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Conducting Research, Evaluation, and Surveys in MPS

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Thank you for your interest in conducting a project with Milwaukee Public Schools!  In accordance with Administrative Policies 2.15 and 6.31, the Department of Research, Assessment, and Data (RAD) is responsible for reviewing any research or evaluation projects in the district, including surveys or requests for data.  As such, any individual or organization interested in conducting a research study, evaluation, or survey in the district, or receiving district data , must apply prior to beginning data collection.  

Interested applicants are highly encouraged to read the Application for Approval Manual prior to completing the application.  The manual was designed to assist applicants through the process and outlines application requirements that all applicants need to know prior to submitting an application.  Please note that RAD does not conduct Institutional Review Board (IRB) approvals; therefore, interested applicants will need to secure this approval independently.   

The Application for Approval has two branches: research and evaluation or surveys.  Typically research and evaluation application deadline for projects to be reviewed in any given month is the first Friday of that month. Applications are then typically reviewed on the third Friday of the month. For more information regarding whether your project would be considered research and evaluation or survey, please review the Frequently Asked Questions below. 

In order to best assist applicants through the process, multiple documents are available for download under "Resources":

  • Consent form and assent form templates may be used for parental consent, staff consent, and student assent.
  • The letter of support template should be completed and signed by an employee of the district. If you are unsure as to whom should sign the document, please contact Marc Sanders.
  • The non-disclosure agreement must be signed by all members of the project team that will have access to the data. 
  • Common data elements and the data codebook may be useful documents for applicants who are requesting data. 




Click here to access the online portal.

NOTE TO APPLICANTS: In an effort to reduce the amount of surveys that are administered to our staff and students, we are not reviewing surveys independent of research and evaluation projects at the present moment.   The Review Committee and RAD will be closely reviewing any projects proposed that require an additional survey burden on staff and students.  You can find more information about our current district-wide surveys on our webpage.    

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  What kinds of research topics is MPS interested in exploring?

MPS does not have a research agenda; however, all projects should be aligned to the district's Strategic Plan.  Alignment with the Strategic Plan is also addressed in Administrative Policy 2.15 (2(b)) and is part of the criteria used by the Review Committee when reviewing applications.  It is highly encouraged that applicants work in partnership with district administrators to identify projects for research or evaluation that would be mutually beneficial.   

  What kinds of projects are reviewed?

Most projects will require approval before beginning data collection.  Examples of projects that would require an application include:

-The collection of data from students, families, teachers, school staff, and/or district staff

-The implementation of a new program or curriculum that will be evaluated

-Observations, surveys, focus groups, interviews, evaluations, or other types of research with district staff, students, and/or their families

-Research, surveys, or evaluation that plan to occur in district facilities

-The release of personally identifiable information from district records

-Evaluations of programs, grants, or district and school initiatives

-Research or evaluation studies or surveys mandated by the federal, state, or local government

-Research conducted for degree attainment (including action research projects)

Research & Evaluation does not review projects for coursework or studies that are only asking to recruit students for an external study, as they are ineligible for approval.  Projects that would be considered a needs assessment to inform service delivery or applicants who only plan to use publicly available data (i.e. WISEdash) are exempt from review. 

  Do I need to apply for approval even if I just want to request data from the district?

Yes.  If you are requesting data from the district in order to conduct an analysis or research study, you will need to complete an application for approval.  Once approved, a team member will work with you to retrieve your data.*  Please refer to the Common Data Elements and Data Codebook documents under "Resources" on this page to assist you in your request. 

*Please note that there is a data extract fee of $80 per hour.  External evaluators of grant funded programs or initiatives are encouraged to include this fee in their budget.

  Is there a fee for submitting an application?

There is no fee for the following groups:

-MPS employees

-Applicants who are currently under contract with the district to provide services, wish to evaluate their services' effectiveness, and can provide documentation of their contract to Research & Evaluation

-External evaluators of grant funded programs or initiatives where the application fee was budgeted as an in-kind contribution from the district or where MPS is the fiscal agent

If you are not an MPS employee wishing to submit an application, you will need to remit a fee of $100 in order to have your application reviewed.  Fees can be paid via mail or in person using cash, check, or money order.  Checks or money orders should be made out to Milwaukee Public Schools.  Payment can be mailed to: Milwaukee Public Schools, Research & Evaluation, Attn: Amy Nelson Christensen, 5225 W. Vliet St., Milwaukee, WI 53208.

Please note that applications that require a fee will not be reviewed if payment is not received by the review date.

  Why are there character limits for some of the sections of the application?

The Review Committee reviews 8-15 applications within a given month.  Considering that applications are reviewed in addition to the regular duties of administrative staff that serve on the committee, parameters have been put in place to ensure that applications are not unnecessarily lengthy.  

The application will include a character count where character limits apply in order to assist applicants in staying within the limit.  The following sections of the application will have character limits:

  • Abstract (maximum 1,000 characters)
  • Contribution to literature (maximum 1,500 characters)
  • Purpose of project (maximum 1,000 characters)
  • Research questions and hypothesis (maximum 1,000 characters)
  • Methodology (maximum 1,500 characters)
  • Data collection procedures (maximum 1,500 characters)
  • Data security plan (maximum 500 characters)
  How can I obtain a letter of support?

Please contact Marc Sanders in the Department of Research, Assessment, and Data prior to completing the application or reaching out to district employees about your project.  After learning about your project, you will be directed to the appropriate administrator for a letter of support.*

For your convenience, a template for the letter of support is provided to you under "Resources" on this page.  The applicant is expected to write the letter of support for the signor, who would then sign the letter after placing it on department letterhead. 

*Please note that only electronic copies of letters are accepted and should be submitted within the online Application for Approval. 

  In the application, I am asked whether I am conducting research, an evaluation, or a survey. What is the difference for the purposes of the application?

Research, evaluation, and survey projects may have very similar data collection methods; however, how the data will be used or the intended purpose of the project will determine the category where it best fits.  Below are the current definitions for the purposes of the Application for Approval:  

Research: when an applicant is seeking to collect data and/or manipulate variables in order to test a research question and hypothesis, this option should be selected in the application.  Data collection methods may include, but are not limited to, surveys, focus groups, interviews, observations, or an examination of pre-existing data.

Evaluation: this option should be selected when an applicant is seeking to understand the impact a specific program had or is having on specific outcomes.  Data collection methods may include, but are not limited to, surveys, focus groups, interviews, observations, or an examination of pre-existing data.  

Survey: survey should be selected only if an applicant seeks to conduct a survey and the project would not fall in the category of research or evaluation as defined above.  Surveys that would be conducted as part of a needs assessment to inform service delivery would be exempt from review.   

If an applicant is having difficulty determing the category for their project, please contact Marc Sanders in the Department of Research, Assessment, and Data.

  Is it acceptable to use passive consent, where participants can opt out, instead of active consent, where participants have to sign a consent form?

Passive consent is an option for some projects; however, it depends on the nature of the project.  Some projects, due to the methodology or constructs measured, may not be approved without active consent.  Please consult with Marc Sanders prior to submitting your application if you wish to use passive consent in your study. 

  Once I have submitted an application, how long will it be before I hear back from the Division of Research & Evaluation?

After the application window has closed, applicants should give 30 days before hearing back from Research & Evaluation on the status of their application.  Status letters and feedback on each of the points of criteria will be emailed to the primary contact person included in the application from the MPS Research email account.

  How often are applications reviewed?

Applications for approval of research and evaluation projects are reviewed on a monthly basis by a Research Review Committee made up of district staff.  Please refer to the Application for Approval Manual for specific dates as to when applications are due and when the committee meets to review applications.

Applications for approval of surveys are reviewed on a rolling basis by Research & Evaluation.  Applicants should allow 30 calendar days from the time their application was submitted before hearing back on the status. 

  Can application reviews be expedited?

In most cases, applications are not expedited.  Due to the high volume of applications and the availability of members of the committee, it is not possible to review applications more than once a month.  Applicants interested in an expedited review should contact Marc Sanders to inquire.

  My application was approved, but now I have to make some changes to my original application on file. How do I submit an addendum?

All addendums should be submitted electronically using the Application for Approval link and selecting the option for addendums.  Please allow 30 calendar days to receive notice as to whether your addendum has been approved.  It is advised to wait for approval of the addendum before enacting intended change(s) to the approved project.  

  I'm interested in conducting external evaluations on behalf of MPS. How can I be set up to be listed as an external evaluator?

Milwaukee Public Schools may request services from external partners for program evaluations or research projects.  If you are interested in being placed on a list of external parters to perform these functions, please complete this brief survey.  You will be asked to provide background information of your organization, qualifications and training of staff, experience, and references. 


  My question was not answered here. Where can I find more information?

Applicants are highly encouraged to read the Application for Approval Manual prior to submitting their application.  Further questions can also be directed to Marc Sanders in the Department of Research, Assessment, and Data.  

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