IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Celebrating the ECLS-K:2024: Participating Children Are the Key to Increasing Our Knowledge of Children’s Education and Development Today

As we highlighted in our March blog post, NCES is excited to be in the field for the base-year data collection of our newest national early childhood study, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2023–24 (ECLS-K:2024). Although the study collects much needed data from a variety of adult respondents (i.e., parents/guardians, teachers, and school administrators), the heart of the ECLS-K:2024 is our data collection with the participating children.

With the permission of their parent/guardian, the children take part in the ECLS-K:2024 child session activities, answering engaging, age-appropriate reading and math questions during one-on-one sessions with trained ECLS-K:2024 team members (watch an example of children participating in the child activities). These ECLS-K:2024 child sessions are planned for every currently expected round of data collection, starting with the fall and spring of the current school year (2023–24) when the children are in kindergarten.

Although the child sessions look pretty similar every year, there are some changes to the activities as the children age. For example, in kindergarten and first grade, we include memory-related items in the sessions; we then swap out these items for child surveys in the later rounds, when children are in higher grades. In prior ECLS kindergarten cohort studies, child surveys included items on topics such as children’s sense of school belonging; worry or stress about school; media usage; and peer relationships. Explore the items we asked in the child surveys in the ECLS-K:2024’s sister studies, the ECLS-K and ECLS-K:2011. Many of these items will likely be asked again of the children participating in ECLS-K:2024. Also, in past studies, children had their height and weight measured to provide information about early physical development; this study component returns to the ECLS-K:2024’s spring data collection in some schools.

Child-provided data from the earlier ECLS program studies have been used extensively. A recent analysis conducted by the ECLS program team found that more than 1,000 studies and reports published between 2000 and 2021 have analyzed the ECLS academic skills and school performance data, with more than 80 percent of those utilizing the child assessment data. For example, NCES published a report on reading achievement over children’s early elementary school years using the ECLS-K reading assessment data. Use NCES’s Bibliography Search Tool to explore these reports (select “ECLS” from the Data Source drop-down menu).

If you’re instead interested in exploring trend data, research has been conducted on the differences between children who were in kindergarten during the 1998–99 and 2010–11 school years (use the Bibliography Search Tool to find reports on this topic). Additional research comparing kindergartners in the 1998–99 and 2010–11 school years with kindergartners in the 2023–24 school year is expected after this year’s ECLS-K:2024 data collection. Once the ECLS-K:2024 collection concludes, NCES will produce data files—made available to the public with deidentified data—that will allow for direct comparisons between these three groups of children. Our understanding of how the abilities of today’s kindergartners vary from those of kindergartners in the late 1990s and early 2010s relies on the participation of children in the ECLS-K:2024.  

Of course, it’s not just the children’s reading and mathematics data that will provide answers to key questions about education and child development. All the data the ECLS-K:2024 children are providing now in the study’s base year—as well as the data they will provide as they advance through their elementary years—will help inform our understanding of what today’s children know and can do.

On behalf of the thousands of researchers, policymakers, educators, and parents who rely on the important data provided by the ECLS-K:2024’s youngest contributors—thank you to our ECLS-K:2024 children!

Want to learn more?


Next up in this blog series celebrating the ECLS-K:2024, we’ll highlight the study’s parents and families. Keep an eye out this summer!

 

By Jill McCarroll and Korrie Johnson, NCES

Celebrating the ECLS-K:2024: Providing Key National Data on Our Country’s Youngest Learners

It’s time to celebrate!

This spring, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2023–24 (ECLS-K:2024) is wrapping up its first school year of data collection with tens of thousands of children in hundreds of schools across the nation. You may not know this, but NCES is congressionally mandated to collect data on early childhood. We meet that charge by conducting ECLS program studies like the ECLS-K:2024 that follow children through the early elementary grades. Earlier studies looked at children in the kindergarten classes of 1998–99 and 2010–11. We also conducted a study, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), that followed children from birth through kindergarten entry.

As the newest ECLS program study, the ECLS-K:2024 will collect data from both students and adults in these students’ lives (e.g., parents, teachers, school administrators) to help us better understand how different factors at home and at school relate to children’s development and learning. In fact, the ECLS-K:2024 allows us to provide data not only on the children in the cohort but also on kindergarten teachers and the schools that educate kindergartners.

What we at NCES think is worthy of celebrating is that the ECLS-K:2024—like other ECLS program studies,

  • provides the statistics policymakers need to make data-driven decisions to improve education for all;
  • contributes data that researchers need to answer today’s most pressing questions related to early childhood and early childhood education; and
  • allows us to produce resources for parents, families, teachers, and schools to better inform the public at large about children’s education and development.

Although smaller-scale studies can answer numerous questions about education and development, the ECLS-K:2024 allows us to provide answers at a national level. For example, you may know that children arrive to kindergarten with different skills and abilities, but have you ever wondered how those skills and abilities vary for children who come from different areas of the country? How they vary for children who attended prekindergarten programs versus those who did not? How they vary for children who come from families of different income levels? The national data from the ECLS-K:2024 allow us to dive into these—and other—issues.

The ECLS-K:2024 is unique in that it’s the first of our early childhood studies to provide data on a cohort of students who experienced the coronavirus pandemic. How did the pandemic affect these children’s early development and how did it change the schooling they receive? By comparing the experiences of the ECLS-K:2024 cohort to those of children who were in kindergarten nearly 15 and 25 years ago, we’ll be able to answer these questions.

What’s more, the ECLS-K:2024 will provide information on a variety of topics not fully examined in previous national early childhood studies. The study is including new items on families’ kindergarten selection and choice; availability and use of home computers and other digital devices; parent-teacher association/organization contributions to classrooms; equitable school practices; and a myriad of other constructs.

Earlier ECLS program studies have had a huge impact on our understanding of child development and early education, with hundreds of research publications produced using their data (on topics such as academic skills and school performance; family activities that promote learning; and children’s socioemotional development, physical health, and well-being). ECLS data have also been referenced in media outlets and in federal and state congressional reports. With the launch of the ECLS-K:2024, we cannot wait to see the impact of research using the new data.

Want to learn more? 

Plus, be on the lookout late this spring for the next ECLS blog post celebrating the ECLS-K:2024, which will highlight children in the study. Future blog posts will focus on parents and families and on teachers and schools. Stay tuned!

 

By Jill McCarroll and Korrie Johnson, NCES

What Do NCES Data Tell Us About America’s Kindergartners?

Happy Get Ready for Kindergarten Month! 

For more than 20 years, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has been collecting information about kindergartners’ knowledge and skills as part of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Studies (ECLS) program.

The first ECLS, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998–99 (ECLS-K), focused on children in kindergarten in the 1998–99 school year. At the time the ECLS-K began, no large national study focused on education had followed a cohort of children from kindergarten entry through the elementary school years. Some of today’s commonly known information about young children, such as the information about kindergartners’ early social and academic skills shown in the infographics below, comes out of the ECLS-K. For example, we all know that children arrive at kindergarten with varied knowledge and skills; the ECLS-K was the first study to show at a national level that this was the case and to provide the statistics to highlight the differences in children’s knowledge and skills by various background factors.



The second ECLS kindergarten cohort study, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010–11 (ECLS-K:2011), is the ECLS-K’s sister study. This study followed the students who were in kindergarten during the 2010–11 school year. The ECLS-K:2011, which began more than a decade after the inception of the ECLS-K, allows for comparisons of children in two nationally representative kindergarten classes experiencing different policy, educational, and demographic environments. For example, significant changes that occurred between the start of the ECLS-K and the start of the ECLS-K:2011 include the passage of No Child Left Behind legislation, a rise in school choice, and an increase in English language learners. 

From the parents of children in the ECLS-K:2011, we learned how much U.S. kindergartners like school, as shown in the following infographic.



The ECLS program studies also provide information on children’s home learning environments and experiences outside of school that may contribute to learning. For example, we learned from the ECLS-K:2011 what types of activities kindergartners were doing with their parents at least once a month (see the infographic below).


Infographic titled How do kindergarteners like school?


What’s next for ECLS data collections on kindergartners? NCES is excited to be getting ready to launch our next ECLS kindergarten cohort study, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2023–24 (ECLS-K:2024)

Before the ECLS-K:2024 national data collections can occur, the ECLS will conduct a field test—a trial run of the study to test the study instruments and procedures—in the fall of 2022.

If you, your child, or your school are selected for the ECLS-K:2024 field test or national study, please participate! While participation is voluntary, it is important so that the study can provide information that can be used at the local, state, and national levels to guide practice and policies that increase every child’s chance of doing well in school. The ECLS-K:2024 will be particularly meaningful, as it will provide important information about the experiences of children whose early lives were shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Watch this video to learn more about participation in the ECLS-K:2024. For more information on the ECLS studies and the data available on our nation’s kindergartners, see the ECLS homepage, review our online training modules, or email the ECLS study team.

 

By Jill Carlivati McCarroll, NCES

Access an NCES Presentation on ECLS Reading Data From the IES Reading Summit

NCES staff presented information on reading data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Studies (ECLS) Program at the June 2021 Institute of Education Sciences (IES)/Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS) Reading Summit. The ECLS data cover a wide range of reading-related topics, such as children’s reading knowledge and skills, home literacy activities, and teachers’ instructional practices. The presentation included a brief overview of three ECLS program studies and the reading-related data collected by each. In addition, the presentation included a discussion of the resources available to either see what research has been conducted with the data or explore the data independently. As the focus of the presentation was on data available to the public for secondary analysis, its target audience was researchers and others with a data science focus.

Access the Reading Summit presentation—Reading Data Available from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Studies (ECLS)—and handout below to learn more about ECLS reading data.

Be sure to also check out this blog post to learn more about the work highlighted at the IES Reading Summit.

 

By Jill Carlivati McCarroll, NCES

Working Toward a Successful National Data Collection: The ECLS Field Test

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) conducts some of the most complex education surveys in the world, and we work hard to make these surveys as effective and efficient as possible. One way we make sure our surveys are successful is by conducting multiple tests before we fully launch a national data collection.

Even prior to a field test, NCES develops survey materials and procedures using much smaller-scale cognitive laboratory testing and focus-group processes. These initial development procedures help ensure that materials are clear and procedures are understood before we conduct field testing with larger and more representative groups of respondents. Then, we launch the field tests to test data-collection operations and survey processes and procedures. Field tests are small-scale surveys that include a range of respondents and are designed to test the survey questionnaires and survey administration procedures in a real-world situation prior to the launch of a major study. The field test results allow us to make any necessary adjustments before starting the national data collection. Field tests also allow us to test specific survey items and ensure that they are valid and reliable. Without a field test, we could risk spending the public’s time and money on large data-collection efforts that do not produce the intended information.

NCES is about to begin the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2022–23 (ECLS-K:2023) with a field test early this year. The ECLS-K:2023 will focus on children’s early school experiences, beginning with preschool and continuing through fifth grade. From the spring of 2022 through the spring of 2028, we will collect national study data from children and their parents, teachers, and school administrators to answer questions about children’s early learning and development, transition into kindergarten and beyond, and experiences in the elementary grades. 

Although the ECLS-K:2023 will be similar in many ways to prior ECLS kindergarten studies, we are adding a round of data collection prior to the children’s kindergarten year—the national spring 2022 preschool round. For this preschool survey, we’ll send an invitation to participate to a sample of residential addresses within selected areas of the United States. Potential participants will first be asked to fill out a brief screener questionnaire. If they report that an ECLS-eligible child is in the household, they will be asked additional important questions about early childhood topics, such as their child’s literacy, language, math, and social skills; activities done with the child in the home (e.g., singing songs, playing games, reading); and characteristics of any early care and education (i.e., child care) arrangements for the child.   

Because the ECLS-K:2023 preschool data need to be comprehensive and reliable so that they can inform public discussions and policies related to early elementary education, it’s crucial that we test our procedures and questions for this new preschool round by conducting a field test in early 2020.  

If you receive a letter about participating in the 2020 ECLS field test, you’re being selected to represent thousands of households like yours and provide NCES with the data we need to make decisions about how to best conduct the ECLS-K:2023. The participation of all the selected households who receive our mailings, even those without children, is essential for a successful field test and, ultimately, a successful ECLS-K:2023.

If you are selected for the ECLS field test and have any questions about participating, please visit the participant information page

For more information on the ECLS-K:2023 or its 2020 field test, please email the ECLS study team.

For information about other ECLS program studies, please visit https://nces.ed.gov/ecls/.

 

By Jill Carlivati McCarroll