NCES Blog

National Center for Education Statistics

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

Now Available! New Nationally Representative Data on the Socioemotional Development of Elementary School Students

In an earlier blog post, we shared that one of our survey programs—the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS) program—was collecting data on socioemotional development to better understand how different academic and nonacademic factors may influence a child’s early schooling experiences. New data are now available from the spring 2016 public-use dataset for the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010–11 (ECLS-K:2011). This file contains data from every round of the ECLS-K:2011, from kindergarten through fifth grade.

For decades, the National Center for Education Statistics and other researchers have used ECLS data to examine questions about elementary school students’ socioemotional development. For instance, as seen in the excerpt below, an earlier wave of data was used to develop an indicator in the America’s Children report that looks at first-time kindergartners’ scores on socioemotional scales and how these students may victimize their peers. ECLS data are rich with information that can be used to analyze the influence of family, school, community, and individual factors on students’ development, early learning, and performance in school.

In the most recent ECLS program study, the ECLS-K:2011 collected information on its sample of kindergartners during the 2010–11 school year and then at least once during every academic year thereafter until 2015–16, when most of the students were in fifth grade. The ECLS-K:2011 data allow researchers to study how students’ socioemotional skills develop over time through reports from the students themselves and from key people in those students’ lives, including their parents, before- and after-school care providers, teachers, and school administrators.

Here’s a peek into the socioemotional development measures included the ECLS-K:2011:

  • Students completed questionnaires about their relationships with peers, social distress, peer victimization, and satisfaction with different aspects of their lives.
  • Teachers used their experiences with students in their classrooms to provide information about students’ approaches to learning (e.g., eagerness to learn, self-direction, attentiveness), social skills, and problem behaviors, as well as their own closeness and conflict with students.
  • Parents provided separate reports on much of the same information reported by teachers to provide a richer picture of their child’s development through a different lens.

For more information on the measures of socioemotional development included in the ECLS-K:2011, please see our study instruments or email the ECLS study team. Also, keep an eye out for future online training modules for the ECLS-K:2011, which will be released in fall 2019 or early 2020. To be alerted about the release of the free online trainings, email the ECLS study team at ECLS@ed.gov and ask to be added to the ECLS listserv.

 


Excerpt from America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being 2017


 

By Jill Carlivati McCarroll and Gail M. Mulligan