• External or Unsolicited Research Guidelines


    The purpose of these guidelines is to:

    • Manage and coordinate all external research conducted in Horry County Schools;
    • Protect students and their instructional time;
    • Protect employees and their work time;
    • Ensure research abides by all pertinent federal, state, and local laws and procedures;
    • Provide information that improves educational practice; and
    • Ensure research done in the district has a clear educational significance.

    All research proposals for projects to be completed within the district are to be submitted to the director of assessment and program evaluation.  An ad hoc research committee, chaired by the director of assessment, will be formed to review the proposal.  The committee will, at a minimum, consist of the chairperson and two other staff from the district.  Each committee member will review research proposals with the following criteria in mind:

    • Compliance – Has the researcher completed and submitted all required documentation?
    • Significance – Is the focus of the research educational in nature?  Does the research offer potential educational benefits to the district?
    • Alignment – Is the research proposal aligned with district initiatives and goals?
    • Appropriateness – Is the research considered suitable by the district?
    • Instrumentation – Are the instruments reliable and valid? 
    • Data collection – Will the data collection impact instructional time or be disruptive?  Is informed consent needed to collect the information? Will district, school, or employee resources need to be used to complete the data collection?
    • Timeline – Is the proposed timeline feasible?  Does this research occur in the spring?
    • Intended use – How will the data collected be used by the researcher?

    All participation in research studies is voluntary.  Schools, principals, teachers, and students who do not wish to participate have the right to refuse.  No research may be conducted from February to June during preparation for and participation in state statewide testing.  There may be additional times research may not be conducted, as specified by the director of assessment and program evaluation.

    Most research proposals that require parental consent or request student records with identifiable information will not be approved.  The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) states that schools must have written permission from the parent or the eligible student in order to release any information from a student’s educational record.  The district cannot approve requests from outside researchers or organizations that seek students' personal, identifiable information because the district would be responsible for receiving written permission from the parent to release the information and it does not have the staff to do so.

    If parental or eligible student consent is required, the participants of research studies should receive and sign an informed consent form that acquaints them with the study.  Parents of students asked to participate in research studies, and the students themselves when appropriate, should be informed of the following:

    1. Project’s purpose;
    2. How the participant was selected;
    3. Procedure to be followed, including an easily understood, precise description of the participant’s involvement;
    4. Anticipated benefits for general knowledge, the student, and the district;
    5. Possible physical, psychological, legal, or other risks;
    6. Whether students will be personally identifiable and to whom;
    7. To whom results will be available and for what purpose;
    8. Participants’ or parents’ right to inspect materials before consenting and to withdraw consent at any time;
    9. Person to whom inquiries should be addressed before, during, and after the project;
    10. Horry County Schools is neither conducting nor sponsoring the project; and
    11. The lack of adverse consequences for failure to participate

    Informed consent forms must be printed on the researcher’s stationery, and not on that of any Horry County Schools office or school.  Horry County Schools will not distribute any printed materials nor send information via electronic distribution.

    Informed consent forms must also contain the following sentences:

    • “I do not wish (my child) to participate” option on the form.
    • The school district is neither sponsoring nor conducting this research.
    • There is no penalty for not participating.
    • Participants will not be identified.
    • Participants may withdraw from the study at any time without penalty.

    Research proposals must contain the following sections, clearly labeled:

    • Purpose and educational significance of the study, including a statement of the value of the study to Horry County Schools
    • Study hypotheses
    • Research design
    •  Procedures:
      • Data collection instrumentation, procedures, schedule, and type of data collection
        • A copy of the actual data collection instrument must be provided with the proposal         
        • Impact on instructional time at the schools
        • Selection method for participants/schools and number of participants/school involved
        • Potential risks and benefits to the participants
        • Informed consent form (if appropriate)
          • Method to be used for analyzing or evaluating research
          • Project timeline
          • Researcher’s contact information (i.e., daytime phone number, fax number, e-mail address)
          • Date that data and study results will be given to the school district

    Post-secondary students working on their thesis/dissertation must submit a summary of their thesis/dissertation proposal, an approval letter from their ethics committee, and a letter of support from their research advisor.  The summary must contain sufficient details regarding the procedures that will be used in the district.  The original thesis/dissertation proposal may also be submitted to the committee as an appendix.

    If you are granted permission to conduct this research in Horry County Schools, the following conditions must be agreed to:

    1. The results of a background check for each researcher will need to be provided if data collection will involve interactions with students unless the researchers are under the employment of a governmental or other such agency that requires an annual background check.
    2. Persons and places used in the study will remain anonymous.
    3. A final report of the findings must be provided to the director of assessment and program evaluation.  Horry County Schools reserves the right to use the information in the report for planning, staff development, grant applications, and publications.
    4. The research will take place at no cost to Horry County Schools.
    5. Horry County Schools reserves the right to revoke research approval at any time if the submitted proposal is not being followed.

    Please submit proposals at least eight weeks prior to the time the study is to be conducted to: 

    Heather Sheehan

    Director of Assessment and Program Evaluation

    email: hsheehan@horrycountyschools.net

    phone: 843-488-6843