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