• Frequently Asked Questions

    What is the difference between active and passive consent? 
    Active consent of the research participant requires that the participant (or parent/guardian if the participant is under 18 years of age) actively agrees to participate in the research. Typically this means that the participant has  received a letter and has completed and returned a written form giving consent for participation. Passive consent requires all members participate in the research unless they opt-out of research activities. All research activities in the BPS require active consent of participants.

    What is required in the consent form?
    Consent Requirements
    BPS provides a template to ensure that the following sections are included in all consent forms being shared with BPS participants. Consent materials need to be translated into the preferred language of all families participating. While it is not required to use the above template, it is necessary that all consent forms include the following sections:

    1. Study Purpose/Program Description
    2. Conditions of Participation (what will students be asked to do?)
    3. Risks
    4. Benefits
    5. Administrative Data: (if applicable, describe the data elements that will be requested from central office records) 
    6. Confidentiality/Anonymity Protections (indicate how the researcher will keep this information confidential)
    7. Compensation (compensation should not exceed $50 for teachers and should be of no monetary value for students)
    8. Contact Information
    9. Voluntary Participation/Conditions of withdrawal

     For  electronic  consent forms, please adhere to your federal regulations detailed in this website.

    Why do we require central office department head level staff to sponsor research?
    The mission of the Boston Public Schools’ Office of Data and Accountability is to serve the BPS community by facilitating access to quality information and building capacity to make data-driven decisions that advance educational equity, opportunity, and achievement for all students. Research is one way to facilitate our community’s access to quality information. However, it is the responsibility of the Boston Public Schools to ensure  researchers have access to quality data and are able to responsibly interpret the findings of analysis. As such, the Office of Data and Accountability relies on central office district sponsors to assist with the access to quality data and responsible interpretation of findings.

    What is the role of the sponsor? 
    District sponsors are responsible for the following tasks:

    • Reviewing the research proposal before it is submitted to the Office of Data and Accountability
    • Facilitating the relationship between researchers and school leaders for research that includes primary data collection, including the selection of appropriate school sites for research
    • Annually reviewing  interim findings submitted in the form of a policy brief
    • Assessing research progress
    • Writing annual letters of support for the research to continue
    • Committing to use the results of research to further the individual goals of the department

    Who can submit a proposal to conduct research in Boston Public Schools?
    Academic or professional organizations or individuals completing a doctoral dissertation may submit a proposal to conduct research in the BPS.

    Are applications reviewed in the order received?
    Oftentimes, but not exclusively, priority is given to studies that are mandated by state and federal requirements or those studies that have a topic area that is directly linked to current BPS research and/or instructional needs. Proposals are reviewed only during the research windows                                         



    Decision Letter

    June 1-30

    July 1-31


    October 1-31 November 1-30 Mid-December

    May I provide remuneration to schools, staff or students for their participation?
    Monetary compensation for students in any form (cash, gifts, gift cards, raffle entries, etc.) is not permitted.   For public employees, the calendar year limit is money or gifts of no more than $50.  Guidelines from the BPS Office of the Legal Advisor indicate that a class gift is limited to no more than $150 and there is no stated limit if money or items are provided to schools; however, that the remuneration must be used for the benefit of the class or school and a record must be kept of how the money or items are used. 

    What do you mean by the term “administrative student or staff data” and what data can I request?
    Administrative data is information about students that are collected and maintained by a central office for administrative and operational purposes. These data often encompass several variables for one or more school years and, when shared, are often de-identified. Please be as specific as possible as to what data is being requested. Indicate the data elements, school years, and scope of data needed such as school names and grade levels. Requests such as ‘all achievement data that are available’ are not acceptable. The data requested must be justified by the indicated data analysis plan submitted. Note: a fee will be assessed for data requests. These fees are based on the data elements requested and the time required to pull the data elements.

    What if I am requesting to do a study that takes longer than a year?
    All submissions are approved for a single school year. If you are conducting a multi-year study, after year 1, you must submit a research renewal application annually.  In order to do this, please submit via the Application to Renew or Modify Current Research link.

    What if something changes in my study during the year?
    If there are study changes such as having a new principal investigator, adding or removing schools, or eliminating a survey, etc., please submit a continuing research application during the next research review window using the Application to Renew or Modify Current Research link.

    What do you mean by “benefit to the BPS”?
    Boston Public Schools must prioritize its goals which are foremost educating children. Researchers must demonstrate that their study contributes to achieving BPS goals and does not only fulfil goals that are external to the district. 

    What are reasons why a proposal would not be approved?
    BPS undergoes a rigorous review process to approve research proposals. This process screens applications for a) research implementation (e.g. feasibility of study activities and timeline) and b) research value (e.g. alignment of research to district priorities and overall research significance). 

    There are four (4) common reasons why a proposal would not be approved.

    1. Not aligned to BPS Priorities: A study is deemed to be lacking relevance if the variables are not directly related to the strategic priorities of Boston Public Schools. Please review our strategic vision to ensure your study aligns with district priorities. 
    2. Lack of Quality: BPS observes professional standards and the work of external researchers must be held to the same standards. If some elements of the proposal are missing or unclear, the research study will be rejected.
    3. Burden on Boston Public Schools resources: Research may place an overly undue  strain on resources than BPS is able to accommodate. This includes taking away from instructional time during school hours or BPS resources are limited and cannot support additional research.
    4. Study design is not representative of major student groups: BPS serves a vast diversity of student groups and research should be designed to be generalizable for all of our students or major student groups within the district. Additionally, priority will be given to studies that place special attention to student groups of interest (i.e. students with disabilities, English Learners, Black and Latinx,  and economically disadvantaged  students).

    Does approval by ODA guarantee I will be able to get the administrative data I need from BPS?
    No. While the proposed research may be sound and be of interest to BPS, an administrative data request may be declined or be required to be revised before being fulfilled.  Note: a fee will be assessed for data requests. These fees are based on the data elements requested and the time required to pull the data elements.

    Does approval by ODA guarantee I will be able to conduct my study within BPS schools?
    No. Approval from ODA means that the proposal is practically sound and it is likely to benefit BPS. You may only conduct research within a school if the principal(s)/headmaster(s) are willing to participate in the study.

    May I contact people to solicit their participation in my research while the proposal is undergoing review?
    No. Researchers may not solicit participation from schools, students or their families without having a formal letter of approval from ODA. However, in advance of conducting research it is expected that the researcher has contacted someone in BPS (whether at a school or in the central office) to ensure alignment with BPS priorities.

    What if my organization does not have an Institutional Review Board (IRB)?

    In the case that your institution does not have an IRB, there are several independent IRB groups that will review studies from unaffiliated researchers. Common independent IRBs are: New England IRB, Quorum IRB, and Pearl IRB. You can find a list of accredited IRBs here: AAHRPP.