National Center for Education Statistics

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