Conducting Research in CMS
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) will allow qualified individuals and organizations to engage in professional research and evaluation projects with potential to improve learning conditions, student outcomes, and staff or program effectiveness in CMS. This provision applies to individuals or agencies not associated with CMS and to CMS employees conducting research outside the scope of their employment with CMS.

All persons interested in conducting research in CMS must obtain approval from the CMS Office of Accountability in addition to IRB approval from a university or private IRB. The university or private IRB approval must be obtained prior to submitting a research application to CMS. Research includes, but is not limited to, surveys, interviews, focus groups, and classroom observations involving CMS students and staff. This generally includes program evaluation. CMS defines program evaluation as an evaluation conducted only for internal use for the purposes of making programmatic decisions. If you are conducting an evaluation that will be published in whole or in part  (including websites, brochures, presentations, etc.) this is considered a research study by CMS and you must complete the CMS research application process.
All applications are reviewed according to Federal Regulations governing the protection of human subjects, Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and North Carolina Student Privacy Laws Article 29.
If you are interested in using CMS data in your study, please note that some data are available to the public through national and state websites; for a list of these websites, please view the Resource Links page. Please note that all CMS quantitative data not available publicly must be requested through the Office of Accountability; data cannot be provided by school employees.
We strongly recommend that researchers review the CMS Research Request Guidelines prior to planning their research study.
Please also read Additional Research Guidelines for 2020-21 due to impact of Covid on schools. Please note the Additional Research Guidelines will remain in effect for at least the first semsetser of the 2021-22 school year due to current community health conditions. If health conditions change the Guidelines may be revised and researchers may be given the option to revise research methods.

Researchers who would be collecting data during first semester 2021-22 must submit an application by July 5, 2021.
Researchers who would be collecting data during second semester 2021-22 must submit an application by November 1, 2021.

Procedure for Submitting A Research Application

Step 1

Contact District Level Staff (Executive Director or Director or Specialist) of relevant department to determine interest in research topic. If the relevant district level staff do not support the study as proposed, the study will not be approved. District level staff may collaborate with researcher to develop a study that will be beneficial to the district. Research must align with current and/or future curriculum plans, strategies, or programs. To complete an application, a CMS Executive Director or Director or Specialist from a relevant department must provide documentation of support that that clearly indicates their knowledge and support of the research questions, methods, materials that will be used for the study, and indicates how the study will provide actionable information to benefit the district. We request that you contact only one person on the list provided. Please see the items below as you plan your study:

Due to federal and local regulations (i.e., FERPA and CMS policies) regarding student confidentiality, we limit the number of demographic variables that we can share without parental consent in order to keep the data de-identified. This is because the combination of seemingly de-identified demographic variables may inadvertently identify a single individual.  This guideline is in place for the protection of human subjects in research studies. Our highest priority when sharing data is protecting the identity of our students. We understand that this may limit a researcher's ability to conduct analyses based on demographic characteristics.  A researcher may decide to obtain informed consent for parents to allow CMS to release more detailed student information.

The following are data variables available from CMS. Files will include only CMS data. Linking to external data is the responsibility of the researcher.:

Student Level Variable List_October 2019 pdf.pdf
Publicly available data on our Resource Links Page

Step 2

Read CMS Research Request Guidelines  and Additional Research Guidelines for 2020-21 to ensure that your proposed study meets all requirements to conduct research in CMS. Please note the Additional Research Guidelines will remain in effect through first semester of the 2021-2022 school year  due to current community health conditions. If health conditions change the Guidelines may be revised and researchers may be given the option to revise research methods.

Step 3

Review template for Data Sharing Agreement which includes the Terms and Conditions to conduct research in CMS. Please be sure the appropriate persons at your university or institution review the DSA and confirm the name of the person that will need to sign the Data Sharing Agreement. Any requests to edit the Data Sharing Agreement will likely be denied with the exception of Data Sharing Agreements with state entities which will be modified to align with current state laws.

Step 4

Complete the Application to Conduct Research in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. You will complete a registration form (see link below), then receive an email with a unique link to your application from JotForm. This link is unique to your application and will allow you to save and return to your application. Please save the email as it is the only copy of your unique link. Please note that the program will only save pages where all required items have something entered after clicking on the NEXT button. You may use a placeholder for incomplete required questions and complete the required questions when you return to the application.

Step 5

Send the $50 application fee to the attention of Ms. Susie Freije: Office of Accountability, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, 4421 Stuart Andrew Blvd, Suite 250, Charlotte, NC 28217.  Checks should be made out to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

Questions about the application? Contact Susie Freije

Neither University IRB approval nor district level support guarantees approval by the Research Review Panel. While the University IRB is reviewing the study to ensure human subjects protections, the CMS Research Review Panel is reviewing the study for the following:
  • to ensure human subjects protections
  • feasibility
  • alignment with curriculum and Strategic Plan
  • data availability
  • protection of instructional time
  • minimizing the burden on staff, schools, and students.
The Research Review Panel will review study primarily looking at the following criteria:

High Quality
  • Research study follows all the CMS Research Request Guidelines.
  • High level of scientific rigor and technical proficiency demonstrated in methodology and data analysis plan
  • Alignment between research questions, methodology, and data analysis plan
  • Reliable and valid data collection instruments
  • Directly benefits the district (not just education profession in general)
  • Benefits for the district outweigh demands on district and school staff and students as determined by the Research Review Panel.
  • Results can be generalized to group larger than study sample.
Researchers may contact Lindsay Messinger, Director of Research, Evaluation, and Analytics or Susie Freije, Accountability Coordinator, with questions regarding conducting research in CMS.

Application Review Calendar

The Research Review Panel meets once a month to review applications. Please see the calendar below for review dates and deadlines to submit applications and supporting documents:

Research Review Panel MeetingsAll materials submitted by (close of business)
Wednesday, August 11, 2021Monday, August 2, 2021
Wednesday September 15, 2021
Tuesday, September 7, 2021
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
Monday, October 4, 2021
Wednesday,  November 10, 2021
Monday, November 1, 2021
Wednesday, December 15, 2021
Monday, December 6, 2021
Wednesday, January 12, 2022
Monday, January 3, 2022
Wednesday, February 16, 2022
Monday, February 7, 2022
Wednesday, March 16, 2022
Monday, March 7, 2022
Wednesday, April 13, 2022
Monday, April 4, 2022
Wednesday, May 11, 2022
Monday, May 2 , 2022
Wednesday, June 15, 2022
Monday, June 6, 2022
Wednesday, July 13, 2022
Tuesday, July 5, 2022
Wednesday, August 10, 2022
Monday, August 1, 2022

​If you have any questions, please contact Lindsay Messinger, Director of Research, Evaluation, and Analytics at
P.O. Box 30035
Charlotte, NC 28230-0035
Phone: 980-343-3000
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