Guidelines for Doing Research
Submitting Research Proposals
Anyone wishing to access Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) resources to conduct research studies—other than studies conducted by LAUSD—must obtain approval from the Committee for External Research Review (CERR) housed in the Research Unit of the Office of Data and Accountability. The following guidelines describe the general principles underlying the review process and the procedure to follow in submitting a research proposal for review. Only proposals that have a clear, direct, and immediate benefit to the district in terms of informing practice will be considered for approval. We are limited in our ability to provide access to student data. Please understand that we can only accommodate requests for data that do not involve merging of data from different sources or across multiple school years. If you have any questions, feel free to contact the committee chair, Dr. Katherine Hayes.
Application Windows for the 2017-18 Academic Year
We are accepting proposals to conduct research involving LAUSD resources during the following periods during the 2017-2018 school year:
- April 1-15, 2018 (Closed)
- July 1-15, 2018 (Closed)
- December 1-15, 2018
Guidelines for External Research Review
LAUSD recognizes the value of high-quality research for improving education and serving the needs of future generations of students. On the other hand, the District has legal and moral 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. The burden on respondents should not be excessive. However, time has very different values in different contexts, and only participants can decide whether the cumulative burden on them is acceptable. 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 staff to provide requested data with the appropriate selection and matching of records and concealment of personal identities. Cost of data extracts are $100.00 per hour. Approval of proposal will include a time estimate and dollar amount.
A. General Directions
Please review the following checklist of research proposal submission form. The following materials are required for the online research proposal submission form. We recommend you complete the following sections in a Microsoft Word document, save it, and then copy and paste into the online submission form.
The link to the online submission form is listed at the end of the checklist.
You will not be able to save your submission unless all required fields are completed. You are unable to save information to edit at a later time. We recommend that you copy and paste information into the required fields to ensure all information is saved. Each field has a character limit of 2500 characters. You can use the character count tool in Microsoft Word to count all characters.
You will receive a confirmation email once your proposal is submitted with a proposal identification number. You will need to refer to this number if resubmission is required.
Please contact Dr. Katherine Hayes, the CERR chair, if you have any questions. She can be reached at 213-241-5153 or at 213-241-5600. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are sending an email with a question about the online submission form for a proposal you already submitted, please title the subject of the email as follows:
Your Last Name, Research Proposal Title, Reason for Contact (in 5 words or less)
B. Checklist for Online Research Proposal Submission Required Items
Please note the order and format of each question and field as it will appear on the online form. This will allow you to easily copy and paste your information from your Word document. Descriptions for each item are also available on the online form.
All fields are required on the online research proposal submission form.
- Proposal Submission Window (A drop down menu of date options is given)
- Researcher First Name
- Researcher Last Name
- Researcher Title (A drop down menu is provided with the following categories: Principal Investigator, Project Manager, Doctoral Candidate, Master's Candidate, Contractor or 'Add New Choice')
- Phone Number
- Affiliation (A drop down menu is provided with the following categories: College/University, Organization, Research Institute, or 'Add New Choice').
- Professional: Research is sponsored by universities, governmental agencies, or by similar non-profit organizations engaged in scholarly research.
- Graduate student: Research is sponsored by a college/university and supervised by a faculty member. Please include a letter of sponsorship from the faculty advisor. This letter should have your faculty advisor's contact information and should be included in the Appendix.
- Other: Research may sometimes be sponsored by a for-profit entity such as a textbook publisher, or a non-profit agency with a primary mission other than scholarly research. Because of the potential for biased outcomes, inappropriate incentives, and misappropriation of public resources, the proposal will be held to an extremely high standard of validity and justification in terms of benefit to the District.
- Name of Institution
- Applicant's E-Mail Address The confirmation of submission containing the proposal confirmation number will be sent to this e-mail address.
- Please indicate if the main contact information is the same as the researcher contact information listed above. (Please indicate 'yes' or 'no' on the drop down menu. If you answer 'no,' indicating that the main contact information is different, you will need to complete the next three fields. If you answer 'yes,' no further information regarding the contact person is necessary.
- Main Contact First Name
- Main Contact Last Name
- Main Contact E-Mail Address The confirmation of submission containing the proposal confirmation number will be sent to this e-mail address.
- LAUSD Employee (Please indicate 'yes' or 'no' on the drop down menu.)
- Will you be conducting research in your own classroom, at your own school, or in your own district office? (Please indicate 'yes' or 'no' on the drop down menu.)
- Proposal Title
- Type of Research (A drop down menu is provided with the following categories: Action research, Archival study, Case study, Evaluation, Experiment, Intervention, Qualitative, or 'Add New Choice').
- Study Start Date (The exact date must be selected)
- Study End Date (The exact date must be selected)
- Which Department will benefit from your work? (A drop down menu is provided with the following categories: Budget Services and Financial Planning, Human Resources/Talent Management, Intensive Support and Intervention, Curriculum and Instruction, Health and Human Services, Beyond the Bell/Supplemental Education Services, Special Education, Health and Curriculum or 'Add New Choice').
- Abstract (2500 character limit) Please provide a brief, comprehensive summary of your research proposal indicating the purpose of the research, research questions, hypotheses (if applicable), description of research participants, research method (s), analytic approach and implications (approx. 200 words).
- Statement of Purpose (2500 character limit) State clearly what you intend to accomplish with this research.
- Literature Review/Theoretical Framework (2500 character limit) Please provide a brief statement of the theoretical basis for your study from prior published research (include reference citations in APA format) and what contribution your work is expected to make to your field. Include a Reference List in the Appendix.
- Research Questions/Hypotheses (2500 character limit) Please state briefly the research questions you plan to address, along with any necessary hypotheses. Hypotheses are not required for qualitative research studies.
- Methods (Design - 2500 character limit) Please describe the methods that you plan to use and how they will be used to address your research questions.
- Methods (Sampling and Recruitment - 2500 character limit) Please describe the target population, sampling frame, and selection procedures.
- Methods (Measures - 2500 character limit) Please describe the instruments of measurement you plan to use. Please include results from pilot testing and/or other evidence for the validity of the instruments. Although conditional approval may be granted on the basis of preliminary instruments, the complete and finalized instruments must be submitted before the project can begin.
- Methods (Data Collection - 2500 character limit) Please describe the method of data collection and procedures you plan to use.
- Methods (Type of Data Collection - 2500 character limit) A drop down menu is provided with the following categories: Survey, Interview, Focus Group, Classroom Observation, Shadowing, Secondary Data Analysis or 'Add New Choice').
- Analysis (2500 character limit): Please describe your anticipated analysis plan, including specifics regarding your treatment of the data, statistical or otherwise.
- Human Subjects Protections (2500 character limit): State which regulations and ethical codes will govern this research. Describe how the identity of the subjects and data will be protected.
- Burden to the District (2500 character limit): Please describe the burden that your research will have on the District. The following is required of all research proposals that involve human subjects:
- The research proposal will clearly state the number of participants, specifying the role of each group of participants. For example: Twenty math teachers in four schools will be observed, six principals will be interviewed, and forty students from five classrooms will be surveyed.
- The research proposal will clearly state the amount of time to be requested from each participant and when the interaction will occur. For example: Math teachers will be observed for four class sessions during the first two weeks in March.
- It is the District's interest to minimize the human costs of research. Therefore, the research proposal will provide a clear rationale for the number of participants, the number of contacts, and the total time required by each participant.
- The research proposal will include a statement of how research participants are to be compensated for their involvement, if at all.
- Instructional interventions must be approved by the Office of Curriculum, Instruction and School Support (OCISS). Instructional interventions designated for the purpose of a master's thesis or doctoral dissertation will not be accepted.
- Benefit to the District (2500 character limit): The proposal must identify the benefits that the research is expected to provide to the District in terms of the following areas of interest:
- 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
Please indicate how your research will directly benefit the District and how will your findings be shared with sample schools and local districts.
- Data Request (2500 character limit): Depending on the research design, substantial time and effort may be required for staff to provide requested data with the appropriate selection and matching of records and concealment of personal identities. Cost of data extracts are $100.00 per hour. Approval of proposal will include a time estimate and dollar amount.
- Submit IRB Clearance: Please indicate if this proposal includes your signed CERR statement of agreement. Your signed CERR statement of agreement is required for submission. (Drop down list of options is given as Yes or No)
Upload Appendices, IRB, and CERR Statement of Agreement
You will be asked to upload a PDF or Microsoft Word document for the following:
Online Research Submission Form:
- Appendices: Please include all appendices and additional materials in one PDF file, including references, instruments, consent/assent forms, letter from graduate student's sponsor stating that the sponsor has read the CERR proposal and approves it (if applicable), and other supporting documentation.
*Not required field.
- IRB: Provide the appropriate IRB documents or evidence that IRB review is not required. Please include all completed IRB submissions in one PDF file.
*Not required field.
- CERR Statement of Agreement: Please scan your signed CERR statement of agreement and upload in PDF file. *CERR statement of agreement is required.
When you are finished completing the Online Research Submission Form:
- Review all material because you will not be able to edit once submitted.
- Click the green "Save" icon in the top right corner of the form.
- You will receive an error message if you (1) have exceeded the character limit or (2) have not filled out a required field.
- Fix the errors and scroll to the upload section at the bottom to ensure your uploaded files are still selected (You may have to upload the files again).
- Once all errors are fixed, click the "Save" icon.
- If your submission was properly saved the message "Proposal Saved" will appear in green at the top of your screen.
- You should immediately receive a confirmation e-mail with a proposal identification number assigned to your proposal submission.
- If you leave the submission form page your proposal will NOT be saved.
- DO NOT press the Cancel icon unless you would like to exit the proposal submission. Your proposal content will NOT be saved once you cancel.
We require that all researchers sign a statement of agreement. This statement establishes that your research activities within Los Angeles Unified School District are in compliance with existing legal and ethical codes. It further establishes that the research you perform will not differ significantly from the research proposed, and that you are to provide the Committee with an executive summary of your findings. Violation of this statement of agreement will be considered a breach of contract.
D. Certification to visit classrooms and conduct research with students
The Committee for External Research Review (CERR) adheres to the District’s Volunteer Policy and Guidelines and must certify each researcher who visits classrooms and/or conducts research with students, even though that individual may not be a volunteer. This occurs via an online application submitted by CERR administrators to the Parent Community Services Branch (PCSB). If your proposal is approved, you will be required to submit the results of a TB test and your name will be checked against the Megan’s Law online database for sex offender clearance. A background check may also be required. For further information regarding the District’s Volunteer Policy and Guidelines, please refer to the following web page:
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.
Who needs to submit proposals for review by this committee?Anyone wishing to conduct research involving LAUSD resources (human, information, or otherwise) for which the purpose is primarily external. This includes but is not limited to students, academicians, research firms, non-profit or government agencies wishing to collect data for a purpose that is not part of regular district business. Those hired by LAUSD to research internal programs or the effectiveness of contractors with LAUSD are considered to be conducting internal research and do not need to seek the approval of this committee. Anyone in doubt about the nature of his specific case should submit an inquiry to the committee chair before submitting a proposal.
For how long is CERR approval valid?
Should your study be approved by our committee, you will be given a formal letter of approval signed by our committee chair. This approval is valid until a year following the date of the approval letter. It is your responsibility to make sure an IRB approval is current and that CERR has a copy on file.
What if I am proposing to do a study that takes longer than a year?You may propose a multi-year study. Independent of how long your study takes to complete, you will be asked to submit an annual update. This update would consist of a summary of findings if the study is at completion or a request for an extension should the study need to continue beyond one year. So long as no substantive changes are made to the original proposal for a multi-year study, approval may be renewed via the annual update without the need for a revised proposal to be submitted each year.
Do I have to wait until my institutional review board (IRB) has completed its review before submitting to this committee?No. Although we rely heavily on the opinions of IRBs to ensure that researchers are adhering to human subjects protection guidelines, we are willing to review proposals while they are under review by an IRB in order to save time. However, the IRB review must be completed and a copy of the approval submitted to us before an approved study may move forward with data collection. (NOTE: some IRBs require an approval letter from us before they will grant their own approval. It is perfectly legitimate to submit both at once, submit a copy of your application to us, and if approved, submit a copy of your approval letter from us to the IRB so they can complete their review.)
Is the process any different for me if I happen to be an LAUSD employee?
No. You must go through the proposal process if you wish to conduct research for purposes that fall outside your normal job duties. In fact, because of the potentially conflicting roles played in such a scenario, the researcher should take great care to conduct all business related to the external project as someone external to the district in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest (for example, a principal of a school who is conducting research for an Ed.D. thesis should not solicit participation from teachers or students at that school, using his or her title as principal, as it may compromise the extent to which individuals feel they are volunteering to participate and could even create the image that he or she is using human resources accessible to a principal for personal use). When questions arise as to whether a district employee is potentially crossing ethical lines, it would be a good idea to consult the chair of this committee or the district's Ethics Office.
I already have access to student data as a LAUSD employee. Can I extract the data myself?
No. Employees of the District often need access to sensitive information to carry out their jobs, however this access does not grant them permission to use that data for reasons other than the specific purposes for which they were granted access. Schools and school staff are generally not considered "owners" of data for purposes of determining the appropriateness of its release. A data owner is the administrator, director or supervisor of the branch or division that collects and/or uses the data on behalf of the entire District. Student information falls under the purview of the Executive Director of the Office of Data and Accountability and all data requests must be directed to this office. For further information, please refer to the Information Protection Policy Bulletin 1077.1. It may be accessed through the following link:
What do you mean by “benefits to LAUSD”?
In a time of drastic budget cuts and tight resources, LAUSD must prioritize its goals on student learning and achievement. All district business must be aligned with the LAUSD mission and vision. External researchers must demonstrate that their study contributes to achieving the district’s goals and does not only fulfill goals that are external to the district.
What are reasons why a proposal would be rejected?
There are three general reasons why a proposal would be rejected: 1) lack of relevance 2) lack of quality, or 3) intense burden on district resources. A study is deemed to be lacking relevance if the variables are not directly related to the mission of LAUSD. For example, a researcher interested in the political affiliations of public school teachers might find LAUSD to be a convenient laboratory for his work but could probably not argue that the findings would be of use to the district. Thus use of LAUSD teachers as a resource is not justified. A study is deemed to be lacking quality if an adequate level of scientific rigor is not demonstrated. Our office is comprised of professional researchers who observe professional standards for their work. The work of external researchers must be held to the same standards as use for our own work. If some elements are missing or unclear in the proposal, the researcher will normally be invited to resubmit with changes. In some cases, reviewers may deem that a minimum level of technical proficiency was not demonstrated (e.g., basic terms are used incorrectly, or the quality of writing is below professional standards), in which case the proposal would be rejected. Proposals might also be rejected if reviewers determine that the study would place a greater strain on resources than the district would be able to accommodate. This would be particularly relevant during times when the district's resources have been limited by budget cuts or other means.
How many proposals may I submit during an application period?
Each Principal Investigator may submit one proposal per application window. See the above section on application periods for the current year to determine the next time you may submit.
If my proposal is not accepted, will I be told the reasons why?Yes. Our committee is interested in supporting any high quality research that could potentially benefit LAUSD. When proposals are not accepted, in many cases, we will provide an itemized list of recommended changes and invite the researcher to resubmit the proposal within 20 days. Proposals are only rejected without the invitation to resubmit if the reviewers determine that, even with changes, the work is not likely to yield benefits to the district.
How long does the approval process take?
Although the process generally takes about twenty working days, it can vary depending on the volume of proposals we receive during an application period. You will be notified of the committee's decision within twenty working days of submission. Thus, if you submitted on July 15, you will hear from us by August 12. If you do not hear from us in a timely manner, please feel free to contact CERR at 213-241-5600.
Does approval by CERR guarantee I will be able to get the data I need from LAUSD?
No. Approval from this committee merely means that your proposal is methodologically sound and that it is likely to yield benefits to the district that outweigh any cost in resources. It does not require schools or offices to allow you access to their resources, nor does it negate the rights of subjects to decline participation. It might be helpful to think of this approval process as the first phase in a multiphase process.
I am on a tight schedule. To save time may I contact people in the district to solicit their participation in my research while the proposal is undergoing review?
No. External researchers may not contact any district personnel, schools, students, or their families without having a formal letter of approval from this committee.
Okay, but I am still on a tight schedule. Is there any way to expedite the process so I can meet my deadlines?
No. We do our best to complete each review within a twenty-day period, which involves two separate reviews by independent members of the committee followed by a third review by the chair. Depending on the volume of proposals we receive, this process may at times take longer than twenty days but generally cannot be done any faster without compromising the process.