School & District Management

New Faces Among Contract Winners for Regional Educational Labs

By Sarah D. Sparks — December 29, 2011 3 min read
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It looks like the Education Department’s research arm has decided to bring in new players for its “new vision” of the 10 regional educational labs.

While half of the educational lab regions had either no competition or challengers could not meet the competition criteria, in every region in which a challenger made it to the final round of competition, the Institute of Education Sciences tapped the newcomer over the current research group to head the new lab. It looks as though, after a major overhaul of the labs’ design and an arduous budget season in which at many points it looked like the whole REL program could disappear, IES wanted to make a fresh start for the next five-year contracts.

Here’s how the new contracts have played out, with much thanks to Max McConkey, the chief policy officer over at WestEd:

In three regions with no challengers, the current regional lab operators have been renewed. WestEd will continue to run the REL for the West region, serving Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah. The Education Development Center, Inc., or EDC, held onto the Northeast and Islands REL, serving Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the Virgin Islands.

The Northeast contract renewal was “a tremendous validation of EDC’s hard work serving the region over the past half decade,” Director Jill Weber said in a statement. “The new award will enable us to expand our reach across the region through a highly collaborative program of alliances aimed at building the capacity of states and school districts to conduct research, to make sense of the data they are collecting, and to develop a greater understanding of research to create sustainable school reforms.”

The Midwest REL—which serves Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin— also had no competition. That REL has been run by Learning Point Associates, which earlier this year merged with the American Institutes of Research. AIR was renewed for the Midwest contract, giving a fresh face to the incumbent.

In the Northwest region—serving Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington—and the Appalachia region—Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia—the challengers to the existing labs were unable to compete by the time IES issued clarification questions to their proposals. The current labs, CNA Education for Appalachia, and Education Northwest for that region, were renewed for another five years.

However, in five regions, both the previous lab operator and a challenger made it to the final selection round, and in each of these the newcomer (or in some cases a prior REL research group) was picked:

• Marzano Research Lab upset McREL to serve the Central lab region of Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
ICF International takes over from Pennsylvania State University at University Park for the REL serving the Middle Atlantic region, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.
• McREL, however, took over the Pacific region—serving American Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Hawaii, Northern Mariana Islands, Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau—from Pacific Resources for Education and Learning, in Honolulu.
• The Southwest Education Development Laboratory, or SEDL, based in Austin, Texas, took back the contract for the Southwest region, which it had previously lost to Edvance Research, Inc. in San Antonio. It will serve Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.
• In the Southeast region, serving Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina, Florida State University won out over the SERVE Center at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

What do you think of the new line-up for the regional labs? How do you think the new and returning players will shape the labs’ evolution?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.