The REL Southwest focuses on the following high-priority education needs in our five-state region. Our research alliances each investigate research questions related to one of these topics.
- Charter school effectiveness
- Closing the achievement gap
- Early childhood education
- Effective teachers and principals
- English learners
- Hispanic achievement in STEM
- Rural school performance
These priorities represent compelling regional and state education needs that can be informed by research evidence as well as each state’s expanding longitudinal data system. The topics also align with the U.S. Department of Education’s national priorities: college and career readiness, early childhood, educator effectiveness, low-achieving schools, and rigorous standards.
Ongoing Needs-Sensing Activities
We identify the high-priority education needs of our five-state region through an ongoing needs-sensing process that gathers information from multiple sources:
Systematic and Transparent Needs-Sensing Process
We regularly analyze the information we collect to guide and refine our work and delineate our priorities. In response, we may expand or modify the focus of our research alliances, research agenda, analytic technical support, outreach, and services and products. We may also refer stakeholders to other appropriate federal technical assistance providers or coordinate with those providers to address needs and priorities effectively and equitably.
Decision Information Resources Inc. (DIR), a REL Southwest partner, assists with the ongoing needs-sensing process. Quarterly, DIR compiles and analyzes the results of all needs-sensing activities to identify REL Southwest progress, emerging needs and priorities, and shortcomings in our services. DIR reports this information for the region as a whole and by state.
Systematic. Our needs-sensing approach employs a systematic process that engages all critical regional stakeholder groups, provides multiple sources of data, ensures both depth and breadth of coverage, includes the use of proven instruments and protocols, and repeats over time.
Transparent. REL Southwest ensures the transparency of needs-sensing activities by fully disclosing the procedures, methods, and analyses used. In addition, needs-sensing data and summaries that form the basis for conclusions are made public, where possible, and needs-sensing activities and outputs are subject to oversight from the REL Southwest Governing Board, Leadership Team, and Quality Control Team, as well as the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.
Sources of Needs-Sensing Data
In developing the REL Southwest priorities, we identified key points of intersection among the following sets of data or circumstances:
- National priorities identified by the U.S. Department of Education.
- National and regional priority needs as outlined in the following reports:
- Southwest Region: A Report Identifying and Addressing the Educational Needs (U.S. Department of Education Regional Advisory Committee, 2011).
- Assessment of Regional Educational Needs: Reports from Ten Regional Educational Laboratories and Statistical Data (National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, 2011).
- Regional and state needs as reflected in relevant demographic and performance data.
- State priorities as identified by chief state school officers and other senior state education agency staff.
- Priority concerns that could be informed by data from existing state longitudinal data systems.
- Priority concerns that were starting to be addressed by groups that could benefit from the coherent structure and capacity-building activities of a REL research alliance.