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Example Research Questions


The ECLS-K:2011 has been designed to study the following sets of research questions, which are organized by the different study data collection instruments. While the questions below focus on the early years of the study, the ECLS-K:2011 is designed to follow the kindergarten cohort of 2010-11 through the 2015-16 school year (when most of the children will be in fifth grade). Additional study research questions will be added to this list as the study progresses.

Direct and Indirect Child Assessments

  • What are children’s competencies in the cognitive, socioemotional, language, and executive function domains? How does children’s development of and growth in these competencies vary by child and family social, demographic, and contextual characteristics?
  • What literacy, language, mathematics, science, and executive function skills do children exhibit as kindergartners, and how do these skills vary by demographic characteristics such as race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and family structure? How do these skills differ between children repeating kindergarten and those who are in kindergarten for the first time?
  • To what extent and how do children’s executive functioning abilities (e.g., self-monitoring, impulse control, adaptability) change over time?
  • How prevalent is obesity among young children? 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?

Parent Interview

  • What is the status of children’s development (as defined by cognitive, social, and emotional development; behavior; and physical status measures) at entry to kindergarten and beyond? How does children’s development vary by child and family social, demographic, and contextual characteristics at the time of kindergarten entry? How do children’s experiences with transitioning to kindergarten (e.g., children’s adjustment to kindergarten) relate to children’s developmental status at entry to kindergarten? How do variations in children’s developmental status (as defined by ECLS-K:2011 cognitive, socioemotional, and physical measures) at kindergarten entry relate to later success in school?
  • What are the associations between family sociodemographic and contextual characteristics and later success in school within and across developmental domains and across sex and racial/ethnic subgroups?
  • How do family processes and parenting practices (e.g., home environment, family activities, and cognitive stimulation) relate to children’s school readiness, developmental status, and social and emotional adjustment? Are critical family processes and parenting practices associated with later success in school?
  • What are parents’ 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) and race/ethnicity? What are parents’ assessments of individual children’s readiness for and adjustment to school?
  • To what extent does parental involvement in children’s education relate to school performance over the course of the early grades? Do parental involvement levels differ by family social, demographic, and contextual characteristics? What forms of parent involvement are most highly correlated with children’s outcomes? What factors might influence the extent of parental involvement?
  • What are children’s patterns of participation in early care and education? How do early care and education arrangements differ by family sociodemographic factors, socioeconomic status, and race/ethnicity? To what extent are these arrangements related to children’s progress through school? How does participation in early care and education in the year before kindergarten relate to participation in before- and/or after-school care during kindergarten (e.g., in what ways are these arrangements similar or different)? Does Head Start attendance relate to any differences in children’s readiness and progress in school relative to other early care and education experiences?

School Administrator Questionnaire

  • To what extent does the length of the school year relate to children’s academic progress, especially cognitive gains, during the elementary years?
  • How do differences in schools’ basic demographic characteristics, enrollment, resources, policies, and organizational characteristics relate to children’s academic and social development in the elementary school years?
  • Do school practices to involve parents result in higher levels of parent involvement?
  • Does the school or administrative climate, teachers’ opportunities for staff development, or school goals for teachers’ progress in the classroom relate to children’s academic development?
  • What kinds of services or programs do schools provide to families, children, or community members? How do these relate to children’s academic and socioemotional development?
  • How do schools respond to the needs of parents with little or no English proficiency?
  • How do neighborhood or community differences relate to children’s cognitive and social development?
  • What challenges associated with student behavior, attendance, teacher mobility, and school safety do schools face, and how do these relate to other school characteristics and children’s cognitive and social development?
  • How do differences in principals’ background characteristics relate to other school characteristics and practices?

Teacher Questionnaires

  • How do instructional practices, content coverage, classroom resources, and methods of providing feedback differ across classrooms or schools? Do those differences correlate with children’s academic and social development over the elementary grades?
  • To what extent and how are children’s opportunities to learn in the elementary grades associated with family social background characteristics? To what extent and how are children’s opportunities to learn in the elementary school grades associated with later school success?
  • How does diversity in the classroom regarding age, race/ethnicity, sex, and number of kindergarten repeaters relate to other classroom characteristics? How might these class-level characteristics interact with children’s own characteristics for the development of academic and social skills?
  • How do teachers and schools handle the diversity of children’s skills? How are children with special needs (e.g., English Language Learners, gifted and talented students, students with Individualized Education Programs for children with disabilities) taught? How might instructional differences for these students relate to academic and social outcomes?
  • Do teachers’ characteristics, including sociodemographic characteristics, views on school readiness, sense of efficacy, job satisfaction, perceptions of school climate, educational background, certifications, and teaching experience correlate with children’s outcomes either in isolation or interacting with children’s sociodemographic backgrounds?
  • Do teachers’ practices to involve parents relate to higher levels of parent involvement?
  • How do teacher's relationships with individual students differ? What might the consequences of those differences be for children's academic and social development during the elementary years?
  • What academic and socioemotional skills and behaviors (including activity level) do teachers report children having as they enter and go through school? Do these vary by family social background characteristics? How do these skills and behaviors change over time?

Special Education Teacher Questionnaires

  • How do teachers and schools handle the diversity of children’s skills? How are children identified for receipt of special education services? How are children with special needs taught? What are the types of service delivery models in place for special education? How do program variations relate to differences in children’s academic or social development?
  • What is the prevalence of different types of disabilities among children in elementary school? What types of services, instructional strategies, and assistive devices are provided to children with different types of disabilities?
  • Do children receive special education services before kindergarten?
  • What transition activities take place from prekindergarten to kindergarten for children with special needs?
  • What is the association between inclusion in the regular classroom and children’s progress through the early grades?

Before- and After-school Early Care and Education Provider Questionnaires

  • What are the patterns of participation in before- and after-school care and education programs? Do children with different family sociodemographic factors, socioeconomic status, and race/ethnicity participate in different types of care and education programs? How are these arrangements related to children’s academic achievement and progress?
  • To what extent do variations in before- and after-school care and education programs—including organization, sponsorship, and quality—relate to the achievement of children with varying backgrounds and needs during the kindergarten year and beyond?
  • Does participation in before- and after-school care and education relate to academic and social outcomes experienced by children?
  • To what extent are the characteristics, experience levels, educational backgrounds, and professional development of teachers/care providers related to children’s outcomes?

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