Request for Conducting Research


    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have suspended all new data collection from teachers, students, and parents through the end of 2020.



    The Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) is committed to learning about student, staff, and school success. A large district like WCPSS offers a wealth of opportunities to examine factors that contribute to, and follow from, these successes. To that end, we seek to cultivate partnerships with universities, organizations, and individuals through four pathways:

    1. External Research: Universities, organizations, or graduate students conducting their own research in WCPSS.
    2. Research Collaborations: Universities, organizations, or individuals collaborating with WCPSS staff to jointly pursue research projects.
    3. Action Research: Graduate students completing specialized projects for the fulfillment of academic program requirements.
    4. Internships: Graduate students spending a semester or summer supporting new or existing WCPSS research or evaluation projects for credit and experience.

    Before you consider submitting an Application to Conduct Research in WCPSS (“application”), please review Board Policy 2550 as well as the Rules and Procedures.

    In the application, you will have the opportunity to identify which research pathways above you would like to pursue, as well as the purpose of your research. If you have any questions while completing the application, please email us at The Data and Accountability Department’s Research Review Committee (RRC) reviews applications on the last Thursday of each month. You may submit supplementary materials during the application process by attaching documents via the application form. These may include parent or student consent forms, Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval, or any other attachments.

    If your application is approved, you will be required to abide by our memorandum of understanding (MOU) and data-use agreement (DUA).

    External Research

    Applications falling under this category include any school- or district-based investigation requiring assistance from WCPSS central office or school-based district staff, including but not limited to original data collection, preparation of data files, coordination between and among external researchers and study participants, or providing external researchers with other relevant content. External researchers are either non-WCPSS staff or WCPSS engaging in independent research (e.g., fulfillment of graduate degree requirements).

    Overview and priorities

    We value research designed to improve educational outcomes for our students. However, our key focus is on providing current WCPSS students with the best education possible, and the number of research projects proposed to WCPSS is generally larger than the school district can accommodate without significantly disrupting instruction. The proposed work is more likely to be approved if it provides results that will be of value to WCPSS leadership, schools, students, and/or staff. The originator of the request should have the status and qualifications necessary for working in the school system as an educational researcher and plan to share the results of their research with the school system (e.g., present to district leadership, provide an executive summary, lead a webinar, etc.).

    The likelihood of research project approval increases when one or more of the following criteria are met:

    • The research focus is aligned with the district’s Vision 2020 strategic plan.
    • The informational benefits to WCPSS are high relative to the costs in student and/or staff time.
    • The proposal includes sound research design.
    • The project extends an existing, evidence-based research project.
    • Data collection precedes the spring end-of-year state testing window (typically April-June).

    We are unlikely to approve the following types of projects:

    • Action research in which a teacher studies his/her own students except as described below.
    • Projects in which individuals are provided stipends or other incentives for participation in the research unless the work is clearly completed outside of normal duty time. Gifts to the school or to the school district are permissible and must be reported to WCPSS’s Board.
    • Research that would require a large amount of teacher and/or student time or a loss of instructional time.
    • Data collection that includes requests for sensitive personal information about students or their families (e.g., projects addressing family problems, personal values, sexual behavior or orientation, illegal behavior, etc.).
    • Applications indicating passive rather than active consent for study participation by parents (or student consent as applicable).
    • Research that involves invasive physiological measurements.
    • Audio or video recordings in classrooms during the school day.

    Apply to conduct research in WCPSS

    If you would like to submit an external research request, please indicate this on the application.

    Research Collaborations

    Research collaborations are joint efforts in which external researchers and members of WCPSS staff partner to pursue questions of interest to both. Here, at least one external researcher and at least one district staff member partner to pursue a project in which they share responsibilities ranging from data collection and analysis to survey development to presentation of results to various stakeholders.

    Some examples of recent research collaborations include:

    The most successful researcher collaborations occur when external researchers and district staff discuss roles, goals, and expectations prior to the submission of the application. Research collaborations may also serve as an alternative gateway for external researchers who want to pursue projects in WCPSS and work closely with one or more staff members.

    If you are interested in entering into a research collaboration with WCPSS, please indicate this on the application.

    Action Research

    Action research refers to projects initiated and completed by and for those taking the action. Action research is often conducted to assist a teacher in improving his or her instructional practice. Universities or colleges may require students to conduct action research in order to make some measure of progress toward course completion. An example of action research could be a whole-class proposal from a college or university in which all students in a particular class must complete the same project as part of their graduate studies. It may also refer to efforts by college students to complete a series of classroom observations as part of a larger research project.

    Action research may be conducted by a single teacher, a group of teachers/staff members (e.g., a subject-area PLT), or the entire faculty of a school. We encourage university faculty to help their students find and work with existing data whenever possible for action research projects to reduce the burden on schools.

    Please indicate in the application whether you are applying to conduct action research in WCPSS.


    WCPSS is also committed to providing opportunities for a limited number of graduate students to gain district-level research experience while working on a project of strategic importance to WCPSS. Currently, we have a Data and Accountability Department internship collaboration with North Carolina State University’s College of Education that provides valuable research assistance to the district and provides the student with an embedded research experience.

    If you are a graduate student or faculty member interested in a possible research internship in the Data and Accountability Department, please email us at


    Updated: February 2, 2015