Research in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

UNC Charlotte and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools enjoy a long-standing and mutually-beneficial relationship that involves research by University students and faculty. While most researchers are from the College of Education, there are occasionally researchers from other academic areas, such as Information Technology and Urban Studies. To assist researchers, we  provide the following up-to-date information on how to conduct a successful research project in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

Steps for Conducting Research in CMS

CMS Research Request Guidelines (pdf) 

CMS research website

Frequently Asked Questions – and Answers

Q1.  What is the relationship between UNC Charlotte and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS)?

It is important to understand that while UNC Charlotte and CMS enjoy a close working relationship, each institution has its own procedures regarding inquiry and research. UNC Charlotte researchers are responsible for understanding the requirements of each and adhering to the processes prescribed by each institution. In some instances a project does not qualify as research under the UNC Charlotte Office of Research and Compliance guidelines and does not warrant review by the IRB; nonetheless, the researcher is obligated to learn and follow the CMS processes with regards to contact with students, teachers, or staff to ensure his or her conduct is appropriate and professional.

The CMS Center for Research, Evaluation, & Analytics (CREA) has a published schedule for review panel meetings and associated materials submission deadlines.

Q2.  What kind of research is CMS interested in that could be done by a UNC Charlotte researcher?

In general, CMS places priority on studies that address the areas of focus outlined in the Strategic Plan 2018 The areas of focus are student achievement, strategic school redesign, community engagement, recruiting and retaining the best employees, improving communication and customer service, improving systems and processes, as well as developing and nurturing critical thinking, innovation, digital literacy, and fostering entrepreneurship.

CMS receives a large volume of requests to conduct surveys in the schools. Typically, large-scale or district-wide survey research will not be approved as schools are already inundated with surveys administered by departments internal to CMS or via nationally representative samples such as the Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

If surveys are approved, surveys may not be administered during specific blackout times as listed on the CMS research website.

Q3.  What are the criteria used in the evaluation of a research application submitted to the CMS CREA?

Our goal is to make sure that the schools and instructional time are protected. CREA is also charged with making sure that the research conducted within CMS aligns with the goals of the current Strategic Plan, so aligning projects with the content of the Strategic Plan improves your chances of approval.

In addition, we like to ensure that the basic methodology is sound and the project is not frivolous or a waste of time for school personnel. Projects that are planned poorly, are exceedingly broad in scope, or do not seem to be methodologically sound are not likely to be approved.

The majority of outside research that is submitted is approved, but occasionally some projects are turned down. This could be for a number of reasons, including:

  • Timing conflicts with EOG/EOC testing or other district accountability activities.
  • The proposed project is too time intensive and would distract from day-to-day student learning.
  • The principal is not interested in the project.
  • No CMS sponsor can be identified.
Q4.  Since the human subjects protection review and approval is completed by UNC Charlotte, what is the CMS review process?

While the University IRB is reviewing the study to ensure human subjects protections, the CMS Research Review Panel is reviewing the study to ensure human subjects protections; feasibility; alignment with curriculum and Strategic Plan; data availability; protection of instructional time; and minimizing the burden on staff, schools, and students. 

See the Steps for Conducting Research in CMS for details. 

Q5.  Will CMS start the research approval process at all before UNC Charlotte IRB approval is obtained/documented?

Review does not begin until your application file is complete. Once all required documentation is on file with the Center for Research, Evaluation, & Analytics (including evidence of your final IRB approval), a review of your application will begin.

Other Questions?

At UNC Charlotte: If you have questions about the IRB process at UNC Charlotte, contact Cat Runden, UNC Charlotte Office of Research Compliance at 704-687-1871, or send an email to UNC Charlotte's IRB inbox.
At CMS: Questions about the CMS process should be directed to Ms. Susan Freije.