Feb 10, 2021

The NIC: Region 5 is Working Together to Address Problems of Practice in a New Era of Schooling

W. Christopher Brandt
Red Tool Box

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

– Helen Keller


2020 will undoubtedly be known as the year a global pandemic disrupted the status quo of schoolhouse learning. In March 2020, virtually all states were forced to shut down schools. Most state and local education agencies were not organized to support basic online learning practices, which included:

  • methods for ensuring equitable technology access,
  • training for teachers to effectively deliver online instruction,
  • access to online courses, and
  • plans to deliver online instruction during prolonged closures (Diliberti et. al, 2020).

Understanding the challenges, the Region 5 Comprehensive Center, together with the Center for Assessment and four state education agencies in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, shared how they were responding to the crisis. Through these conversations, the group identified a problem-based question that united them:

  • How can data and technology be used to improve students’ learning experiences?

Recognizing the complexities involved in addressing this problem naturally led to the next question:

  • Collectively, what is the best way to organize ourselves to accelerate learning and scale instructional improvements across the four-state region?

To address these questions, we formed the Region 5 Networked Improvement Community (NIC). The NIC has become the vehicle for collectively identifying, testing, and eventually scaling effective solutions for delivery of high-quality instruction remotely. As we engage in this process, the Region 5 Comprehensive Center is developing learning modules to build state and local agencies’ capacities to use NICs as a means for continuous improvement. The modules will provide educational leaders at the state, district, and school levels with materials, resources, and tools for supporting each step in the NIC implementation process. The process can be applied to address a variety of education-related problems that extend beyond COVID-19 and the current educational context. Learning modules will include downloadable slide decks, meeting agendas, facilitator guides, and supplementary tools. These materials are designed for virtual environments when not all members can be physically present; however, they can also be used in face-to-face and blended learning environments.

The Region 5 Comprehensive Center will make each NIC learning module and their associated materials available as they are approved for broad dissemination.

We invite you to explore the modules, and use them to implement a proven process for addressing problems of practice and accelerating school improvement.


Diliberti, M., Schwartz, H.L., Hamilton, L.S., and Kaufman, J.H. (2020). Prepared for a pandemic? How schools’ preparedness related to their remote instruction during COVID-19. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation. Available at: https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RRA168-3.html.