American Institutes for Research to Lead Federal Program to Help States Generate and Use Evidence to Improve Education

AIR to lead Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest; will conduct research in Northeast and West regions

Map of REL Midwest region

Arlington, Va. – The American Institutes for Research (AIR) has been selected to lead a federally funded program that will help states, school districts and communities in the Midwest conduct research on educational programs and policies and use evidence to build equity in education and improve outcomes. AIR has been awarded a five-year contract to lead Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest, which serves policy makers, leaders and educators in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

AIR will also be a subcontractor working on specific projects for two other RELs, one serving the Northeast region, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico (REL Northeast & Islands), and the other serving the Western region of the country (REL West).

The RELs are funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the non-partisan research, evaluation and statistics arm of the U.S. Department of Education. There are 10 RELs that work in partnership with state departments of education, school districts and other stakeholders to increase the use of data and research to improve academic outcomes for students.

“We are pleased to work with the Regional Educational Laboratory program and help increase the generation and use of evidence to improve education policy and practice around the country,” said David Myers, President and CEO of AIR. “People often talk about the need to bridge research and practice, and the RELs are a strong example of where that is happening in education.”

AIR has been leading REL Midwest for more than decade, including the last five years.

“We have sought to make REL Midwest an important partner in better understanding and addressing some of the biggest educational challenges facing the region,” said Julie Kochanek, an AIR vice president who leads the REL Midwest team. “I’m pleased we can extend the relationships we have developed with policy makers and practitioners and increase opportunities for students in the Midwest.”

Under the new REL Midwest contract, AIR teams will partner with districts to design and test solutions to problems of practice identified as priorities by state education agencies and districts. These topics include, but are not limited to, studying and improving early literacy instruction, middle grades math instruction, and the retention of teachers of color, as well as using equity audits to develop more equitable school policies and increasing data-informed leadership practices. REL Midwest and its partners will use research-based technical assistance to design and test interventions and conduct rigorous studies to optimize their design and effectiveness.

For REL Northeast & Islands, AIR will conduct a randomized controlled trial (RCT) on a professional development program designed to improve the use of visual representations in mathematics instruction in middle grades. The program was developed by EDC, which will lead REL Northeast & Islands over the next five years.

For REL West, AIR will focus on adapting and evaluating an intervention—developed by AIR—which seeks to improve math instruction for English learner students in elementary grades. REL West will be led by WestEd under the new contract. 

AIR also leads the work of REL Southwest, which serves Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, and operates on a different contract schedule than the other RELs. A new contract is expected to be awarded later this year.

About AIR
Established in 1946, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of education, health and the workforce. AIR’s work is driven by its mission to generate and use rigorous evidence that contributes to a better, more equitable world. With headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, AIR has offices across the U.S. and abroad. For more information, visit

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