The Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northeast and Islands and the Region 2 Comprehensive Center (R2CC) are seeing exciting early benefits of collaborating to provide coordinated support to states and districts in our region. While the REL and the R2CC both provide technical assistance, we have different but complementary areas of focus. The Comprehensive Center Network supports states and districts in identifying, implementing, and sustaining evidence-based practices that support improved educator and student outcomes. The REL conducts applied research and supports states’ and districts’ use of data, research, and evidence-based practices. By leveraging the strengths of both federal contracts, our collective efforts have yielded a coordinated, seamless set of client supports. Collaboration has enabled us to provide deeper, more comprehensive technical assistance to the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE). “The partnership between R2CC, REL, and the CSDE Talent Office has been essential to both support and advance one of the CSDE’s key strategies to support the diversification of Connecticut’s Educator Workforce,” explained Chief Talent Officer Shuana Tucker. According to Talent Office Bureau Chief Chris Todd, the collaboration has “served as a critical foundation for success as the Talent Office looked to provide technical assistance to districts.”
Our technical assistance to eight Connecticut districts and the CSDE as they work to diversify their educator workforce is one example of this collaboration in action. In the fall of 2019, a REL team planned a coaching project to support the efforts of Connecticut districts to recruit and hire a more racially and ethnically diverse educator workforce. The initial REL project plan involved helping districts analyze their hiring data to identify opportunities to widen the pipeline for teachers of color. However, it became clear that to fully address this complex, systemic problem would require support beyond the scope of what the REL could provide. Meanwhile, the R2CC began an educator diversity effort in Connecticut. The REL and R2CC teams met to coordinate and align our work and ultimately expanded the original REL project to include root cause analyses, with the R2CC facilitating districts’ examination of hiring barriers. It is worth noting the long-standing partnership between WestEd and EDC on both the R2CC and REL-NEI, which has facilitated such coordination and alignment of work.
In the coming year, REL project staff will co-sponsor another round of coaching sessions on hiring pipelines with participating districts and assist CSDE in developing a data reporting tool that tracks—at the individual student level—whether students have access to teachers of color at various timepoints throughout their educational careers. These activities are tightly tethered to the REL’s focus on using data to improve educational practices and outcomes.
Simultaneously, the R2CC’s resources—aligned with the focus on implementation support—will support the development of a statewide action plan template and a set of peer-identified best practices, again, that districts will use to plan and report their approaches to recruiting and hiring teachers of color, as well as the completion of a state guidebook with strategies for retaining teachers of color.
The cross-contract collaboration not only expands the resources and allowable scope of the work, but also improves the individual components of the project. By fielding a single cross-project team, the REL/R2CC collaboration allows insights from one project activity to inform the work of another. For example, conversations with districts through the REL-led teacher diversity pipeline coaching unearthed some promising interventions districts were using to improve the hiring and retention of teachers of color. These interventions will be investigated further by the R2CC team and used to design an action plan template and provide accompanying guidance.
These collaborative efforts have enabled the provision of comprehensive, expanded, and seamless support to the CSDE. They have allowed us to design a broad range of project activities that are well-matched to the complex challenge of diversifying Connecticut’s educator workforce. This breadth and flexibility was noted by Chris Todd: “The REL/R2CC collaboration contributed greatly to the expertise and facilitation capability of the Talent Office. Additionally, the collaboration allowed the team to pivot and adapt seamlessly to accommodate the needs of pilot districts as they worked to adapt to the pandemic.” The REL and R2CC teams look forward to continued collaboration with other federal resources to address the complex, systemic problems our education systems face.
- Meg Caven, Research Associate, Regional Education Laboratory-Northeast and Islands (REL-NEI) and Nicole Breslow, Partner Lead, Region 2 Comprehensive Center