Virtual School Meanderings

July 7, 2021

REL Guide: Identifying Similar Schools to Support School Improvement

This guide focuses on school improvement in general, but I think the strategies/tips are useful for school improvement around finding similar schools/programs to improve remote, distance, online, and blended learning.

 Institute of Education Sciences

REL Guide: Identifying Similar Schools to Support School Improvement

To support school improvement efforts, school leaders and education agencies might need to identify groups of schools that are similar so that schools can compare their performance or share practices with other schools in the same group. This could also allow education agencies to provide tailored supports to a group of schools.

A new guide from REL Central describes how education agencies can select a distance measure (a statistical rather than a geographic measure) to identify schools that are similar to a target school using a variety of characteristics that enable school leaders to better understand their school’s relative performance. This guide is based on work done with the Nebraska Department of Education and is designed to help staff in other education agencies who are interested in implementing a similar approach to support school improvement.

The guide describes four steps in the Nebraska-based approach for identifying similar schools:

  • Identify a set of variables that meets key considerations
  • Choose a suitable distance measure and calculate the distance between every pair of schools
  • Match schools to each target school
  • Evaluate the quality of matches produced by a matching option

Access the guide at:


The Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs) build the capacity of educators to use data and research to improve student outcomes. Each REL responds to needs identified in its region and makes learning opportunities and other resources available to educators throughout the United States. The REL program is a part of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) in the U.S. Department of Education. To receive regular updates on REL work, including events and reports, follow IES on Facebook and Twitter. To provide feedback on this or other REL work, email

The Institute of Education Sciences, a part of the U.S. Department of Education, is the nation’s leading source for rigorous, independent education research, evaluation and statistics.
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By visiting Newsflash you may also sign up to receive information from IES and its four Centers NCESNCERNCEE, & NCSER to stay abreast of all activities within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

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