LAUSD Research Guidelines
While LAUSD recognizes the value of high-quality research for improving education and serving the needs of future generations of students, the District staff have legal and ethical obligations that require oversight of research activities conducted with District resources (such as data, facilities, employee time, and access to students). These obligations include:
- Protecting students and employees from risk of harm, violations of rights, and losses of privacy
- Protecting the educational process from unwarranted distractions and interruptions
- Protecting public resources including data from misappropriation for private or unjustified use
Research conducted in LAUSD or with its resources must be justified in terms of the anticipated benefit to the District and not merely to the advancement of knowledge. LAUSD encourages research in the following areas:
- Improving educational outcomes across all or selected subgroups of students
- Improving the design and delivery of services that promote learning
- Improving the management of the school environment
- Improving parent involvement in education
Research should be designed to answer well-formed research questions of educational importance, and it should use methods that are appropriate to the research questions. Elements of the research design, including the theoretical framework, hypotheses, sample selection, instruments, and analysis plan should support the goals of the research, and it is the responsibility of the researcher to communicate these things clearly in the proposal. Even research that imposes no risks may be rejected by the review committee if they judge it to be poorly designed, described, or justified.
CERR approval does not impose any obligation on any person, school, or office to cooperate with researchers. Researchers bear responsibility to inform potential respondents of the anticipated benefits and burdens in obtaining their consent. Of course, no research may be conducted at a school site without the informed approval of the principal. Please be aware all data collection with staff (outside of observations) must take place outside of paid time and that staff should be apprised of this fact during recruitment. All data collection with students (other than observations) must take place outside of instructional time.
Depending on the research design, substantial time and effort may be required for LAUSD staff to provide requested data with the appropriate selection and matching of records and concealment of personal identities. Upon approval of the submitted proposal, the researcher will receive an estimate of the time and anticipated costs associated with LAUSD providing requested data for the study.
A. Legal Protections
Although this committee does not function as an institutional review board (IRB), as a school district, we must require that all research within the District adhere to federal regulations regarding family and pupil rights, privacy, and protection. In addition, we must require that all research within the district adhere to federal guidelines regarding the protection of human subjects. Although we rely to an extent on approval from your organization's IRB to ensure you have taken all necessary steps to protect human subjects involved in your research, our own guidelines may go above and beyond those of your IRB. Therefore, each researcher should become familiar with these guidelines before submitting a proposal to our committee.
Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects (34 CFR Part 97) This policy is found in the regulations of various departments, but the Department of Education version differs slightly from the DHHS version often cited by researchers and institutions. It can be found athttp://www.ed.gov/policy/fund/reg/humansub/part97.html
One subsection in particular should be noted, Additional ED Protections for Children Involved as Subjects in Research:http://www.ed.gov/print/policy/fund/reg/humansub/part97-3.html
Note that research involving “normal educational practices” is exempt from IRB review under 34 CFR Part 97.101(b)(1). However, 34 CFR Part 97.101(b)(2) makes it clear that survey and interview procedures are not included in the definition of normal educational practices. For such procedures, what is required for exemption from IRB review is that information be recorded in a such a manner that human subjects cannot be identified, and that any disclosure outside of the research cannot reasonably be damaging to the subjects’ financial standing, employability, or reputation.
Because of the special relationship that schools have with students and their families, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA: 34 CFR Part 99) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA: 34 CFR Part 98) impose stricter requirements on the District than those imposed on researchers by IRB review or its exemption. These rules may be found at
Before research may begin in LAUSD, one of the following must be submitted to Committee on External Research Review:
- In the case of research subject to Institutional Review Board (IRB) review, the researcher must submit a copy of the IRB submission along with the LAUSD proposal, and provide the Committee on External Research Review with a copy of the IRB approval letter before beginning research.
- In the case of research exempt from IRB review, the proposal must include documentation from the institution clearly delineating reasons for such an exemption.
- In the case of research not affiliated with any institution subject to IRB requirements, the proposal must include persuasive evidence that the researcher has carefully considered the potential risk to human subjects, especially students and families, and has ensured the appropriate protections in the research design.
In accordance with our guidelines, please provide additional information to address the second and third bullets. The proposal should identify the protections relevant to working with students and student data. If the research involves contact with students other than normal educational practices, student and parent consent forms must be included. Note that even with parental consent, minors in school settings must be given the opportunity to assent or refuse to participate in research activities other than routine educational practices.
B. Ethical Principles
We expect researchers to abide by the code of ethics for their respective disciplines. As a general guideline, we offer the following principles. These principles have been adapted from the American Psychological Association’s (1992) Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct. The entire code is available at http://www.apa.org/ethics/code.html.
Familiarity with Ethics Code. Researchers have an obligation to be familiar with applicable ethics codes and their application to research. Lack of awareness or misunderstanding of an ethical standard is not itself a defense to a charge of unethical conduct.
Compliance with Law and Standards. Researchers plan and conduct research in a manner consistent with federal and state law and regulations, as well as professional standards governing the conduct of research, and particularly those standards governing research with human participants.
Informed Consent to Research. Researchers use language that is reasonably understandable to research participants in obtaining their appropriate informed consent (except when consent is waivable). Such informed consent is appropriately documented. For persons who are legally incapable of giving informed consent, researchers nevertheless (1) provide an appropriate explanation, (2) obtain the participant's assent, and (3) obtain appropriate permission from a legally authorized person, if such substitute consent is permitted by law.
Minimizing Intrusions on Privacy. In order to minimize intrusions on privacy, researchers include in written and oral reports, consultations, and the like, only information germane to the purpose for which the communication is made. Researchers discuss confidential information obtained in schools, or evaluative data concerning students, teachers, and other research participants, only for appropriate scientific or professional purposes and only with persons who are clearly concerned with such matters and have pledged to uphold confidentiality.