Virtual School Meanderings

November 12, 2018

REL Southeast Director’s Email—November 2018

This showed up in my inbox last week.  If you look at the correlational infographic, I think that the “Causal Inference” portion is particularly important – but I think that they didn’t state strongly enough that correlation does not equal causality.  Beyond that, the infographics aren’t bad.

November 2018
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Greetings from REL Southeast!

This month I am pleased to share more dissemination work the REL Southeast is conducting in regards to ESSA. Dr. Phyllis Underwood and I will be presenting Understanding ESSA Levels of Evidence and their Application to Program Evaluation at the Florida Organization of Instructional Leaders (FOIL) conference in Lake Mary, Florida on November 8. The audience, including district deputy superintendents and district instructional coaches and specialists from all 67 Florida school districts, will learn how the four ESSA levels of evidence can guide educators when evaluating their programs and curriculum. Explore additional work related to ESSA the REL Southeast is conducting throughout the region, as well as new infographics that help educators understand research study design in the articles below.

The REL Southeast is working on the development of many more evidence-based products and resources that will be released in the coming months.  Thank you for helping to improve education in the Southeast.


Dr. Barbara Foorman
Director, REL Southeast

Infographic Spotlight


Observing Promising Evidence: Correlational Studies

The third infographic in our series on research study design for educators  describes correlational studies and addresses associations, control variables, and causal inference. View the infographic at: https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/infographics/pdf/REL_SE_Promising_Evidence.pdf.

All of the infographics in the series may be found at: https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/infographics/.

Ask A REL

Ask A REL is a collaborative reference desk service provided by the 10 regional educational laboratories (REL) that by design, functions much in the same way as a technical reference library. It provides references, referrals, and brief responses in the form of citations on research-based education questions.

To submit your question to Ask A REL, click here. Explore Ask A REL responses here.

Infographic Spotlight


Observing Evidence That Demonstrates a Rationale

The fourth and final infographic in our series on research study design for educators addresses evidence that demonstrates a rationale, including theories of action, logic models, and collecting and reporting. View the infographic at: https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/infographics/pdf/REL_SE_Demonstrates_a_Rationale.pdf.

All of the infographics in the series may be found at: https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/infographics/.

Understanding ESSA Levels of Evidence and their Application to Program Evaluation

November 8November 8, 2018

10:45–11:45 AM ET
and 1:15–2:15 PM ET

Florida Organization of Instructional Leaders (FOIL) conference

Orlando Marriott Lake Mary
1501 International Parkway
Lake Mary, FL 32746

The goals of this conference presentation are to provide an overview of the four ESSA levels and the ESSA and non-regulatory guidance and to show how the ESSA levels apply to program evaluation.

Learn more at https://ies.ed.gov/whatsnew/calendar/?id=3939.

You are receiving this email because you opted in at our website or provided your information at a REL Southeast sponsored event.

Our mailing address is:

REL Southeast at Florida State University

2010 Levy Avenue
Suite 100

TallahasseeFL 32310

September 6, 2018

REL Southeast Director’s Email—September 2018

Of all of the RELs, the REL Southeast has done more K-12 distance, online, and/or blended learning research than most.  Check out the “Ask a REL” feature.

September 2018
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Greetings from REL Southeast!

This month I would like to share how the REL Southeast helps state and local education agencies review and utilize research to better improve academic outcomes for students. Through various projects, products, and events, we strive to increase understanding of rigorous research design and why it matters. I invite you to explore how REL Southeast is sharing this knowledge through the resources below.

We look forward to continuing to share evidence-based projects and products with you in the future. Thank you for all of your work to improve education in the Southeast.


Dr. Barbara Foorman
Director, REL Southeast

REL Southeast Program Evaluation Micro-Credential Training

The South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) requested the REL Southeast help support the department’s professional development efforts by creating a series of micro-credentials related to program evaluation. Agency leadership wants to increase the ability of its staff to apply rigorous evaluation techniques to both the process of implementing new programs and reviewing existing ones.
In consultation with the SCDE the REL Southeast identified five topics related to program evaluation.

  1. Understanding the research base
  2. Understanding research designs
  3. Planning implementation
  4. Interpreting results
  5. Creating a logic model

The materials for these micro-credentials will be hosted by SCDE on their professional development platform.

Learn more at: https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/regions/southeast/micro-credentials.asp.

Understanding ESSA Levels of Evidence

Speaker in front of audiencePeople often ask what the research says about improving education but rarely do they think about the fact that not all research is equal in quality. Although the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) encourages states and districts to use the highest quality research available to help struggling schools, figuring out what qualifies as strong evidence is challenging. The REL Southeast is helping the Florida Department of Education meet that challenge with coaching on the ESSA levels of evidence. Participants learn what it takes for a study to qualify as strong evidence along with key terms to identify its evidence level. Coaching sessions will continue throughout 2018 and beyond as requested.

Learn more at https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/regions/southeast/essa_understanding.asp.

Infographic Spotlight: Experimental Studies: Observing Strong Evidence

InfographicOne role of ESSA is to strengthen the effectiveness of the nation’s educational investments by encouraging the use of evidence-based interventions. To accomplish this, SEA and LEA staff must be able to evaluate the quality of the evidence for a particular intervention. In practical terms this often means reading and evaluating the level of evidence for a research article. However, many SEA and LEA staff are unfamiliar with research design standards and levels of evidence. To address this, REL Southeast is creating a series of infographics to address that gap in knowledge by breaking down the components of study design to help practitioners determine what materials are evidence-based.

The first infographic in this series describes experimental studies and addresses causality and causal inference, random assignment, and risks from attrition. View the infographic at: https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/infographics/pdf/REL_SE_Experimental_studies.pdf.

InfographicThe second infographic in this series addresses quasi-experimental designs, the limits associated with non-random assignment, and the importance of baseline equivalence. View the infographic at: https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/infographics/pdf/REL_SE_Quasi-Experimental_Designs.pdf.

Ask A REL

Ask A REL is a collaborative reference desk service provided by the 10 regional educational laboratories (REL) that by design, functions much in the same way as a technical reference library. It provides references, referrals, and brief responses in the form of citations on research-based education questions.

To submit your question to Ask A REL, click here. Explore Ask A REL responses here.

You are receiving this email because you opted in at our website or provided your information at a REL Southeast sponsored event.

Our mailing address is:

REL Southeast at Florida State University

August 10, 2018

REL Southeast Director’s Email—August 2018

Note the MOOC-ED items mentioned below that may be of interest to K-12 distance, online, and/or blended learning educators.

August 2018
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Greetings from REL Southeast!

During the summer of 2018, REL Southeast staff presented multiple sessions for Georgia educators at the Georgia Literacy for Learning, Living and Leading (L4) Institutes. The Georgia Department of Education was excited to host these institutes in Valdosta, Savannah, Macon, Cartersville, and Athens as a part of their Striving Readers grant. Representatives from schools throughout the state were invited to send teams consisting of teachers and leaders for two days of professional development. REL Southeast shared literacy tools based on rigorous research which could be used by district- and school-level practitioners. These tools included the School Leader’s Literacy Walkthrough for grades K-3, the Rubric for Evaluating Reading/Language Arts Instructional Materials for Kindergarten to Grade 5, a suite of self-study guides addressing literacy K-12, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) practice guide Foundational Skills to Support Reading for Understanding in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade, and the accompanying professional learning materials for the guide.

Read participant testimonials and explore links to the literacy resources here.

Are you interested in learning more about teaching foundational reading skills?  If so, the MOOC-ED @ The Friday Institute may be appealing to you.  This MOOC-ED that begins October 1, 2018, is organized around the recommendations of the Foundational Skills to Support Reading for Understanding in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade practice guide, published in July 2016 by the U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse.  This practice guide, developed by a panel of expert researchers and practitioners in collaboration with the Florida Center for Reading Research, provides educators with specific, research-based recommendations for effective teaching practices.  It focuses on the foundational skills that enable students to read words, relate those words to their oral language, and read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to understand what they read.

Learn more here.

One goal of ESSA is to strengthen the effectiveness of the nation’s educational investments by encouraging the use of evidence-based interventions. To accomplish this, SEA and LEA staff must be able to evaluate the quality of the evidence for a particular intervention.  In practical terms, this often means reading and evaluating the level of evidence for a research article. However, many SEA and LEA staff are unfamiliar with research design standards and levels of evidence.  In response to this goal, REL Southeast staff conducted “lunch-n-learn” sessions for the Florida Department of Education on research-related topics. The first session began with understanding the levels of evidence in ESSA.  Follow-up sessions examined how to review a research article, summer reading camps, and understanding moderation and mediation.

Ask A REL

Ask A REL is a collaborative reference desk service provided by the 10 regional educational laboratories (REL) that by design, functions much in the same way as a technical reference library. It provides references, referrals, and brief responses in the form of citations on research-based education questions.

To submit your question to Ask A REL, click here. Explore Ask A REL responses here.

Regional Work

Explore the Improving Literacy Research Alliance page to learn more about literacy the work being conducted in our region.

You are receiving this email because you opted in at our website or provided your information at a REL Southeast sponsored event.

Our mailing address is:

REL Southeast at Florida State University

July 5, 2018

REL Southeast Director’s Email—July 2018

Note that there are no K-12 distance, online, and/or blended learning items in this REL newsletter; but it does have an “Ask a REL” feature which may be of interest or use to practitioner readers.

July 2018
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Greetings from REL Southeast!

REL Southeast is fortunate to have a Governing Board that is both highly active and eagerly engaged. This month I would like to shine a spotlight on the efforts of one Governing Board member in particular, Dr. Julie Washington.

An expert in language development and disorders in high risk populations at Georgia State University, Dr. Washington was recently profiled in the April edition of The Atlantic for her work on code-switching as it relates to speakers of  African-American English. The article may be found here.

With REL SE, Dr. Washington also recently presented to two higher education literacy councils in Mississippi and Georgia. During Dr. Washington’s Dialect and Reading in Low-Income African American Students presentations for the Mississippi Higher Education Literacy Council and Georgia Department of Education Literacy Think Tank, participants received an overview of research regarding how dialect influences the development of reading skills, especially in African American students. Dr. Washington also discussed how the practice of teaching code-switching can help improve students’ language and reading abilities while not disparaging their dialect. Participants also debriefed in an effort to determine practices they could use to present this information to practitioners in the field, including preservice and inservice teachers. In both sessions, participants were engaged throughout as evidenced by their excellent questions during and after the presentations.

We look forward to continuing to share evidence-based projects and products with you in the future. Thank you for all of your work to improve education in the Southeast.


Dr. Barbara Foorman
Director, REL Southeast

Regional Work

Learn about REL Southeast’s work in Georgia by visiting the Georgia Literacy Initiative partnership page on the REL Southeast website.


Explore the work REL Southeast is conducting in Mississippi by visiting the Improving Schools in Mississippi alliance page and the Mississippi Department of Education Partnership page on the REL Southeast website.

Ask A REL

Ask A REL is a collaborative reference desk service provided by the 10 regional educational laboratories (REL) that by design, functions much in the same way as a technical reference library. It provides references, referrals, and brief responses in the form of citations on research-based education questions.

To submit your question to Ask A REL, click here. Explore Ask A REL responses here.

You are receiving this email because you opted in at our website or provided your information at a REL Southeast sponsored event.

Our mailing address is:

REL Southeast at Florida State University

June 15, 2018

REL Southeast Director’s Email—June 2018

Note that I have been posting almost all of the newsletters and notices from various RELs and IES over the past few years.  As a way to try and bring the focus of this space back to K-12 distance, online, and/or blended learning, I’m going to take the time to screen these items and only post those that have specifically relevant content.  I mention this now because if you rely upon this space for those more general resources, I would encourage you to subscribe to them directly.

June 2018
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Greetings from the REL Southeast!

This month I would like to highlight the work of the Improving Literacy Research Alliance. This longstanding alliance has grown to the point where it seemed advisable to divide the alliance into state chapters. These chapters, consisting of state, district, and university leadership, meet face-to-face once or twice per year, and a meeting of all members is held virtually twice per year. The needs expressed by alliance members are guiding the work of REL Southeast as described in the update below.

We look forward to continuing to share evidence-based projects and products with you in the future. Thank you for all of your work to improve education in the Southeast.


Dr. Barbara Foorman
Director, REL Southeast

Partnership Spotlight: Improving Literacy Research Alliance

Ensuring that all students have the literacy skills to be successful in school and beyond has been an ongoing challenge for states in the Southeast, and many students score below proficiency rates on state assessments in the region. The long-term goal for this alliance is for state education agency leaders and educators in the Southeast region to use research to learn about and improve the quality of literacy instruction in their states, especially the prevention and early detection of problems in literacy development that may require intervention. The short-term objectives to meet this goal will be accomplished through research studies and technical support activities supporting the specific needs identified by alliance members.

Training on Literacy Tools

Alliance members from from all chapters of the Improving Literacy Research Alliance have requested training on the literacy tools that have been developed by REL Southeast. Training has been conducted at state reading association conferences, symposiums, and at regional events. Over the course of several two-day sessions this June and July, REL Southeast will provide training at summer institutes in Georgia as they kick off their Literacy for Learning, Living, and Leading in Georgia (L4GA) initiative funded with their Striving Readers Grant. Training will be conducted on the IES Practice Guide on Foundational Reading Skills to Support Understanding in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade and professional learning community materialsthat complement the practice guide, the School Leader’s Literacy Walkthrough for Grades K-3, the Rubric for Evaluating Reading/Language Arts Instructional Materials for Kindergarten to Grade 5, and several self-study guides.

Infographic Spotlight: Instructional Strategies for Teaching Writing to Elementary Students

Teaching writing effectively to elementary students is imperative to helping them improve writing skills, which in turn helps them to be successful both in and out of the classroom. Effective writing is a vital component of literacy development and provides students a means of communicating their thoughts and ideas with others clearly. Writing also provides students with the skills to analyze texts and other information to clarify their own thoughts. This infographic shares multiple evidence-based instructional strategies and highlights several IES resources for teaching writing.

Upcoming REL Southeast Work

  • Alliance members have requested that REL Southeast develop a literacy leader’s walkthrough tool for grades 4-12. It is anticipated the tool will be similar in format to the tool created for grades K-3 and will be divided into grade bands. Alliance members will provide guidance as the tool is developed.
  • Several alliance members have expressed a desire for training for practitioners on evidence-based practices for writing instruction at the elementary and secondary levels. Training will be developed and should be available later this fall.
  • Work is continuing with the Adult Education Director at the Florida Department of Education and the Institute for the Professional Development of Adult Education at Indian River State College. Several trainings on evidence-based literacy strategies have been provided for adult educators across the state of Florida and follow-up webinars have been conducted. Future sessions are being planned that will build on this initial foundation of knowledge.

Ask A REL

Ask A REL is a collaborative reference desk service provided by the 10 regional educational laboratories (REL) that by design, functions much in the same way as a technical reference library. It provides references, referrals, and brief responses in the form of citations on research-based education questions.

To submit your question to Ask A REL, click here. Explore Ask A REL responses here.

You are receiving this email because you opted in at our website or provided your information at a REL Southeast sponsored event.

Our mailing address is:

REL Southeast at Florida State University

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