The Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) for Families

Hello ELS@H families! We are just getting started with child assessments this year, and we’ll be connecting with all ELS@H children virtually. Be on the lookout for e-mail or phone/text communications from our team members. We are excited to visit with you and your child virtually this spring!

Family Frequently Asked Questions

For Participating Families

Please update your contact information and send us your questions. Have you moved or changed your phone number or email address? Do you have questions about the study? Please use the link below to share your new contact information and questions with us. That way, you can continue to be part of our study of how young children learn and grow across Massachusetts.

Contact Us

Need to get in touch with us? Use the phone number and email below. Toll-free ELS@H Line: 1-844-865-2196

The Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H; pronounced “Elsa”) is run by the Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. It is designed to help us learn more about how the types of places where young children spend time relate to how they learn and grow. ELS@H began in 2017, when we recruited over 3,000 3- and 4-year-olds and their early education and care providers across the state of Massachusetts. As the fifth year of the study approaches, we continue to follow this same group of children as they move through elementary school. We also continue to survey early educators. A Massachusetts-based research organization called Abt Associates is working with Harvard researchers to carry out this work.

The study’s unique features—including its large-scale, longitudinal design and population-based, representative sample—will help answer key questions facing children, families, and educators who work with young children. The study will also help policymakers, program designers, and other decision-makers learn how to best support families and early education and care programs.

When ELS@H began in 2017, all participating children enrolled in the study were 3 or 4 years old. This is a longitudinal study, meaning that we hope to follow the same group of children for a long time. This school year, most study children are now in second or third grade.

Yes, each time you complete a survey or allow your child to be assessed, we will give you a gift card to thank you for your time.

We are sorry to hear that you’re having an issue with the gift cards, and we would like to help! Please contact the ELS@H team by email at or by phone toll-free at 1-844-865-2196.

Study activities typically include online parent surveys, and sometimes a child assessment visit, either virtually or in person. The study team will contact you directly via email or phone to tell you which activities to expect this year. Your participation in all activities is voluntary, and you do not have to participate in any activity if you would prefer not to. The choice is up to you, and you are free to change your mind at any time!

Please contact the ELS@H team by email at or by phone toll-free at 1-844-865-2196. If the survey is still active, our team will resend the invitation.

We’re excited that you would like to become involved again! Please contact the ELS@H team by email at or by phone toll-free at 1-844-865-2196 to let us know. We will make sure that we have your up-to-date contact information in our records so we can notify you about all upcoming opportunities to participate.

Yes, we will keep all information that we collect about children, families, schools, and educators private to the fullest extent allowed by law. We will never include the names of children, families, schools, or educators in any reports or study findings. Moreover, we will not report any of the data we collect as part of the study to any government agency, and we will never ask about the legal status of anyone in the study. If we learn that a child is in danger, we are required by law to report this information.

The study team is committed to protecting your privacy and the privacy of all participants. We train our team members on data security procedures to keep all study information private and secure. However, participation in a study always includes a small risk that your personal information might be seen by someone outside of the study team. We have developed strict procedures to minimize the chance of this happening.

School and childcare situations are complicated right now. We know that school districts may change their model over the course of the year (switching to become fully remote, hybrid, or fully in person), or that parents may change their school and childcare choices as the year progresses. We may ask for an update in a future parent survey, but you do not need to contact us about school changes. However, we are always happy to hear from our study participants, so please feel free to reach out at any time!

Yes, children with special needs are eligible to participate in study activities if they can. If your child needs special accommodations, we might ask for your help.

ELS@H is a longitudinal study, which means we are following the same group of children over time. That means we are not adding more children to the study sample at this time, but we appreciate your interest and participation.

As findings and reports become available, they are posted here. For example, you can find information on the website about the study design, a report on the 2018 household survey, and reports on how the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced early educators and families and young children in Massachusetts.

You can reach the ELS@H team toll-free at 1-844-865-2196 or by email at

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