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Research Group SEDL to Join American Institutes for Research

SEDL, the group founded as the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, will be the latest to join the burgeoning education behemoth American Institutes for Research . 

The merger, scheduled to take place at the start of the year, expands both groups' geographic reach; Washington-based nonprofit AIR has seven international offices, while SEDL is based in Austin, Texas, and has offices throughout the Southeast, including Louisiana, Georgia, and the Carolinas. It also houses the federal Regional Education Laboratory Southwest, which serves Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.

"We do see this as a really positive opportunity to expand our work, to team up with really high-quality people in both research and the application of it," said spokesman Larry McQuillan. "Really, this move is more about steps for the future; there's nothing immediate or concrete that's going to change."

The last few years have seen significant expansion of AIR as it works to position itself as a one-stop education research and testing shop. It merged with Learning Point Associates in 2010, significantly expanding its education technical assistance staff and gaining better international research connections. Then AIR took in the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education, or CALDER, in 2011 with a goal of building up longitudinal and "big-data" analysis; and finally pulled in the think tank Education Sector in 2013 to build its ability to translate research into policy recommendations. Including SEDL's staff of more than 100 will bring AIR's staff to about 1,700, more than a third of whom are in education.

This merger is intended to build AIR's expertise in disability and special education research, which  McQuillan told me is a "growth area" for the group. For example, SEDL is developing systemic reviews of high school graduation programs for students with autism to improve their transition to college and careers.

"SEDL and AIR share a singular goal of using high-quality research to inform policy and practice," said SEDL President and CEO Wes Hoover, who will become an AIR executive vice president for integration and special projects after the groups join.

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