Research Alliances

An enduring purpose of the ten regional educational laboratories is to make education decision-making more evidence-based. REL West's 2012-2017 contract with the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, offers an exciting opportunity for REL West to partner with regional, state, and district research alliances of diverse education stakeholders to address their specific education concerns. This work involves two interdependent goals: improving educational practice and using high-quality data and research evidence to inform that process.

Table: REL West Research Alliances by Focus and State

REL West Research Alliances by Focus and State
College and Career Educator Effectiveness English Learners School Climate
California Community College Alliance yes CA
CORE Districts Alliance yes yes yes CA
Dropout Prevention Alliance for Utah Students with Disabilities yes yes UT
Educator Effectiveness Alliance yes AZ NV UT
English Learner Alliance yes AZ NV UT
Nevada Education Research Alliance yes UT
School Climate Alliance yes AZ CA
Silicon Valley Research Alliance yes CA


REL West Research Alliance Leads


If you are interested in finding out more about REL West alliances and membership, see individual alliance pages, or contact:

Each alliance includes practitioners, researchers, and content and policy experts, all of whom bring important perspectives on framing education challenges, identifying data and research needs, designing studies, and analyzing, interpreting, and acting on new information and knowledge generation. REL West supports the change process by providing data analysis, targeted studies of current conditions, and technical assistance to implement and evaluate new practices.

Continuous Cycle of Improvement

While educators are encouraged to use data and research findings to guide education practice, they are often unclear about why and how to use it. REL West is supporting alliances to link research to practice in their change efforts by engaging them in repeated cycles of four actions to build continuous improvement: Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA). PDSA cycles build over time to produce improvement at scale.

Repeated Use of PDSA Cycle
Repeated Use of PDSA Cycle Details

Changes that result in improvement:

  • Implementation at scale
  • wider scale tests of change
  • fine tuning tests
  • small-scale tests

Key activities in a PDSA cycle might include:


  • Examine data to understand current conditions, create indicators, establish baselines, and identify needs and opportunities.
  • Develop a theory of action or conceptual framework that identifies elements necessary to reach the outcome goal.
  • Identify and prioritize specific policies, practices, or programs to change.
  • Specify a study design.


  • Develop and follow a thorough implementation and communication plan.


  • Collect both process/implementation and outcome data.
  • Analyze data and report it in a user-friendly way.


  • Involve stakeholders in data interpretation and drawing conclusions.
  • Consider implications for the systemic conceptual framework.
  • Determine next steps, such as regroup, proceed to a larger test, or add components for deeper impact.
  • Disseminate findings and process tools to a wider audience.

Early tests may be small scale and based on initial hypotheses. When these are carried out quickly, and followed by a new round of tests, the habits of continuous improvement are established and knowledge is built over time.