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Research and Data Requests

All researchers, including City Schools staff working on dissertations or graduate theses, must obtain approval from the City Schools Institutional Review Board (IRB) before beginning any study that involves City Schools’ students, staff, or families. The IRB’s purpose is to ensure that the rights and welfare of human subjects are protected and that potential risks due to research participation are minimized (e.g., through privacy procedures). The IRB also discusses the scientific merit and potential benefit of research to City Schools.

All research proposals, whether involving only a data request or new data collection, must be submitted using the online IRBManager form. The IRB meets once a month to review submitted proposals. The district also makes numerous data reports publicly available for download that may be used for research purposes. However, research projects that involve student-level data sets require the creation of data sharing agreements, such as an MOU, with the district.

City Schools prioritizes* research that:
  • Aligns with City Schools’ Blueprint for Success and the work of students, teachers, and administrators or other district initiatives
  • Meets “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) standards for providing high quality evidence

    *Note that studies meeting these criteria are not guaranteed IRB approval.

The IRB is not accepting:  

  • Case studies and qualitative studies that utilize a single method of data collection (e.g., survey or interview)
  • Studies that do not address student or staff outcomes beyond satisfaction or opinion
  • Graduate theses, projects, or dissertations for non-City Schools employees

Please note that researchers should not submit requests to individual schools or district office departments. For assistance, review the information below or email the Achievement and Accountability Office.

What is the process for submitting a research proposal?

You must submit your request via City Schools' online platform, IRBManager. For assistance in using IRBManager, review these instructions

What is the Institutional Review Board?

The IRB acts as the gatekeeper for all primary research involving human subjects proposed to occur in City Schools by reviewing proposals. The IRB meets monthly.

What happens to a research proposal once it is submitted?

Research proposals are screened for completeness, and if a proposal is incomplete, the submitter is notified by email.

Complete proposals are reviewed and discussed at monthly IRB meeting. After the meeting, the researcher is sent a letter indicating whether the proposal is approved, approved pending revisions, or not approved. The IRB letter outlines any required next steps, such as fingerprinting and background checks which may be required.

How long does it take for a proposal to be reviewed?

Complete proposals received by the submission deadlines below will be reviewed at the IRB meeting noted.


Submission deadline 2019 IRB meeting date
March 1 March 28
April 1 April 25
May 1 May 30
June 1 June 27
July 1 July 25
August 1 August 29
September 1 September 26
October 1 October 31
November 1 November 21
December 1 December 19


How are data requests fulfilled?

Data requests are considered based on data availability as well as the educational benefit provided to City Schools. The time required to fulfill a data request depends on the request's complexity and competing priorities within the Achievement and Accountability Office. Prior to any presentation or publication of results, researchers receiving data files must deliver a 2-3 page brief of results, including data summaries in an appendix, to Ike Diibor.

Any statistical reports must display the following disclaimer: Statistics reported were prepared specifically for this study and may not match other published statistics.

Why might the IRB reject a research proposal?

Common reasons for research proposal rejection include: 

  • Disruption to instructional time or overburdening students or staff
  • Ethical concerns (e.g., research involving one’s own students or staff)
  • Study designs that do not meet ESSA standards for high quality evidence
  • FERPA violations (e.g., requesting student level poverty data) 
  • Any form of clinical trial involving medication or collection of any bodily fluids. 

What does IRB approval mean?

Approval does not constitute an endorsement of the study and no such claim should be included in final reports. Once IRB approval is received, completion of the proposed project is contingent upon consent of the research participants and completion of informed consent forms. Approval is for one year, and research studies that will extend beyond one year must receive continued approval through a renewal request.

How should research participants be identified and recruited?

Approval of the research proposal does not guarantee access to schools, staff, or students. Participation in all research studies is voluntary. Principals must consent to research studies in their schools, and staff and students themselves must consent to participate. The principal and any participant may withdraw from the study at any time. 

Researchers can ask for principal assistance with identifying school staff who teach specific grades or subjects or hold certain responsibilities. However, to protect staff privacy, researchers cannot ask principals to recommend staff members to participate or give out staff contact information. With principal permission, researchers can put flyers in teachers’ mailboxes, post recruitment announcements in the teachers’ lounge, or host an information session.

Can research take place during instructional time?

Research should not impede or unduly disrupt instruction and proposals may be rejected for this reason. If your research is expected to occur during instruction, prepare to work closely with school leadership to develop a data collection schedule and process that minimizes disruptions. Research cannot take place during times when standardized testing is scheduled.

What rules apply to classroom observations?

Researchers must obtain teachers’ consent to observe classroom activities. If the focus of the observation is strictly on the teacher, researchers do not need parent/guardian consent. However, researchers must send a letter to parents informing them that there will be an observer in their child’s classroom. If the students will be the focus of the observation, the researcher must obtain both student assent and active parent/guardian consent. If classrooms are audio- or video-taped, consent forms must specifically state that this recording is involved.

What is the difference between active and passive consent?

In City Schools, active consent is required for any new data collection, such as classroom observations, surveys, or focus groups. Active consent involves a written agreement to participate prior to initiation of the study. Passive consent involves sending letters to participants (or parents/guardians of participants) letting them know about the study and requesting that they sign and return a form only if they do not want to participate in research. 

Note also that students under the age of 18 must be given the opportunity to assent to participation. Assent is used with minors because they are not legally able to give informed consent. The researcher may use a script to read the information to a student under age 18 and then obtain verbal or written assent with a witness present.

Can principals and teachers conduct research at their own schools?

To avoid the risk of perceived or actual coercion, teachers cannot conduct research with their own students. Instead, teachers who are interested in conducting research should recruit students from other schools. Similarly, an administrator cannot conduct research involving colleagues or employees he or she supervises. Instead, school leaders should recruit staff from other schools or districts. Similar guidance applies to central office staff interested in conducting research to avoid the potential for coercion and a conflict of interest with regular job duties. 

When are fingerprinting and background checks required?

Any research team member who is not currently employed by City Schools and who may have contact with students during the course of a study must complete fingerprinting and a background check.

Can research participants be compensated?

City Schools prefers that incentives for teachers or administrators be in the form of gift cards or educational materials if participants are involved in study activities during normal working hours. Compensation for students should be developmentally appropriate.

What is adequate data security and disposal?

Researchers must ensure that all hard copy and electronic data are securely stored to prevent unauthorized access, disclosure, or loss of information. Hard-copy records should be stored so that only authorized individuals can access them. Electronic data should be saved on a device that has security safeguards such as password protection, encryption, anti-virus controls, and scheduled automatic back-ups. 

Data-disposal plans must describe when and how data collected in the study will be destroyed, which includes shredding paper documents, erasing computer data, and disposing of any audio- or videotapes. Federal regulations require that research data and related documents such as consent forms be kept in a secure location for three years.

What if I need to change an aspect of my research design?

Changes must be reported to the IRB through the online IRBManager and will be reviewed for approval.

What do I need to do at the close of my study?

Prior to any presentation or publication of results, please deliver a 2-3 page brief of research results, including data summaries in an appendix, to Ike Diibor. Any statistical reports must display the following disclaimer: Statistics reported were prepared specifically for this study and may not match other published statistics. Please also log into IRBManager to complete the closure form.