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Guidelines for Conducting Research and Data Requests

Thank you for your interest in conducting research within Worcester Public Schools (WPS). The process for gaining approval of your research is primarily dependent on

  1. alignment with WPS strategic initiatives and objectives;
  2. rigor of the research methodology;
  3. risk/benefits to WPS students or staff;
  4. timing of the research or other implementation challenges.

The Office of Research and Accountability (ORA) is responsible for managing the research process and ensuring that researchers have appropriate access to quality data and are able to accurately convey results.

The following guidelines are intended to provide directions to those who wish to conduct research or obtain primary or secondary data from the Worcester Public School system. Primary data is data that is collected directly from research subjects, (e.g., WPS students, staff or parents/guardians), using data collection instruments such as surveys, interviews, focus groups, or observations. Secondary data is data that has already been collected and stored by the District. If the data request is approved, secondary data will frequently be supplied by the ORA or some other WPS department who has an established relationship with the requester.

The guidelines below are based on the role of the requester as either being Internal or External to the district.

Internal requesters are employees of the district who are already in compliance with requirements for having contact with students or already have access to some school or district level data. Internal requesters would include current WPS employees such as teachers, IAs, Guidance Counselors, Principals, Assistant Principals, or any other staff who need to conduct research in order to complete their own degree requirements at a college/university.

External requesters include others who work for entities outside of the district such as the following:

  • Research institutes who wish to work with WPS student, teacher or other WPS related data in order to support and advance the institute’s own research agenda
  • Community-based organizations (CBO’s) who wish to understand the impact of their programs or practices on WPS students who participate in their programs, or who request access to student data
  • Service providers – other contractors, individuals or agencies who in providing services to WPS may come in contact with student data protected under FERPA, HIPAA or PPRA regulations.

In all cases, application documents must be completed and will be reviewed by the ORA. The ORA will be responsible for granting approvals or denials of the application requests, and will include other district personnel in the review and approval process as needed.

Internal – Steps for Research and Data Requests

  1. Requesters must complete a Research Project/Data Collection Application
  2. Requesters must agree to the terms included in the Agreement Regarding Research Projects (aka Agreement for Staff Research). This document must be signed by both Researcher and ORA for WPS once the request is approved. This agreement is located
  3. Teacher/Principal approval – If Requester is conducting research in a classroom(s) within a WPS school(s), classroom teacher(s) and school Principal approval must be provided via emails sent to ORA.
  4. IRB documentation/approval – If Requester is conducting research to satisfy degree requirements, IRB documentation may be submitted as part of the Research Project Application to describe the research purpose, design, and methodology that will be used.
  5. Data collection instruments – Copies of all assessments, surveys, interview protocols, or any other data gathering templates must be submitted as part of the application.
  6. Study sample recruitment letter or flyers must be included as part of the application if applicable.
  7. Parent Consent Form – Provide a copy and indicate which languages the form will be translated into.
  8. Student Assent Form – If appropriate, provide a copy and indicate which languages the form will be translated into.
  9. Student-Teacher Risk Clarification – For WPS teachers who will be researching their own students, an explanation of how the teacher will mitigate the risks associated with the power dynamic that exists between teacher and student, and how anonymity will be maintained for participating students.

External – Steps for Research and Data Requests

  1. Requesters must complete a Research Project/Data Collection Application
  2. Requesters must agree to the terms included in the Agreement for Outside Contractor/Agency to access Worcester Public School Data (aka Outside Data Agreement Form). This document must be signed by both Researcher and ORA for WPS once the request is approved.
  3. Teacher/Principal approval – If Requester is conducting research in a classroom(s) within a WPS school(s), classroom teacher(s) and school Principal approval must be provided via emails sent to ORA.
  4. IRB documentation/approval – If Requester is conducting research to satisfy degree requirements, IRB documentation may be submitted as part of the Research Project/Data Collection Application to describe the research effort, design, and methodology that will be used.
  5. Data collection instruments – Copies of all assessments, surveys, interview protocols, or any other data gathering templates must be submitted as part of the application.
  6. Study sample recruitment letter or flyers must be included as part of the application if applicable.
  7. Parent Consent Form – Provide a copy and indicate which languages the form will be translated into.
  8. Student Assent Form – If appropriate, provide a copy and indicate which languages the form will be translated into.
  9. Parent/Guardian Request to Release Educational Records – for use by CBO’s who want access to student record information such as scores, attendance, enrollments and demographics. Note for students participating in CBO’s program for multiple years, this release only needs to be completed once per student.

If the results of the research or data analyses being conducted would be of interest and value to a broader audience within the district, the requester may be asked to supply a final report or presentation for use by ORA. Agreement to broader distribution of final results is not a requirement for requesters. It is rather, a way of extending the knowledge about positive impacts that may result from the study. ORA may make this request at the time of the study’s approval.

External - Steps for Data Release only

Community based organizations (CBOs) often require secondary data that can help demonstrate the

impact and effectiveness of their programs on participating students. For those organizations that are seeking data only and are not conducting research of their own, the following steps apply:

  1. Requesters must complete a Data Release Request
  2. Note that rosters of participating students may be uploaded directly into the Data Release Request form.
  3. Requesters must agree to the terms contained in the WPS Data Sharing Agreement.
  4. For each student for whom data is being requested, WPS must have evidence that the organization has received the agreement of the Parents/Guardians to release educational record information. Note that if a student participates in the programs offered by the organization for multiple years, the release form only needs to be completed once. WPS offers a standard template for organizations to use to acquire these releases.

Once the ORA has completed a review of applications, an approval or denial will be issued.

Any further questions about this process or requirements should be directed to the ORA via email to [email protected] or by calling 508-799-3060 x93952.

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