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Research and Data Requests

City Schools welcomes studies by outside researchers and external organizations, provided they do not compromise student or parent privacy or disrupt the work of students, teachers, or administrators. The district also makes numerous data reports publicly available for download; when other data are required, researchers may submit requests. (Note that receipt of non-public, student-level data sets requires a legal agreement between the researcher or organization and City Schools.)

All research and data requests must be submitted using the online IRBManager form. 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.

Research involving only a request for data

Data-request applications are reviewed every two weeks. Approval is based on data availability as well as the educational benefit provided to City Schools, the Baltimore community, or the field of education. The time required to fulfill a data request depends on the request's complexity and competing priorities within the Achievement and Accountability Office. Individuals receiving data files for research must share final reports with the district.

Research involving data collection 

City Schools' internal Institutional Review Board (IRB) reviews proposed research projects that involve data collection, including conducting interviews, holding focus groups, or administering surveys or assessments to students or school staff. The IRB meets once a month to review submitted proposals.

Instructions for

What is the process for submitting a research proposal?

You must submit your request via City Schools' online platform, IRBManager. The IRBManager can be used to submit requests for

  • Research involving only a request for data
  • New research studies involving data collection (and, if applicable, requests for administrative data)
  • Revisions to an existing IRB proposal
  • Renewal of an IRB-approved research study

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 and determining whether they should be approved. Its members represent a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and interests and include staff from different district departments and a community member. The IRB meets on a monthly basis.

Is IRB approval always required?

Individuals seeking to conduct research studies involving the collection of new data or the implementation and evaluation of a new intervention in City Schools must submit a proposal to City Schools’ IRB. This applies to both City Schools’ employees and external researchers. 

IRB approval is not required for those requesting only administrative data without any new data collection.

What does the IRB look for when evaluating proposals?

The IRB looks to ensure that the rights and welfare of human subjects are protected and that potential risks due to research participation are minimized. The IRB also discusses the scientific merit, privacy procedures, and potential benefit of the research study to City Schools.

What happens to a research proposal once it is submitted?

Research proposals are screened for completeness by the IRB director. If a proposal is incomplete, the submitter is notified by email.

Complete proposals are reviewed by two IRB members and discussed at the 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 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. (All dates are in 2019.)

Submission deadline 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

What research might be rejected?

  • Poorly designed research studies
  • Any form of clinical trial involving medication, drugs, or collection of any bodily fluids or specimens

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 approval of principals, teachers, and students and completion of informed consent forms by parents/guardians, as appropriate. Approval is for one year unless otherwise noted in the approval letter. Research studies that will extend beyond one year must submit an application for continued approval prior to the expiration of the current approval.

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 decide whether to allow research to be conducted in their schools; however, the principal's consent does not guarantee that school personnel or students will agree to participate. Further, a principal may withdraw the school from participating at any time. Similarly, staff and students may choose not to participate or withdraw from the study at any time.

It is the responsibility of the researcher to contact principals and other relevant parties to obtain the required permissions before initiating the study. 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 members’ contact information. With principal permission, researchers can put flyers in teachers’ mailboxes, post recruitment announcements in the teachers’ lounge, or host an information session as a way to recruit participants.

Can research take place during instructional time?

Research should not impede or unduly disrupt instruction. 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 as much as possible. Research cannot take place during times when standardized testing is scheduled. Additionally, in the proposal review, the IRB will look at the time spent during instruction because of the concern that schools could be overburdened by research.

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 parental/guardian consent. Researchers must also have active consent for children's participation in any research study that includes audio- or videotaping. The consent form must specifically state that this recording is involved in the research.


What is the difference between active and passive consent?

Active consent involves a written agreement to participate obtained from potential research subjects 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 or do not want their child to participate in research. Active consent is required for classroom observations, surveys, interviews and focus groups, and any other circumstance where there could be increased risk.

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. Students who are 18 or older should be given a consent form rather than an assent form.) The researcher may use a script to read the information to a student under age 18 and then obtain his/her verbal or written assent with a witness present.

Can principals and teachers conduct research at their own schools?

Teachers should refrain from conducting research with their own students due to the potential for coercion. Instead, teachers who are interested in conducting research should recruit students from other schools. Similarly, an administrator should not conduct research involving employees he or she supervises.

When are fingerprinting and background checks required?

Any research team member who is not currently employed by City Schools and may have contact with students during the course of the 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. Schools can be compensated for participation in research, preferably through Donor’s Choose or a similar system.

What is adequate data security and disposal?

Researchers should 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 should describe when and how data collected in the study will be destroyed, which includes shredding paper documents, erasing computer data, and disposal 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 a minimum of 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. If there will be changes in the research design past the initial year of approval, those changes should be included in the renewal application.

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

Please provide a copy of your report and description of your findings to the Achievement and Accountability Office. Any statistical reports must display the following disclaimer: Statistics reported were prepared especially for this study and may not agree with other published statistics.

Please also log into IRBManager to complete the closure form.