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What Is the Region 9 Comprehensive Center?

By Aaron Butler, PhD

March 30, 2020

Hello friend! Thank you for taking time to visit the Region 9 Comprehensive Center website and read our first monthly newsletter. I have the privilege of serving as the Region 9 director and am excited and humbled to have the opportunity to serve the students, teachers, and educational leaders across Illinois and Iowa as part of the new national Comprehensive Center Network.

There is so much that I want to share about both the center and education-related challenges facing our states. However, I hope you don’t mind if I keep things simple and start by covering the basics.

What is the Region 9 Comprehensive Center?

Great question! The Region 9 Comprehensive Center is a regional technical assistance center focused on providing high-quality capacity-building services to state, district, and school leaders in Illinois and Iowa. We help our partners identify, implement, and sustain effective evidence-based practices that will improve education for students and communities. We are operated by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) through a 5-year cooperative grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Along with 19 other regional centers and a National Center, we are part of the national Comprehensive Center Network.

Why is our work important?

In other words, what is the purpose or aim of these “high-quality capacity-building services”? The Region 9 Comprehensive Center’s work is important because we add value to our state, district, and school partners. We support key priorities, connect our partners to expertise and resources, and elevate success stories from our region.

First, let’s talk about the support for key priorities that the center provides. The center is focused on helping enhance the capacity of state agencies, districts, and schools to make measurable progress in areas of importance to Illinois and Iowa. We spent our first five months getting to know the leadership teams in both states and their priorities for improving education. These efforts allow us to co-design projects that align with existing work rather than adding more to plates that are already full. We believe that supporting coherence across programs is a great first step to providing capacity-building services that will be truly helpful to our states.

Next, the Region 9 Comprehensive Center can connect state, district, and school leaders across Illinois and Iowa to leading experts and resources in the field of education. Are you interested in learning more about teacher leadership? diversifying the educator workforce? improving literacy? leading safe, engaging, and equitable schools? Whether it is these critical topics or others, the Region 9 team has a national network of experts and resources within AIR as well as from other organizations within the Comprehensive Center Network. We also realize that the right expertise often already exists in our region and want to highlight opportunities for cross-state and cross-district collaboration.

We also are excited to elevate success stories about improving the quality of education for students in Illinois and Iowa. We will consistently look for examples of districts and schools using evidence-based practices to enhance educational experiences and produce positive results in student achievement in Illinois and Iowa.

What are we working on?

The Region 9 Comprehensive Center aims to approach our work with states and districts with equity serving as the heartbeat of our planning conversations, implementation and monitoring practices, and sustainability plans. Our team is passionate about helping all students have equitable access to high-quality teachers and leaders. We will be bold and first in line to support our states and districts in making systemic updates to instructional practices that bring cultural competence and equity into all classrooms. We want to challenge status quo mindsets regarding educational opportunities. For example, we will support state and district efforts to not only provide high-quality, equitable educational opportunities for all students but also push the conversations to include producing evidence that students are pursuing and being successful in these increased opportunities.

The full narrative of our commitment to equity is just in chapter 1 right now as we continue working with both states to refine individual projects. However, several high importance topics, such as addressing teacher shortage issues and ensuring equitable access to high-quality instruction, provide the framework for our initial projects and will remain at the core of our work for the next five years.

Why should you follow us?

This might be one of the most important questions of all! It is also one where we hope our “walk” exceeds our “talk.”

Are you interested in staying informed on important issues in education? The Region 9 Comprehensive Center plans to use our multiple communication outlets to share the perspectives of leading experts on hot topics in education that are important to Illinois and Iowa.

How about tools and resources to help you be more productive in your role? We have those, too! We plan to share useful tools and resources that have been developed and used to successfully support the work of state, district, and school leaders. Some of these tools and resources will be specific to Region 9, but we will also share examples from across the Comprehensive Center Network and beyond.

Finally, we hope that you stay connected with the Region 9 Comprehensive Center to learn about exciting updates on projects that we are supporting in Illinois and Iowa. We are looking for opportunities to engage with stakeholders in both states to share our stories and learn more about the real issues that are important to Illinoisans and Iowans.

To learn about our team and our work in Illinois and Iowa, please sign up for our monthly newsletter, follow us on Twitter, and bookmark our website. And reach out via our contact form anytime to ask questions or share feedback. We are looking forward to an exciting and fruitful five years.

Aaron Butler, PhD, is the director of the Region 9 Comprehensive Center and a principal technical assistance consultant at the American Institutes for Research. Dr. Butler has more than 20 years of experience supporting school improvement in public education and is a former teacher and administrator.