External Research Data Requests
Research Data Request Process
The Florida Department of Education has a web-based process for researchers to submit unit-record data requests. Beginning March 1, 2015, all research requests are submitted through this research request process. The research request process is described below.
Information for Researchers New to the Research Data Request Processing System
(Please read carefully before moving to requirements for submitting data requests as described in the “New User – Getting Started” section below.)
The primary purpose of the education data collected by the Florida Department of Education (FDOE or the department) is to support funding of local education agencies, required state and federal reporting, education accountability, public reporting and decision-making by Florida’s legislative, executive and rulemaking entities. Research outside the department is supported as resources are available and is limited in scope based on state and federal requirements, as well as the department’s interest in the research topic.
The department maintains educational data to serve the education information interests of the Florida Legislature, the Governor, the department itself and public education systems, as well as the general public. The department’s Education Data Warehouse (EDW) maintains data that follow student cohorts over time to determine trends that can be used to support educational research that may benefit Florida’s PK-20 and workforce education systems.
The department maintains a research agenda (the FDOE Research Agenda) that identifies, and is intended to encourage, research in areas of specific interest to the department. To qualify for approval of requests for education data, researchers must demonstrate how their requests support the Research Agenda. Although required, alignment with this research agenda does not constitute a guarantee that a researcher’s request will be approved.
In order to determine if a particular research project supports the research agenda, the department maintains an online research request application that researchers must use to submit a request for unit-record data from the department. This process is designed to increase the efficiency of the request process for researchers and the decision-making and fulfillment processes for department staff.
The process of reviewing, approving and fulfilling research requests can be lengthy. Researchers with time constraints such as deadlines for reports to funding agents or graduation deadlines for dissertations should be aware of the length of time their request may take to complete and may wish to limit the scope of the request or make plans for alternative data sources should the request take longer to fill than the time they have available.
The Research Proposal Process
Researchers who wish to gain access to department data must submit a research request application using the Research Request Data Processing System. (Steps for submission are covered in the “New User – Getting Started” section below.) Once a research request application is submitted, the department will review it and, if the application does not require additional clarification, seek a program sponsor at the department for support of the research project. The sponsor will be an information resource during departmental review of the research request. If a sponsor is identified, the application will be forwarded to a methodology committee for review. If the methodology committee recommends that the request move forward, the researcher will be notified of the approval and the request will be forwarded to a data reporting unit to pull the data and post the files for secure access by the researcher.
The department will use several criteria to determine whether to approve a request, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Compliance with federal and state privacy laws – The Florida Department of Education requires all requests to comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act’s (FERPA’s) research exception (34 CFR Part 99.31[i]), which requires that the disclosure of information be limited to organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, educational agencies. In addition, the research must meet one of the following three allowable purposes: 1) to improve instruction; 2) to develop, validate or administer predictive tests; or 3) to administer student aid programs. Requests must meet one of these criteria to be approved.
- Relevance – Requests will be evaluated to determine how well they support the needs outlined in the FDOE Research Agenda, which are goals in the agency’s strategic plan. These include 1) highest student achievement, as indicated by evidence of student learning gains at all levels; 2) seamless articulation and maximum access, as measured by evidence of progression, readiness, and access by targeted groups of students identified by the Commissioner of Education; 3) skilled workforce and economic development, as measured by evidence of employment and earnings; and 4) quality efficient services, as measured by evidence of return on investment.
- Capacity – Requests will be considered within the context of the work effort required to fulfill them and the resources available to the department.
The department strongly encourages researchers to consider the time involved in this process. Requests may take several months before approval is granted or denied. However, after submission of their requests, authorized users of the Research Data Request Processing System may access and review the status of their request online (via the Research Data Request Processing System).
Once approved, the research proposal enters a queue with other approved requests. The department is committed to providing data for approved requests as soon as possible; however, other priorities, such as requests from the Governor, Legislature and State Board of Education may result in increased time before a request can be fulfilled. These other priorities often cause unforeseen delays in the delivery of data for research projects. The department cannot ensure that requested data, even if approved, can be prepared in time to meet the research timeline requirements of a submitted proposal.
Student-level data is private information protected by both federal and state laws. The student information available through the department, though anonymized, is by federal and state law confidential and shall be used only for authorized purposes. Under no circumstances shall records and reports be released by the department to any party unless such release is in strict accordance with the provisions of, and to the entities identified in, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), 20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 C.F.R Part 99; and chapter 119 and section 1002.22, Florida Statutes. Individuals and organizations that receive data through the research request process have strict obligations to protect that data and must meet the requirements of both federal and state laws in their usage and handling of that data. The parties receiving this data have separate obligations based on these provisions and must protect the confidentiality and privacy of this information and may not disclose this information to others.
The information released by the department may only be used for the purposes identified in the research request application and approved by the department. The data received will only be used to generate aggregate statistics that will be used for one of the three allowable purposes under FERPA: 1) to improve instruction; 2) to develop, validate or administer predictive tests; or 3) to administer student aid programs. Deliberate or accidental misuse or disclosure of information may result in loss of access, disciplinary action, or dismissal or prosecution under the scope of all applicable federal and state laws and regulations.
Cost Recovery Fee
Researchers may be asked to pay a cost recovery fee to cover the cost of extracting the data requested based on the hourly rate of the staff involved in completing the work.
If a data request is likely to require a cost recovery fee, the department will provide the requestor with a range of likely costs so that the requestor can decide whether the request should be pursued. Once the data are pulled, the requestor will be notified of the exact amount of the fee. Once the fee is paid, the data will be released to the requestor through a secure process.
Data are generally available in the warehouse approximately one year after the end of the school year. For example, data for the 2015-16 school year is available in the warehouse in May 2017. Data requests are limited to the years of data currently maintained. If an additional year of data is needed after the request is approved and data are provided, the researcher may submit a request for additional years of data using the Additional Years Request Form included in the FDOE Research Engine Document Library at the bottom of this page.
Some data elements may not be available for researchers to use. Restrictions may be based on legal prohibitions, interagency or cooperative agreements or to prevent confusion among the public regarding measures not calculated according to established methodology. For example, researchers seeking access to information on wage records will be constrained in the amount of demographic information they can receive matched to the wage records. The Florida Department of Education’s agreement with the Department of Economic Opportunity does not allow the FDOE to release wage records tied to an individual’s race, gender or date of birth. Another example includes research seeking to calculate measures that are already calculated by the department (e.g., value-added scores, school improvement, school grades). Researchers must use those elements as calculated by the department. Researchers will not be approved to calculate these measures on their own.
Requesting Additional Years
If an additional year of data is needed after the request is approved and data is provided, the researcher may submit a request for additional years of data using the Additional Years Request Form included in the FDOE Research Engine Document Library at the bottom of this page. Please note that updating an existing cohort to pursue additional research in the same area following completion of the original project for which the use of the original data was approved is a new request, and a new research request must be submitted and approved. Because data are required to be destroyed as part of the agreement following completion of the research for which it is approved, requests for additional years of data will not be considered for completed project. If the requestor’s need is ongoing, the original request must explicitly state this and it must be approved as part of the original request.
Researchers are required to destroy data provided by the department within a time period specified at the time the department releases the data to the researcher. The department will not release the data for the request without the researcher’s agreement to destroy the data within the time period specified. A Certificate of Data Destruction must also be signed by the researcher and an institutional representative (e.g., department chair) and submitted to the FDOE when the data have been destroyed in compliance with terms of the agreement. The Certificate of Data Destruction form is included in the Research Engine Document Library at the bottom of this page.
Results Submission to the Department
In addition to completing the required agreement for the destruction of data, researchers must also agree to provide the department with results of the research for review and approval for dissemination as a condition for receiving the requested data. In order to be approved for dissemination, research publications must appropriately mask information to protect the confidentiality of education records, and the data may only be used for the purposes specified in the approved research request.
New User-Getting Started
Researchers who wish to gain access to data in the Education Data Warehouse (EDW) will need to do the following:
- Read Information for Researchers New to the Research Data Request Processing System (above).
- From the Research Engine Document Library below, download and return the Security and Access Agreement. (As this requires original signatures, users must return this form by mail.)
- Request login credentials for access to the Research Data Request Processing System.
- Once authorized access is obtained, complete and submit the Unit Record Data Request online via the Research Data Request Processing System in accordance with the instructions provided for each section.