Welcome to the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study

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What is the ECLS?

The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS) program collects important information about children’s knowledge, skills, and educational experiences. For more than 20 years, the study has helped improve education for children from birth through elementary school.

The ECLS is conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

  • The upcoming national study - the ECLS-K:2024 - will focus on children in kindergarten in 2023-24, collecting information from children, their parents/guardians, their teachers, and their principals. This information will be useful at the local, state, and national levels to guide education practice and policies that increase children’s success in school.
  • Before this study can happen, the ECLS will conduct a field test in fall 2022. The field test is a trial run of the study to test the study instruments and procedures.
  • If you, your child, or your school are selected for the ECLS, it is important to participate. Your participation will make sure that findings from the ECLS are accurate.

This video gives an overview of the ECLS and shows what child, parent, and teacher participation in the study looks like.

Students, families, teachers, and schools will not be identified in any ECLS reports. Information will be combined from all participants to produce reports for the nation as a whole.

All of the information provided by children, families, teachers, and principals may be used only for statistical purposes and may not be disclosed, or used, in identifiable form for any other purpose except as required by law (20 U.S.C. §9573 and 6 U.S.C. §151). All staff working on the study have signed an affidavit of non-disclosure where they swear to abide by this law.

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Why Should I Participate?

The ECLS explores how different factors—at home and at school—relate to children’s development and learning over time. This is your opportunity to contribute to research that can help your school, teachers, and students, as well as the broader educational community. Your participation allows us to answer the following types of questions:

What knowledge and skills do children have when they start school?

What educational activities do kindergartners do at home?

How do educators help children transition into kindergarten?

How well can kindergartners pay attention and control their behaviors?

How well do kindergarten programs prepare children for later grades?

A kindergarten-aged boy wearing a backpack, smiling, and hugging his father

Field Test Study Timeline

Spring 2022

ECLS representatives will contact districts and schools to discuss study participation in the fall 2022 field test.

Late summer/Early fall 2022

ECLS representatives will contact schools to discuss the study activities and logistics in more detail. Study staff will work with the school staff to select a sample of children and begin notifying parents about the study.

Fall 2022

Study staff will visit schools for approximately 4 days to conduct the study activities. Kindergarten, first-grade, and second-grade children will be asked to participate in engaging, age-appropriate activities in reading and math that are conducted by trained ECLS staff. The children’s parents, teachers, and principals will be asked to complete surveys. An ECLS representative will work closely with schools to arrange the in-school study activities. Every effort will be made to minimize the burden on school staff.

Information from the field test will be analyzed to prepare for the national ECLS-K:2024 data collection in fall 2023.

National Study Timeline

Fall 2022/Spring 2023

ECLS representatives will contact districts and schools to discuss study participation in the 2023-24 school year.

Late summer/Early fall 2023

ECLS representatives will contact schools to discuss the study activities and logistics in more detail. Study staff will work with the school staff to select a sample of children and begin notifying parents about the study.

Fall 2023

Study staff will visit schools for approximately 3 days to conduct the study activities. Selected kindergartners will be asked to participate in engaging, age-appropriate activities in reading, mathematics, and memory and, in some schools, have their height and weight measured. These activities will be conducted by trained ECLS staff. The children’s parents and teachers will be asked to complete surveys. An ECLS representative will work closely with schools to select the children, notify parents and teachers, and arrange in-school study activities. Every effort will be made to minimize the burden on school staff.

Spring 2024

Study staff will visit schools to conduct another round of study activities. In addition to the same activities done in the fall, principals will be asked to complete surveys. The study will attempt to follow children who move to new schools and conduct the study activities there.

After the kindergarten year, the ECLS-K:2024 will conduct study activities periodically during the children’s elementary school years. Current plans are for follow-up data collections in spring 2025, spring 2027, and in spring 2029. The ECLS-K:2024 will attempt to follow children when they move to new schools.

A kindergarten-aged girl at a desk, writing with a pencil on a piece of paper, as though she is working on an assignment at school

Findings

What we learned from ECLS students, parents, and schools

What do we know about kindergartners in the United States?

How do they interact with their classmates?

A lot of what we know about kindergartners in the U.S. comes from teachers and parents who participated in the previous ECLS studies.

77%

of kindergartners often or very often formed friendships

Seventy-seven percent of kindergartners often or very often formed friendships. Three puzzle pieces fill to be seventy-seven percent yellow

74%

of kindergartners often or very often accepted peers’ ideas

Seventy-four percent of kindergartners often or very often accepted peers' ideas. A face, a light bulb, and a check mark fill to be seventy-four percent yellow

51%

often or very often comforted others

Fifty-one percent of kindergartners often or very often comforted others. A heart fills to be fifty-one percent yellow

11%

often or very often argued with others

Eleven percent of kindergartners often or very often argued with others. Two stick figures with frowning faces fill to be eleven percent yellow.

10%

often or very often fought with others

Ten percent of kindergartners often or very often fought with others. Two lightning bolts fill to be eleven percent yellow.

What kinds of things do kindergartners know?

The previous ECLS studies worked with kindergartners to learn about their knowledge and skills.

66%

recognized their letters

Sixty-six percent of kindergartners recognized their letters. The letters A, B, and C fill to be sixty-six percent yellow.

29%

knew the first sounds of words

Twenty-nine percent of kindergartners knew the first sounds of words. The letters C, A, and T fill to be twenty-nine percent yellow.

58%

understood size comparisons such as big, bigger, and biggest

Fifty-eight percent of kindergartners understood size comparisons such as big, bigger, and biggest. Three squares fill to be fifty-eight percent yellow

94%

recognized numbers and shapes and were able to count to 10

Ninety-four percent of kindergartners recognized numbers and shapes and were able to count to ten. The numbers 1, 2, and 3 fill to be ninety-four percent yellow.

NOTE: Data were collected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

SOURCE: West, J., Denton, K., and Germino-Hausken, E. (2000). America’s Kindergartners (NCES 2000-070). Retrieved July 31, 2020, from https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2000/2000070.pdf.

How do kindergartners like school?

Most kindergartners were excited about going to school and liked their teacher, as reported by parents in the last ECLS.

85%

of children looked forward to going to school

Eighty-five percent of children looked forward to going to school. TA smiling face fills to be eighty-five percent yellow

10%

of children complained about going to school

Ten percent of children complained about going to school. A frowning face fills to be ten percent yellow.

71%

of children liked their teacher

Seventy-one percent of children liked their teacher. A coffee mug displaying number one fills to be seventy-one percent yellow.

85%

of children said good things about school

Eighty-five percent of children said good things about school. A thumb's up fills to be eighty-five percent yellow.

NOTE: Data were collected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2020). Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-11 (ECLS-K:2011). Data retrieved July 31, 2020, from Table C1a, https://nces.ed.gov/ecls/tables.asp.

How do schools support their families?

In the last ECLS, the U.S. Department of Education asked school principals in schools with kindergartners about involvement opportunities for parents, like visiting the school or having home visits.

75%

of schools offered PTA or other school meetings

Seventy-five percent of schools offered PTA or other school meetings.  An apple fills to be seventy-five percent yellow.

62%

of schools offered school performances to which parents were invited

Sixty-two percent of schools offered school performances to which parents were invited. Two theater masks fill to be sixty-two percent yellow.

44%

of schools offered classroom programs like class plays, book nights, or family math nights

Forty-four percent of schools offered classroom programs like class plays, book nights, or family math nights. A laptop computer fills to be forty-four percent yellow.

86%

of schools offered teacher-parent conferences

Eighty-six percent of schools offered teacher-parent conferences. Two message bubbles fill to be eighty-six percent yellow.

20%

of schools offered home visits for parent education

Twenty percent of schools offered home visits for parent education. A house fills to be twenty percent yellow.

NOTE: Data were collected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2020). Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-11 (ECLS-K:2011). Data retrieved July 31, 2020, from Table A2a, https://nces.ed.gov/ecls/tables.asp.

How do schools support their kindergarten families?

In the last ECLS, the U.S. Department of Education asked school principals about ways they supported their kindergartners’ families, like sending home important information.

78%

of kindergartners attended schools that sent home information to help parents prepare their child for kindergarten

Seventy-eight percent of kindergartners attended schools that sent home information to help parents prepare their child for kindergarten. A check mark fills to be seventy-eight percent yellow

86%

of kindergartners attended schools that sent home information on topics or skills that were part of the kindergarten program

Eighty-six percent of kindergartners attended schools that sent home information on topics or skills that were part of the kindergarten program. A light bulb fills to be eighty-six percent yellow.

96%

of kindergartners attended schools that sent home information on how to get in touch with the teacher

Ninety-six percent of kindergartners attended schools that sent home information on how to get in touch with the teacher. A telephone fills to be ninety-six percent yellow.

NOTE: Data were collected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2020). Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-11 (ECLS-K:2011). Data retrieved July 31, 2020, from Table C2a, https://nces.ed.gov/ecls/tables.asp.

Four kindergarten-aged children playing with a plant-watering can

Endorsing Organizations

The ECLS-K:2024 is endorsed by the following education organizations:

  Parent, Teacher, and Principal Organizations
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • Association for Middle Level Education
  • Council for Exceptional Children
  • International Literacy Association
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
  • National Parent Teacher Association
  • National Science Teaching Association
  • Texas State Teachers Association
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • Association for Middle Level Education
  • Council for Exceptional Children
  • International Literacy Association
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
  • National Parent Teacher Association
  • National Science Teaching Association
  • Texas State Teachers Association
  Private and Religious Education Organizations
  • Association of Christian Schools International
  • Association of Christian Teachers and Schools
  • Christian Schools International
  • Council of Islamic Schools in North America
  • Islamic Schools League of America
  • Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
  • National Alliance of Christian Schools
  • National Association of Independent Schools
  • National Catholic Educational Association
  • National Christian School Association
  • U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
  • WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools
  • Association of Christian Schools International
  • Association of Christian Teachers and Schools
  • Christian Schools International
  • Council of Islamic Schools in North America
  • Islamic Schools League of America
  • Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
  • National Alliance of Christian Schools
  • National Association of Independent Schools
  • National Catholic Educational Association
  • National Christian School Association
  • U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
  • WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools
  Education Policy Organizations
  • Alliance for Excellent Education
  • Council of Chief State School Officers
  • National Association of State Boards of Education
  • National School Boards Association
  • The School Superintendents Association
  Early Childhood Education Organizations
  • American Montessori Society
  • Association Montessori International/USA
  • National Institute for Early Education Research

Privacy & Authorization

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is authorized to conduct the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS) by the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002 (ESRA 2002, 20 U.S.C. §9543). The data are being collected for NCES by Westat, a U.S.-based research organization. All of the information you provide may be used only for statistical purposes and may not be disclosed, or used, in identifiable form for any other purpose except as required by law (20 U.S.C. §9573 and 6 U.S.C. §151). Information from multiple individuals will be combined to produce statistical reports; no information that identifies you will be included in any reports or provided to students, their parents, or other school staff. By law, every NCES employee as well as every NCES agent, such as contractors, has taken an oath and is subject to a jail term of up to 5 years, a fine of $250,000, or both if he or she willfully discloses ANY identifiable information about respondents. Electronic submission of each student’s information will be monitored for viruses, malware, and other threats by Federal employees and contractors in accordance with the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2015.

According to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, no persons are required to respond to a collection of information unless it displays a valid OMB control number. The valid OMB control number for this voluntary information collection is 1850-0750. If you have any comments concerning the accuracy of the time estimate, suggestions for improving this information collection, or any comments or concerns regarding the status of your individual submission of these data, please write directly to: Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, National Center for Education Statistics, PCP, 550 12th St., SW, 4th floor, Washington, DC 20202.

OMB No. 1850-0750, Approval Expires 7/31/2025