San Francisco – WestEd is pleased to announce the agency is awarded a new five-year contract from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to operate the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) West, furthering WestEd’s 55-year history of committed partnership with state departments of education, districts, and schools to improve the lives of students throughout the West Region.

IES announced the new contract and reinforced the REL program as “IES’ largest single investment in supporting the use of rigorous evidence in education.”

“We are tremendously grateful for the opportunity to partner with educators in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah to improve student outcomes by increasing the use of data and evidence to inform decision-making, policy, and practice,” says WestEd CEO Glen Harvey. “WestEd is poised to lead the consequential, rigorous, and high-leverage work that is characteristic of the REL program.”

REL West applies rigorous research and development expertise and deep knowledge of pressing challenges in policy and practice to improve access, opportunity, and outcomes for underserved students in the region. During the next contract, two priorities for the REL West team include working to improve equity in education by reducing student chronic absence and enhancing analytic and technical assistance to accelerate learning resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the REL West Director John Rice, “The REL West team looks forward to working with education practitioners and policymakers over the next five years as they use data and research to address pressing issues in order to improve the lives of students, especially those with the greatest needs.”

“We are particularly excited about sharpening our focus on increasing equitable opportunities and improving learning outcomes for underserved students,” he says. “This will include working with our partners to analyze disparities in their systems, identify root causes of these disparities, and adopt programs and practices that mitigate biases and increase equitable outcomes.”

The REL West team says it will commence the new contract with priority work in 2022 to:

  • Reduce racial discipline disparities for Black students using evidence-based approaches in partnership with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). The REL West team will support implementation of empathic discipline practices and strategies that address student mindsets.
  • Reduce chronic absence in partnership with the Washoe County School District while working to strengthen the use of evidence-based tiered interventions in a Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) framework.
  • Develop a toolkit with Arizona partners to support the implementation of the What Works Clearinghouse Practice Guide Improving Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten Through Third Grade.

The new REL West contract commenced on January 3, 2022. WestEd will lead REL West with subcontractors, including American Institutes for Research (AIR), Analytica, Decision Information Resources, Inc., Insight Policy Research, Policy Studies Associates (PSA), and RAND Corporation.

REL West Leadership

Director of REL West John Rice directs collaborative research projects in partnership with school districts and states that focus on increasing the college and career readiness of their graduates. He previously served as partnership lead for REL West’s Nevada Education Research Partnership and as REL West’s Deputy Director. At WestEd, he has also directed several large evaluations, including those for California’s resource and referral (R&R) centers for childcare providers and their parents, Michigan’s School Improvement Grants (SIGs), and California’s Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP).

Deputy Director of REL West Lenay Dunn provides leadership to research, evaluation, and technical assistance projects to help states, districts, and other collaborators use evidence to improve systems and outcomes. She provides leadership to REL West’s portfolio of applied research and analytic technical assistance to state education agencies, districts, and schools in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah. She previously served as a partnership lead for REL West’s Arizona Literacy Partnership and co-led REL West’s previous leadership area, Using Evidence in Education.

For more information about REL West, contact John Rice.

For more information on the REL program, visit the IES web site.