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Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the research approval process?

    The research approval process is the mechanism by which individuals or organizations who wish to answer research questions using or collecting data from Shelby County Schools gain approval to move ahead with their project. No research should be conducted in the District prior to receiving official approval through this process.

  • Do I need to have my research approved?

    Any research questions that require data from Shelby County Schools that are not publicly available require approval. This includes research designed to gather original data from Shelby County Schools and District data files that are not publicly available.

  • Does it cost anything to apply for approval?

    Yes. There is a non-refundable $25 application fee that is due when you submit your completed application. In addition, there may be additional fees if you are requesting data files or need data de-identified from the District. The fees for data files will be calculated based on the amount of time required to prepare the files for you. You will be informed of any additional costs before the data files are created for you.

  • Does it cost anything to get a data file from the District?

    Yes. In addition to the $25 application fee, there are fees to obtain data files and/or de-identify data. Charges are based on the amount of time required to prepare the files for you.

  • I am a Shelby County Schools employee. Do I need to go through the research approval process?

    Yes. Shelby County Schools employees must follow the same research approval process for research projects as individuals outside the District.

  • I am a graduate student working on my thesis or dissertation. What do I need to know?

    Students should be aware that the expected timeframe for submitting an application and receiving approval is 40 business days after we receive a complete application. Students attending universities or colleges that have Institutional Review Board (IRB) processes are required to submit IRB approval before receiving final approval from Shelby County Schools. Applicants requesting to do original research projects in the District should note that no research projects will be allowed during the State testing window each spring.

  • Can I conduct research at my own school?

    SCS does not permit applicants who are current SCS school staff to ask their own faculty, other staff or students to participate in their research unless it is classroom-level action research. School-based applicants should plan to identify other SCS schools where they do not work to request participation in surveys, focus groups or interviews. This is to mitigate the possibility that research subjects feel pressured to participate when they don’t wish to and to ensure better objectivity in the resulting research.

  • How long will it take until I hear back?

    Applicants will receive email confirmation upon receipt of an application. Following that, it can take up to 40 business days after we receive a complete application to get official approval from the District. However, you may be contacted before then by someone reviewing your proposal for clarifications and/or revisions to the application materials

  • Is there anything I can do to speed up the process?

    We try to attend to each research approval application as quickly as possible, but there is no guarantee we can complete the process in less than 40 business days. However, to make the process as smooth as possible, be sure to submit a complete application (including the $25 application fee) and all supplemental information at the same time. Also, check your email for any follow up correspondence that you may receive.

  • What kind of research is not allowed in the Shelby County Schools?

    The following types of research are almost never approved:

    • Projects that do not clearly benefit the students of Shelby County Schools
    • Research designs that require surveys, specifically student, teacher, and parent surveys
    • Research designs that require surveys
    • Projects that put a heavy burden on school administrators or teachers
    • Projects that put a heavy burden on Central Office staff
    • Projects that require data collection at the applicant’s own school

  • Does my research require consent or assent?

    • Most research projects require informed consent from the research participants (e.g., teachers, administrators, parents, students). Research involving students generally requires either active or passive parental consent, depending on the nature of the proposed project. (Students age 18 or older can sign their own informed consent; parental consent is not required.)
    • Research that requires active parental consent for students also requires assent by the student before the student participates in the project. Assent statements should include: 1) a description of the research project and what it is that the student is being asked to do; 2) notification that the student’s participation is completely voluntary with no consequences for declining to participate; and 3) notification that the student can stop participating at any time without repercussion.
    • Student assent should be in language appropriate to the student’s level of understanding. If you are affiliated with an institution with an Institutional Review Board (IRB) follow your institution’s IRB guidelines for oral or written assent. If not, students in elementary school should receive oral assent. Students in middle school and high school should have a written assent form that is orally explained to them prior to their signature. Assent language should be at a reading level two grade levels below the lowest intended grade.

  • What is required in a consent form?

    Listed below are the components that should be included in all consent forms. If you are affiliated with an institution with an Institutional Review Board (IRB) process, additional information may be required by the IRB. All consent forms should be written in non-technical, easy-to-understand language.

    • A brief description of the study, including its purpose.
    • What is required of study participants
    • Specifics about time commitment, study duration, and meeting times and places
    • Risks and benefits to participants
    • Assurances that participation is voluntary

    Assurances that not participating, opting out, or discontinuing participation will not negatively affect participants

  • What kind of data can the District provide?

    Below are some examples of data the District can provide. If the data you are interested in are not on this list, you may email [email protected] to determine if the District can provide you with the information you need before you submit an application.

    • District/School Enrollment and Demographic Data
    • Graduation Data
    • Student Achievement Data (grades 2–12)
    • Student Formative Assessment Data (grades K – 12)
    • Student Attendance and Conduct Data
    • Teacher and Leader Evaluation Data
    • School Climate Data

    Student, parent, or teacher email addresses

    • Student disability status
    • Student or parent email addresses

  • What data are publicly available?

    • The sites below provide access to publically available data that could be used for research studies. If data are used from these sites, research approval is NOT needed.
    • TVAAS Public Site
    • TN State Report Card
    • TN Department of Education collection of data available for download
    • TN Tell Survey (A statewide survey of Tennessee school-based educators about school and teacher leadership, facilities and resources, professional development, and other topics)
    • The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
    • National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS

  • How do I know if my application is complete?

    A complete application consists of the following:

    • Application request for data or conducting research
    • Answer every question thoroughly and proofread your final product
    • Drafts of consent forms (if you are applying to collect your own data)
    • Make sure they include all the required elements, and proofread your final products
    • IRB application and approval letter (if you are at an institution having an institutional review board) *please see note for additional information.
    • $25 application fee
    • Make your check or money order payable to Shelby County Schools if you are not writing a personal check, put your name in the for (memo) section

  • I have additional questions. Where do I find more information?

    If you have additional questions, please contact the Department of Research and Performance Management at (901) 416-5455.