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Center for Institutional Research in Independent Schools

Empowering independent schools to use data to drive curricular and school-wide change.

The Center for Institutional Research in Independent Schools (CIRIS) at Maret provides resources and support for institutional research practitioners. Supported by a 2020 Educational Leadership Grant from the E.E. Ford Foundation and matching gifts from the Maret community, CIRIS hosts networking events, facilitates expertise-sharing between schools, publishes useful information, and provides direct professional development in core institutional research competencies through our website and annual Summer Fellows Lab.

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Summer Fellows Lab

Each spring, cohort members identify goals for that year, consult with each other for advice, and compile the data sets necessary to advance the project. In late June, all cohort members gather for a three-day work session hosted by Maret School in Washington, DC. The Center will cover travel and hotel expenses for Fellows to come to Washington, DC and each Fellow will also receive a stipend of $1000 from the Center.

The work session has two complementary objectives:

  • To help institutional research practitioners in independent schools build the technical capacities required to pursue research questions; and
  • To carve out intensive work periods during which participants can actually execute the nuts-and-bolts tasks necessary to turn their data sets into functional models alongside peers with relevant and constructive experience.

Following the summer session, cohort members will be in contact virtually as they implement their work and determine next steps in the fall and winter.

Read About Past Summer Labs

I am realizing the importance of collaborating with a group like this, to get outside of the day-to-day focus of school, and to benefit from the wisdom of others, and the range of experiences, perspectives and challenges that we each bring to the table. 2021 Summer Lab Fellow
It was nice to balance the more technical work with the more 'on the ground' discussions on how to implement this work within schools. It was also nice to hear about how other schools are doing things, making me feel not so alone in how my school operates."
2021 Summer Lab Fellow

Who are Institutional Researchers?

There are many effective models of institutional research in schools:

  • Some schools have a designated full or part time position explicitly titled Institutional Researcher who may work closely with an Assistant Head of School. In some schools, institutional research projects are part of an Assistant Head’s duties.
  • In another model, the Institutional Researcher position is housed within the Technology or Development offices and may focus on data architecture or database administration.
  • In yet another model, an institutional research committee composed of several standing members with technical expertise and several rotating faculty members with project-specific experience work together to complete the work.
  • Still other schools partner with outside consultants to fill in expertise gaps or relieve time pressure within their faculty.

While all of these models can be successful, we suggest choosing the organizational structure that maximizes your school’s ability to harness the core institutional research competencies.

What are the Institutional Research Core Competencies?

The Institutional Research Core Competencies are the knowledge and skills required to effectively move a project through the research cycle.


Reflection and discernment-data compilation-data analysis-communicating results-data informed institutional change

Institutional Research Project Cycle

Like other problem-solving and design processes, the Institutional Research Project Cycle is iterative. Like a magnet turning inside of a generator, cycling through this process over and over generates a current of healthy data culture in an institution that powers and energizes further research.