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Example Research Questions


The ECLS-K was designed to address a variety of research questions, including the ones listed by topic area below. Many of the questions were designed to apply to the entire span of the study, although some reference constructs that were only relevant in particular grades.

Children’s Developmental Status at Entry to Kindergarten and in Later Grades

  • What is the status of children’s development (as defined by cognitive, socioemotional development, behavior, and physical status measures) at entry to kindergarten and through middle school? How does children’s development vary by age (in months), sex, race-ethnicity, separately and in interaction? How are variations in children’s developmental status at kindergarten entry through middle school related to the family’s social, demographic, and contextual characteristics? How do variations in children’s developmental status (as defined by ECLS cognitive, socioemotional, and physical measures) during elementary school relate to later success in school?
  • How are family sociodemographic and contextual characteristics associated with success in school within and across developmental measures and within child sex and race/ethnicity subgroups? How are family sociodemographic factors associated with gaps in achievement within child sex and race/ethnicity subgroups?
  • Over and above the relationships between sociodemographic characteristics and development, do family processes and parenting practices (home environment, activities, and cognitive stimulation) correlate with children’s school readiness, school adjustment, academic performance, developmental status, and socioemotional adjustment? What do parents do to prepare their children for school? How are these actions related to children’s developmental status at entry to kindergarten and entry to middle school?
  • How prevalent is obesity among children in elementary school? How do the rates of obesity vary for children with different characteristics and backgrounds? How do the rates of obesity change over the elementary years and into middle school?

Criteria, Expectations, and Practices with Respect to Children’s Status at Entry to Kindergarten

  • What are schools’ criteria for kindergarten entry? What are parents’ and teachers’ definitions of school readiness—i.e., what beliefs and standards do they have for children’s behavior and academic performance at entry into kindergarten? How do definitions of readiness differ by parental socioeconomic status (SES) or race/ethnicity? What are parents’ and teachers’ assessments of individual children’s readiness for and adjustment to school?
  • How do schools and teachers adapt to the diversity of students?

Time in School

  • How are the length and schedule of the school year related to children’s progress, especially cognitive gains?

Children with Special Needs

  • What are the varieties of service delivery models in place for special education? How are these varieties of programs related to child outcomes? Is there an association with children’s progress through the middle school grades?
  • How do schools teach children who have little or no proficiency in English? How do variations in programs for English language learners relate to differences in children’s academic or social development? How do schools respond to the needs of parents with little or no English proficiency?
  • How and when do schools provide services to children identified as gifted and talented? Does participation in gifted and talented programs have a positive relationship with the academic and social development of school-aged children?
  • What kinds of programs do schools provide to children who are falling behind academically? Does participation in remediation programs or services correlate with children’s academic development?

Classroom Characteristics and Resources

  • Does teachers’ age, gender, or race/ethnicity covary with children’s outcomes on average or in interaction with children’s social backgrounds? Does teachers’ educational background or experience relate to children’s academic development? What is the degree of teacher efficacy in middle school? To what extent do teachers’ feelings of educational or instructional efficacy influence their instructional activities and teaching methods?
  • How do class size, child-to-teacher ratio, use of teachers’ aides or volunteers, and use of team teaching correlate with children’s progress through school?
  • Is the physical space in the classroom (including the orientation of desks, the availability of learning centers, etc.) associated with child outcomes?
  • Are differences in classroom materials and supplies related to differences in children’s outcomes?

Classroom Practices

  • How do instructional practices, content coverage, time on task, and methods of providing feedback differ across classrooms or schools? Do differences in these practices covary with children’s academic and social development? Are differences in instructional practices or methods of providing feedback associated with children’s social background characteristics?
  • How do teachers and schools deal with the diversity of children’s skills?
  • How do children’s opportunities to learn differ across classrooms and schools, and what are the relationships between different opportunities and variation in children’s development?
  • Are children’s opportunities to learn associated with family social background variables?

Neighborhood and School Characteristics

  • How do neighborhood or community differences relate to children’s development?
  • Do basic demographic and organizational differences between schools have associations with children’s academic and social development? Does the school or administrative climate, teachers’ opportunities for staff development, or school goals for teachers’ progress in the classroom correlate with children’s development?

Family-School Interactions

  • How does parental involvement in children’s education relate to academic performance and students’ school engagement? What forms of parent involvement (e.g., volunteering and being active at the school building, helping with homework and setting up a positive learning environment at home) are most highly correlated with children’s outcomes?
  • What is the extent of parental school involvement in elementary and middle school? What affects the extent of parental involvement? Do parental involvement levels differ by sociodemographic factors, SES, or race/ethnicity? Do schools’ or teachers’ practices to involve parents correlate with higher levels of parent involvement?
  • What kinds of extra services or programs do schools provide to families, children, or community members? Is the availability of these services associated with increased levels of parent involvement in the school?

Child Care Arrangements (Including Prior Head Start Program Attendance)

  • What are the child care arrangements for children in the early grades? How do child care arrangements differ by family sociodemographic factors, SES, and race/ethnicity? How are these arrangements related to children’s progress through school?

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