What are the reasons for the redesign of Oregon’s Kindergarten Assessment (OKA)?
The Oregon State Board of Education established the state rule for the original Kindergarten Assessment in 2013. The state received feedback from families and educators that the Oregon Kindergarten Assessment (OKA) was not a culturally responsive tool and concerns that it was harmful and problematic for children and families in communities marginalized by Oregon’s education system.
In addition, staff administering the OKA did not receive implicit and explicit bias training. Educators and school administrators also expressed concerns about its purpose. They wondered if it duplicated existing screening and monitoring systems. The redesigned tool will center family voices. It will support anti-racist practices and a *whole-child approach, it will foster a safe and supportive environment for Oregon’s young children and families.
What wasn’t working about the Oregon’s Kindergarten Assessment (OKA)?
Families and Educators reported:
- Confusion about the purpose of the Kindergarten Assessment
- Concerns about the timing of the assessment and children's first experiences with school
- Concerns about the interpretation and reporting of results
- Concerns about the cultural responsiveness of the assessment. This includes assessing students who speak a language other than English and risk of implicit bias.
- Concerns about how schools engage students and their families about the assessment purpose. Concerns about how schools interpret individual student results. And concerns about how the results are used
- Concerns about the assessment not considering the whole child*.
*The whole-child approach fosters all areas of children’s development and learning. It includes social–emotional and cognitive skills, literacy, math, and science understanding. This approach offers a powerful, supportive approach as preschool children transition to kindergarten.
What is the purpose of the redesigned process?
The Early Learning Transition Check-In’s main goal is to design a new process. It will support families in building relationships with their kindergarten educators. It will also collect information that can inform Oregon’s early learning and care sector at the local, regional, and state levels. In a collaborative effort, the Oregon Department of Education and the Department of Early Learning and Care are reimagining Oregon’s Kindergarten Assessment. They aim to help foster systemic improvement in assessment practices. Research and educators can agree that family engagement is a core foundation of student success in schools. Oregon’s redesigned Kindergarten Assessment will support anti-racist practices and a whole-child approach, fostering a safe and supportive environment in which school systems are ready for children.
What will this new approach look like?
The process of redesigning the Oregon Kindergarten Assessment will be referred to as the “Early Learning Transition Check-In: A Collaborative Engagement with Community.” The redesign is being informed by feedback from and collaboration with Oregon’s families, educators, and community partners.
The first component, called the Family Conversation, is a designated time at the beginning of each school year when kindergarten teachers connect with families one-on-one and ask them intentional questions about their child’s experiences and the conditions that create the best learning environments for them. During the OKA pilots, families shared they felt most comfortable in a conversation with their child’s educator and less so when they felt surveyed. To support this, educators are provided with prompting questions to ask that invite a conversation with families.
The goals of the Family Conversation are rooted in family engagement principles endorsed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
- Connect families with educators in a two-way conversation
- Help educators get to know each child and learn about their experiences before kindergarten
- Create a space for families to ask any questions and share their unique knowledge and skills
Future engagements with early learning
and culturally specific partners will help determine other
How is the state including community voice in this redesign?
The Early Learning Transition Check-In will center on family and community voices. It will put in place anti- racist assessment practices.
The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and the Department of Early Learning and Care (DELC) are intentionally connecting with families and students who have been historically marginalized by our education systems. These intentional connections are to ensure that the approach we are taking is respectful, accessible, and provides meaningful information for both families and educators, regardless of the child’s background.
ODE and DELC are also collaborating with an advisory panel to redesign the assessment tool. The advisory panel is made up of diverse voices from around the state including early educators, kindergarten educators, early learning system partners, and researchers.
After each pilot, we conducted family and educator feedback sessions. We did this to improve the process and clarity of the questions. These feedback sessions were conducted by Oregon’s Kitchen Table (OKT), a group of non-partisans, non-profit community organizations dedicated to helping Oregonians have a voice to share their ideas, opinions, beliefs, and resources in improving Oregon and our communities. We compensated all participants for their time and input. Sessions were in person with food and childcare provided. English and Spanish speaking facilitators hosted the sessions. OKT offered sessions in other languages when requested by the school. Sessions were virtual and hosted on Zoom. Some families and educators have requested private conversations with OKT.
Oregon’s Kitchen Table will also hold twelve community engagement opportunities. They begin in February 2024 with early learning partners and culturally specific groups. The goal is to identify necessary and desired data. This will support systemic improvements to Oregon’s early learning and care system. The aim is to ensure families have access to high-quality culturally responsive, inclusive, developmentally appropriate and affordable early learning and care that meet the children’s and caregivers’ needs as they transition to kindergarten.
How will educators use the information from the Family Conversation?
Educators can use the information to get to know each child and their family better. They can also build connections. Educators may also use the information provided by families in their classroom management style. They may also use it to adjust their curriculum or instructional approach. This supports the individual strengths and needs of each student. In addition, educators will use the information to connect families with resources.
How will the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and Department of Early Learning and Care (DELC) use information collected during the Family Conversation?
ODE and DELC will use the information to better understand families’ experiences. They will also inform the state’s education programs, policies, and funding. The information may also be used to:
- Increase understanding of experiences for all of Oregon’s young children and families. Currently, the Department of Early Learning and Care only has data on children from birth to five. The data is for those who receive publicly funded programs or services.
- Inform regional efforts with data on types of care children received before kindergarten.
- Ensure consistent and purposeful data collection for ALL children entering kindergarten.
- Identify gaps and coordinate cross-sector efforts to support families.
- Connect to the Statewide Early Childhood System Plan outlined in Raise Up Oregon 2.0: A Statewide
Early Learning System Plan.