The ERC proposal process consists of (1) Proposal submission, (2) Committee review, and (3) Notification and access

Step 1: Proposal Submission

All projects must submit a proposal requesting access to MMSD students, staff, and/or parents for research purposes to the monthly ERC review. Elements of a complete proposal include:

1)     completed ERC Project Application
2)     evidence of IRB or HSRB action;
3)     appropriate consent/assent materials and/or notification letters for families;
4)     description of the recruitment process, including any related materials; and,
5)     any surveys, questionnaires, test forms, interview protocols, and other instruments to be used.

**Applications must be complete at the time of submission. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed**

Evidence of IRB or HSRB action

  • All applications must include evidence of review by an IRB or HSRB, or an explanation of why IRB/HSRB review is not required for this research. Ensure the project title you use when submitting to ERC matches the project title on the IRB letter.
  • Conditional approval by an IRB or HSRB satisfies this initial requirement. Final IRB or HSRB approval typically requires approval by the ERC. ERC approval is the equivalent of “site approval” required by most IRB’s and HSRB’s.
  • Research may not begin until final IRB approval is on file at MMSD.

Consent/Assent Materials and Notification Letters

  • Consent/assent materials must be written appropriately and labeled for their intended audience (i.e., Parental Consent, Student Assent, Student Consent, Teacher Consent, etc.). MMSD will not accept one consent form for all groups.
  • Consent/assent materials must be available in both English and Spanish.
  • Proposals should include copies of all consent/assent materials that are dated and stamped "approved" by the IRB or HSRB. MMSD will accept and review/approve unstamped consent forms, but any changes made to the consent forms per MMSD must be resubmitted to the appropriate IRB or HSRB for approval and stamping.
  • All expenses in obtaining consent/assent are the obligation of the researcher, including postage-paid responses to the researcher. Consent/assent forms may be sent to families and returned to the researcher by first class mail or be hand-carried by students.

When to Use Consent vs. Assent

  • Student assent/consent depends on the age of the student being studied. Formal written student consent is required for all students age 18 and older. Formal written student assent is required for all students between the ages of 11 and 18 years. Oral assent is required for students between the ages of 5 and 11 years. Students younger than 5 years are generally subject to the consent provided by their parent. However, a student younger than 5 years may express a reasonable refusal to participate in the research, which must be honored by the researcher.
  • When a student passes one of the above age milestones while participating in a research project, he or she must be re-assented or provide consent as appropriate. For example, a student who begins participating in a literacy study at age 10 and turns 11 while the study is still being conducted must be presented with a written assent form that he or she may or may not choose to sign.
  • The researcher must have a signed parent permission slip for each minor student who is involved. Minors' assent is the second step. Parental consent must be granted first. Student assent without parental consent does not provide proper consent for a student to be the subject of any research. Students older than 18 years can provide student consent without parental consent.
  • If research includes comparing any pupil records to determine how a student’s progress has been affected as a result of the research, explicit parental (or student age 18 and above) consent must be obtained not only for participation in the research, but for MMSD to provide the researcher with the specific records.
  • Parent permission is not required if the research activities are initiated/sponsored by the MMSD and/or the research activities are considered part of the normal instructional process.

When to Use a Notification Letter

  • In lieu of formal consent/assent, the ERC may find that notification letters to families are an acceptable means to inform families of research being conducted in the classroom. In almost all cases, notification letters are associated with minimally intrusive research focusing solely on the teacher without any observations or data collected about students. In such cases, staff consent would still be required.
  • A notification letter is a document that has been prepared for families that outlines the reason for the research and what will be happening while it is being conducted. The letter must include contact information of the principal investigator or a research team member that can answer any questions parents may have. Parents do not sign and return a notification letter. While not a consent form per se, researchers should be prepared to respond to parents who do not want the research to be conducted in their child’s presence.

Use of Audio Recording, Video Recording, and Photography

If you plan to propose using audio recording, video recording, or photography in your research, important information about requirements for using this technology is available by clicking here

Step 2: Committee Review

ERC reviews all research proposals based on the following criteria:

The Quality of the Research Proposal

  • The appropriateness of the research and its topic
  • The time involved for students, teachers, administration, and staff, with particular focus on minimal disruption of instructional time
  • The relevance of the research
  • The research design and content of the proposal
  • Adherence to ethical standards for conducting human subjects research
  • Compliance with MMSD requirements and guidelines ( IRB approval, appropriate consent/assent forms, etc.)

The Benefit of the Research

  • Alignment to MMSD’s Strategic Framework and goals
  • Support for current instructional programming within MMSD
  • Potential for significant benefit to the district, given the cost in time and resources required
  • MMSD's capacity to support the proposed research

 In addition to review at the committee meeting, the appropriate district leadership and affected department staff will also review the proposal.  Their insight and recommendations weigh on the ERC's final decision. 

Step 3: Notification and Access

The ERC will inform you by letter of the action taken on your request for access. Possible outcomes are conditional approval, modifications required, tabled, or rejection.

Upon conditional approval, all project personnel must undergo a criminal record check (CRC) and sign confidentiality and mandatory reporting (CMR) statements. 

  • For all projects approved after January 1, 2013, MMSD requires all project personnel to undergo a CRC. This includes the principal investigator if he or she is actively involved in data collection and/or analysis. Current MMSD employees are exempt from this requirement.
  • To complete the CRC, all project personnel will need to submit an application through MMSD's volunteer tracker, appgarden. Detailed instructions are provided here
  • All project personnel must also submit a signed copy of the MMSD External Researcher Confidentiality and Mandatory Reporting Statements. More information is provided here.
  • The CRC and CMR last for the duration of the project.  If researchers on the project have undergone the CRC/CMR process for a different project within the current academic year, they do not need to repeat the requirement.
  • The CRC process is administered by MMSD Human Resources. Questions regarding the CRC process should be submitted to Marquita Carr at
  • Studies that are approved for recruitment only - where researchers will not have any contact with students in the school, all research will happen off-site, and the research does not involve MMSD at all besides recruitment - do not need to undergo the CRC and CMR requirements.

Once a project receives final approval, research staff may contact the assigned district liaison. The liaison serves as the link between the district and the researcher. In this role, the liaison aids researchers and building staff should issues arise during or as the result of research activities.

Prior to approval, the ERC makes every effort to ensure that sufficient interest and capacity exists in the school or program area needed to accommodate a research proposal. Even after ERC approval, the principal of any building or administrator of any program may decline participation in a research proposal.

**MMSD expects to be furnished with copies of any final reports or relevant findings, which should be provided to the liaison and the Research & Program Evaluation Office**