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Toolkit for Districts Working with External Researchers

Over the past decade, local education agencies (LEAs) have seen an increase in longitudinal data collection and a concurrent decrease in research staff because of budget cuts. They have also experienced an increase in external requests for their data—many of which may not be related to district priorities.

Given these circumstances, what are ways in which LEAs as well as states can partner with external researchers to increase their capacity to make decisions based on meaningful data analysis? Further, how can LEAs encourage external researchers to support district research agendas as well as compliance with federal regulations on data use?

In 2012, an advisory committee of members from the Urban School Improvement Alliance (USIA) worked with REL Northeast & Islands researchers to develop a set of procedures and materials for districts and states to better help them manage data requests from external researchers and encourage them to support district or state research agendas in meaningful ways. The results of this work are organized into five modules, including downloadable PDF files and templates in MS Word.

Note: These procedures and materials do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) or the US Department of Education and do not constitute official IES guidance or documentation.

Module 1: Identifying District Research Priorities

These materials help guide districts and states through the process of setting a research agenda that is based on their strategic priorities. “Internal Research Department Agenda Setting Process and Templates” includes guidance and templates for facilitating an internal agenda-setting process within a district or state research department.  A facilitator guide, participant workbook, presentation slides, and annotated agenda may be used or adapted by districts or states to facilitate an agenda-setting workshop series with program staff and district leaders.

Download Toolkit documents:

Module 2: Vetting Research Requests

These materials can help districts and states establish processes to accept, evaluate, and vet external data requests, including:

  • a sample research request application packet, with guidelines and attachments specific to human subjects research, confidential data requests, and data destruction, among other things;
  • a sample worksheet for reviewing external data and research requests; and
  • guidance on fees and penalties districts and states might charge for external research requests and data agreement violations.

Download Toolkit documents:

Module 3: Recruiting External Researchers

This module includes a guidance document with process flows for identifying and recruiting external researchers, and a sample RFR from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Download Toolkit documents:

Module 4: Sample MOUs and Data Agreements

This module includes 11 sample memoranda of understanding or agreement and data use or confidentiality agreements from state education agencies and urban school districts across the country. It also includes USED-issued FERPA guidance for reasonable methods and written agreements.

Download Toolkit documents:

Module 5: Disseminating Research Results Externally

This module includes a guidance document for disseminating research results externally. Appendices include a sample press release, tips for media interviews, and a list of sample research briefs that summarize education research findings in concise, easy-to-read documents written for a general audience.

Download Toolkit documents:

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