About the REL Program

Now, perhaps more than ever, educators and education stakeholders need access to the best research and analysis that will help them understand where and how to make improvements in education. One way that the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES) meets this need is through the Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs).

There are 10 RELs, each of which serves a legislatively designated region of the United States. The primary mission of the 2012-2017 REL Program is to build research alliances with education practitioners and policymakers to help states and districts use data to answer important issues of policy and practice.

The RELs produce rigorous research, provide technical assistance, and disseminate useful and accessible research-based products that enable a wide audience of educators to use this information in decision making. The RELs respond to education needs that are identified as high priority by their regions. In practice, this often means addressing regional variations of national education priorities.

The 2012-2017 REL program is intended to yield several important benefits for the regions and for the nation. These include:

  • Development of a cohesive and potentially deep body of knowledge in core, priority topics that address regional and, often, national needs;
  • Increased use of evaluation, data, and analysis by educators and education policymakers to identify problems, choose programs and strategies, and learn from initiatives;
  • Completion of a range of rigorous evaluation and research studies, methodologically appropriate to the questions the studies attempt to answer; and
  • Expansion of state and local capacity to use their own data, conduct high quality research and evaluation, and appropriately incorporate findings into policy and practice.

RELs are operated under 5-year contracts with the U.S. Department of Education. The RELs are authorized under the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002, Part D, Section 174 (20 U.S.C. 9564).

Fundamentally, the RELs contribute to a more evidence-driven education system.