Accountability and Quality Assurance - Research Guidelines

Initial Contact

Initial contact regarding research is always made with the Director for Accountability and Quality Assurance rather than directly with school administration, staff, and students. ALLOW A MINIMUM OF 4 WEEKS FOR APPROVAL PROCESS or prior to the time the study is to be conducted. District approval does not constitute approval for the study to be conducted in any specific school. Researchers must obtain the approval of principals and others involved, prior to conducting research in the district. NOTE: RESEARCH CONDUCTED DURING THE SECOND SEMESTER (JAN. THRU JUNE) IS HIGHLY DISCOURAGED.

To more closely coordinate district needs with research efforts, Greenville County Schools (GCS) strongly encourages student researchers wishing to conduct research in our system to contact the Director of Research, Evaluation, and Accountability at a point prior to finalizing thesis or dissertation plans. The Director will discuss topics of concern/interest to GCS with researchers upon request or refer them to appropriate administrative staff for such discussion. Not only will student researchers be more prepared to meet our guidelines, but also early discussions may prompt ideas for developing viable designs and/or procedures.

Guideline Purpose

  • To manage and coordinate all external research conducted in GCS
  • To protect employees, students, and instructional time
  • To provide information that allows for quality research preparation that improves educational practice
  • To ensure research abides all pertinent federal, state, and local laws and policies

Conducting Research in GCS

Research Application (MS Word)

Submit a research proposal which contains the following:

  • title of proposal, project start and end date, researcher’s contact information
  • purpose and basis of the study and how this study will contribute to educational advancement in GCS
  • procedures that will be used in the District
  • data collection schedule and type of data collected,
  • how and to whom data will be reported
  • impact on instructional time at the schools
  • selection method for participants/schools
  • what participants will be asked to do
  • potential risks and benefits to the participants
  • hypotheses of the study,
  • summary of research design including statistical analysis procedures,
  • source of research funds,
  • materials participants receive/use (e.g., surveys, tests, informed consent form(s), equipment)
  • if this is a student research project, submit the following
    • a letter of support from a research sponsor (e.g., college/university faculty member, agency staff member)
    • a copy of the IRB proposal submission and approval forms

Informed Consent

All participation in research studies is voluntary. Principals and teachers who do not wish to participate in external research have the right to refuse. No research may be conducted during statewide testing or during other times as specified by the Research Committee (dates vary from year to year, call Testing Department (864-355-2082). for specific dates). Participants of a study must receive and sign an informed consent form that acquaints them with the study. In particular, full and informed consent (cover letter) must include the following:

  • a brief summary of the project’s purpose
  • procedures to be followed, including an easily understood, precise description of the child’s involvement
  • anticipated benefits of participating
  • possible physical, psychological, legal, or other risks
  • assurance of full anonymity with no personal identifiers
  • participant compensation, if any
  • name of the person and contact information to whom inquiries should be addressed before, during, and after the project
  • information specifying the persons and institution to which the information will be released

Informed consent forms must also include the following sentences:

  • “I do not wish (my child) to participate.” option on the form.
  • “There is no penalty for not participating.”
  • “School’s and individual’s identities will remain strictly anonymous and confidential.”
  • “Participants may withdraw from the study at any time without penalty.”

Proposal Review

In general, the Research Committee consists of a chair and two other members from the District. The Committee will be selected from among those staff most likely to be knowledgeable about the proposed research subject. Each committee member independently reviews research proposals, submitting comments and recommendations to the Director of Research, Evaluation, and Accountability. The review process generally takes 4-6 weeks. Reviews are conducted with the following criteria in mind:

  • Study results shall have high value and benefit to a program, school, or system as a whole. Studies benefiting education in general, rather than GCS specifically shall be considered, but are given a much lower priority.
  • The study shall conform to GCS policy and sound educational research practice that ensures negligible risks for those involved.
  • The relative cost-benefit (includes time and human resources) required of employees, instruction, etc. shall be a minimum. (The amount of time required of participants and number of participants included)
  • All research components shall be sound and acceptable to the school system.
  • The originator of the request shall have the qualifications necessary for working in the school system as an educational researcher.

Projects Usually Not Approved

The following projects are usually denied:

  • Data collection involving a loss of instructional time for students
  • Research requiring excessive district resources principal, teacher, student, parent, and instructional time AND/OR large numbers of participants)
  • Research requiring particular risk for students, teachers, schools, parents, etc., such as, external research dealing with self-worth, family/personal problems, race, sexual behavior or orientation, illegal activities, etc. Benefits provided by external research in these areas do not compensate for the potential risks to participants.
  • Research scheduled to be conducted in the second semester (Jan. thru June).

After District Approval

Once a study is approved by the Research Committee, the researcher is notified in writing. Although case-by-case, district approval shall be granted for a maximum of one-year from the approval letter’s date, upon which time an explicit request for extension is submitted for approval. For any research extending beyond one school year, the researcher shall submit an annual progress report along with a request for extension. The researcher shall present the Research Committee’s approval letter to school principals or department heads.

District approval does not constitute approval for the study to be conducted in any specific school. Researchers must obtain written approval of principals and others involved, prior to conducting research in the district. The highest-ranking individual (usually the school principal) at the point of data collection must be fully briefed throughout the project. Data collection must be scheduled far enough in advance to allow for adequate planning at the school or classroom site. The school or district administrator shall have several days to notify the researcher or Director of Research, Evaluation, and Accountability if the school/entity does not wish to participate. 

If students participate, a copy of the approved and completed informed consent form shall be placed in the students’ school files. The principal or his designee will be responsible for archiving this information. No names, contact information, and other personal information on students shall be made available until parental permission forms are secured for each participant.

Requirements During Research:

Confidentiality of student records and all student information shall be observed. The privacy and rights of individuals and schools shall be respected. Data with personal identifiers shall not be reported or presented. In addition to maintaining complete anonymity, personal identifying data shall be destroyed upon completion of analysis and the final report. The study shall conform to federal regulations, GCS policy, and sound educational research practice that ensures negligible risks for those involved and family/pupil privacy and protection rights. Specific sections of the law may be found on the internet under the following headings.

  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
  • Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA)
  • Office for Human Protection - Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects
  • American Psychological Association’s Ethical Principals of Psychologists and Code of Conduct
  • When conducting research in schools, individuals shall abide by GCS standards of professional conduct and dress. Failure to do so will be cause for immediate termination of the study and retraction of research approval.
  • The Director of Research, Evaluation, and Accountability may withdraw district approval at any time and for any reason. If approval is terminated, all research and accompanying activities involving the district, the external researcher, and/or the external agency will cease.

Obligations Of The Researcher To GCS

Upon conclusion of the research, a copy of the final report will be submitted at no charge to the Director of Research, Evaluation, and Accountability. A copy of the final report must be submitted within six months of final data collection. However, if a more formal report is to be released (dissertation, thesis, book, journal article, etc.), the author shall provide GCS a formal copy at no charge. The researcher further agrees to release this report for use by GCS without remuneration.

In exchange for the cooperation of GCS, the researcher shall be prepared to assist the school and/or district through unpaid volunteer projects (e.g., conducing a workshop for staff regarding the research and implications for practice/policy). That is, the researcher agrees to present his/her results to the district’s management team and possibly provide personal feedback and a workshop to principals and others interested in the study’s results.

Again, the continuous obligation of the researcher is to maintain professionalism, abide by all district policies, and preserve the confidential nature of records at all times.

Submitting Materials For Review

Send all materials in triplicate to:
Research Committee
Office of Research, Evaluation and Accountability
Greenville County Schools
301 Camperdown Way, PO Box 2848
Greenville, SC 29602-2848

If you need further assistance, please contact the Director for Research, Evaluation and Accountability at (864) 355-3369.