependent on ongoing REL support." However, the draft stops short of requiring specific collaborations with schools or districts.

ED also specifically calls on the RELs to coordinate with each other in order to not duplicate their work; in the past, some critics have pointed to labs producing multiple small-scale studies on the same topic, as opposed to coordinating their efforts.

Stakeholders who have questions about the draft can contact [email protected] before 2 p.m. on March 21.

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