REL Northeast & Islands

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Alliance Members

Urban School Improvement Alliance

“USIA under REL Northeast & Islands leadership has developed a sense of trust and community. People are willing to be generous with their time and contribute accordingly. These are not trivial outcomes, and it’s something I think the REL should be proud of.”

— Ethan Cancell, Executive Director of Assessment, Accountability, Technology & Student Data Research, Brockton, MA, Public Schools; USIA Core Planning Group

“I was very happy when the REL said we’re going to be starting up the Urban School Improvement Alliance. There are other people like you out there in New England, so we’re going to try to bring you all together. That was really great to hear. You can commiserate about the issues we face and how we might deal with them. We are sharing how we do business with one another, and we’re actually learning from each other, so that has been very beneficial.”

— Marco Andrade, Director of Research, Planning, and Accountability, Providence, RI, Public Schools; USIA Core Planning Group

“I am finding great value in the work that my REL [Northeast and Islands] is doing. Before the current contract, I had virtually no contact with the REL and I can recall only one study that I encountered and that was relevant to my district and my work. Finding that study was accidental at best. The current REL has provided value in the form of direct services to my district—surveys, data-driven instruction and data-team support, research agendas—and as a venue to widen my circle of colleagues I can and do call upon. All this is to say that I am finding value in ways that simply did not exist in the past. I have an opportunity to contribute and get return for my district, my department and myself. It is not necessary that all is perfect in what and how the RELs function. I also recognize that there are likely to be important differences across the RELs resulting in different experiences for both LEA and SEA participants.

— David Weinberger, Executive Director of Student Information, Assessment, and Reporting, Yonkers Public Schools; USIA Core Planning Group

“Having a consortium that you can reach out to talk about best practices with districts that are like yours is incredibly powerful, especially when you’re focusing in on research but not having time to do research. There is just not a lot of room to respond to data requests and to support the work with outside researchers, so it is essential that we become more efficient. In our districts, how are we going to bring in external partners to help us do the heavy lifting in research?”

— Dr. Brandan Keaveny, Executive Director of Shared Accountability, Syracuse City Schools; USIA Core Planning Group

“Compared to the rest of the nation, our region has relatively small urban school districts. Beyond New York City, our region’s political structure provides for smaller governmental entities. Smaller school systems result in a greater connection between school boards and their communities, which provides for stronger systems of local accountability. However, smaller systems also mean smaller central administrative offices, and there’s little opportunity for collegial discussion when urban school improvement administrators are working in isolation. One of the greatest benefits of the Urban School Improvement Alliance at the REL is that it brings together a group of job-alike folks from the region, where ideas and practices can be shared. USIA promotes a dual purpose of sharing and professional development for its members, while documenting best practices and developing compelling research for a broader audience.”

— Paul Schlichtman, Coordinator of Research, Testing, and Assessment, Lowell Public Schools; USIA Core Planning Group

Northeast College and Career Readiness Research Alliance

“While we know about schools that have made great progress using proficiency-based learning to promote deeper learning for students, the overall research base is relatively limited. The research alliance has done a nice job aligning its focus with the research interests around proficiency-based learning in the region so that its work will have a ready audience. We won’t have to sell people on its importance. We’ve got people saying now ‘This is really important, and I want to know what the research says.’”

— David Ruff, Executive Director, Great Schools Partnership; Director, New England Secondary School Consortium; NCCRA Core Planning Group

“I do a lot of applied research in schools with teachers and administrators, and having been a high-school teacher myself, it’s really powerful for me to say that I’m part of the REL, and that their [educators’] ideas inform the research that’s being done at a regional level, and to be really transparent about that, so that when we talk about why NCCRA is doing a research project, I say, ‘Because you recommended it the last time I talked to you.’ And it’s amazing to people that that really happens.”

— Erika Stump, Research Associate, Center for Education Policy, Applied Research, and Evaluation, University of Southern Maine; NCCRA Core Planning Group

Early Childhood Education Research Alliance

“Working with REL-NEI has been a rewarding opportunity to collaborate with others in the field who are engaged in creating, improving, and implementing policies that directly impact outcomes for young children. Recognizing that we are all extremely focused and very busy within our own states and territories, it is nice to be provided with the chance to come together and listen to and learn from each other and share our successes and lessons learned. Additionally, serving on advisory committees has allowed me to inform goals for and participate in high-quality research that will ultimately inform my own policy decisions. It is a privilege to have access to this organization, which acts as a reflective partner and collaborator, as well as a strong ally in our efforts to develop and implement high-quality early childhood policy and practice.”

— Judi Stevenson-Garcia, Assessment Specialist, Rhode Island Department of Education; ECEA Core Planning Group

“All the questions that were being raised as important to all the [ECEA] participants, all the states, were the same as the policy questions we had generated two years ago to frame our early-childhood data reporting system. It was like, oh, this is going to be a good opportunity to have alliance with the other states, but more importantly—what REL is all about—is to bring in the research capacity and make it practical and applied, and that was a real missing piece. Time and time again, we’d say, we really need to bring in some outside researchers, third party, people who have expertise outside our group, the usual suspects, who had a lot of knowledge, but to actually look at, are we asking the right questions? Are we really on track?”

— Kathleen Paterson, Consultant, Building Bright Futures, Vermont’s Early Childhood State Advisory Council; ECEA Core Planning Group

Northeast Educator Effectiveness Research Alliance

“The opportunity to serve as a member of NEERA’s Core Planning Group has given me the 10,000-foot view of what is happening in other states in terms of teacher evaluation systems. I have learned firsthand from practitioners about what has worked and what has not. In turn, we have been able to continually improve the district’s teacher evaluation model in the early stages of implementation.”

— Dr. Debra Livingston, Superintendent, Manchester Public Schools, New Hampshire; NEERA Core Planning Group

“My involvement with NEERA has led to a deeper understanding of the various types of research and how they can be used to support our work.  The NH study has given us valuable information and confirmed a number of areas that we knew had to be addressed. For example, one problem of practice is the increased leadership demands on building administrators and their time, which came out as an area of concern from educators in the study. Partly as a result of this work, we are taking a team to the Learning Forward National Conference in Dallas to discuss this issue and what New Hampshire is doing to address it.”

— Dr. Karen Soule, Administrator, Bureau of Credentialing, New Hampshire Department of Education; NEERA Core Planning Group

“When the alliance first began was well timed and aligned with the growth, or the rise of, the educator evaluation systems that were cropping up in many, many states and districts and localities…. Coming from Boston Public Schools, a large urban district, we tend to hear and network a lot with other large urban districts and educators who are involved in similar policy implementation at that level. And so that’s a source of information that many people working in BPS tend to have. The alliance offered an opportunity for something a little bit different…. We wanted an opportunity to not only look at what other urban districts were doing who were taking the lead but also what some of the smaller districts in our region were doing. So I feel like we’ve really tried to look at as much information as we could, as we were designing the evaluation system for Boston.”

— Jill Conrad, Senior Advisor, Human Capital Strategy, Boston Public Schools

“Thank you so much for the opportunity to participate on the panel and to attend the sessions. It was a very enlightening and informative day. Being the only classroom educator at this type of educational session was a new experience for me. But it also makes me realize how those of us in classrooms need to be aware of what important work is being done in the realm of research and the conversations that take place around it. . . . DESE in Massachusetts has taken some real steps toward making a difference and are working to better communicate. I really appreciate the desire and work of those who are bringing classroom educators into those discussions. Thank you for helping me to reflect on my own practices and my role in the educational process. . . .”

— Ann McConchie, Teacher, Nauset Public Schools, Orleans, Massachusetts

“Thank you so much for producing and sharing the video REL Northeast & Islands and New Hampshire” about the work that has been done with the REL, the New Hampshire Department of Education, and the Manchester School District, and for all you have done for our students, educators, community, and the state.”

— Pat Snow, Executive Director, Innovation Zone at Manchester School District, Manchester, New Hampshire

Northeast Rural Districts Research Alliance

“We often get so engrossed in our own state issues, our own local issues, that to begin to have conversations over months and months around what is unique and what is common among rural schools is very, very useful. And the different roles that we represent—teachers, principals, school board members, policy people, researchers—you get a good, healthy mix of expertise, and all that is elevated around the table as we have our conversations.”

— Dr. John Sipple, Associate Professor, Department of Development Sociology, Cornell University; Director, New York State Center for Rural Schools; NRDRA Core Planning Group

“Because we’re a rural district, we don’t have capacity to have the staffing of other districts, so we’re always looking for ways to meet the needs that we have around staffing, and one of the ways we do that is by collaboration. The REL came along at a time when we just saw another need to reach out. The rural nature of tying schools together in a rural alliance just seemed very appealing…. I’m really on the side of empowering teachers through informed research and having it be relevant and real to them, and the more you do that, the more you have actual impact with kids, with teachers, where it really is happening in the classroom.”

— Gary MacDonald, Superintendent, Maine SAD 72; Member, Southern Maine Education Collaborative; NRDRA Core Planning Group

“Through the alliance, CASDA collaborated with the REL on an online and distance learning survey. We hope to invite REL researchers to share the results at an upcoming CASDA workshop on Innovative Instructional Technology to see what effect online and distance learning has on student achievement. The REL creates connections between research and its impact upon urban as well as rural school districts. Personally, the more involved I get, the more passionate I become about it. I wish the REL had been around when I was a principal in a very small district in 1984, that I could tap into. Today, the REL is that resource, and if we can share their ideas and research and get that out to superintendents, principals and teachers, it will benefit many, many more.”

— Jerome Steele, Professor, Capital Area School Development Association, University at Albany; NRDRA Core Planning Group

Puerto Rico Research Alliance for Dropout Prevention

“This alliance is, first of all, a meaningful opportunity, in a collaborative way, to closely examine the dropout issue in Puerto Rico, drawing on existing research and our own analyses of the situation here. We then use the convening power of the REL and the alliance to form an original research agenda and carry it out over the next several years, with the hope that our research will truly inform the decision making in this high-priority area. I am enjoying this opportunity to make a meaningful contribution on this serious and complex issue.”

— Orville Disdier, Education Manager, Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics; PR Alliance Core Planning Group

US Virgin Islands College and Career Readiness Research Alliance

“While many mainland educational systems are in close proximity to others and can share and collaborate, it’s not so easy in the Virgin Islands. So to have the impetus of the alliance to encourage us to collaborate and to share and to have a discussion I think is going to be quite beneficial to our students. I think we’re going to be more creative, we’re going to get more involved in best practices and actually implementing improvement strategies that have worked, or certainly have the opportunity to experiment with strategies that have worked for others and see whether or not they can work for us.”

— Randolph Thomas, Director of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, US Virgin Islands Department of Education; USVI Alliance Core Planning Group

“It’s really been helpful to have the REL literally take our data and help us look at it in different ways, so that’s how I see a lot of the value, and how it’s impacted our work. Can we answer the questions we want to answer with the data that we have, or do we need additional data, and they’re assisting in that way as well…. The REL brought together not only the people in the USVI but from states that had put together definitions of college and career readiness and the data they were collecting to measure those definitions and what issues they had in the process, so we could avoid those, and that was a very helpful workshop for us—to learn more about what was out there and to think about the direction we wanted to go.”

— Sarah Mahurt, Deputy Commissioner, Curriculum and Instruction, US Virgin Islands Department of Education; USVI Alliance Core Planning Group

English Language Learners Alliance

“ELLA’s Data Working Group, a subgroup of the Core Planning Group, decided that improving the accuracy by which students are initially identified as potential English learners through the Home Language Survey is really important. If we can ensure that we’re identifying these youngsters appropriately and early on, then we can become more efficient in actually developing appropriate programming and supports. As a result of our efforts, if we provide guidance based on our work, we could have a significant and positive impact on the appropriate identification of ELs in our districts in Connecticut.”

— Marie Salazar Glowski, ELL/Bilingual Education Consultant, Connecticut State Department of Education

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