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Community Informed Information Gathering Process at Kindergarten

Oregon’s Kindergarten Assessment was suspended in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years due to the complicated nature of the pandemic. The assessment was previously administered each fall to entering kindergartners to assess three core areas of learning and development: early literacy, early math and interpersonal/self-regulation skills. Prior to the suspension, community partners shared concerns related to the implementation of the assessment as well as bias within the assessment itself. In partnership with the Early Learning Division, the Department began addressing these concerns during the 2021-22 school year.

The process to redesign Oregon’s Kindergarten Assessment is called the Early Learning Transition Check-In: A Collaborative Engagement with Community (ELTC).

The reimagined process has three distinct purposes:

  • Collect a statewide snapshot of data about children and families as they begin kindergarten
  • Support families in building relationships with their kindergarten educators
  • Inform state-level decisions about Oregon’s Early Learning System

The process honors the whole child and the assets they bring and allows for stronger relationships to be built between educators, families and students starting at the beginning of a student’s K-12 career as opposed to an assessment that may ultimately serve as a barrier that also has long-term impact on the connection between school and home.

Questions about the Community Informed Information Gathering Process at Kindergarten? Contact ODE’s K-2 Balanced Assessment Specialist, Sody Fearn.

Oregon’s State Board of Education unanimously adopted the amended rule OAR 581-022-2130 on February 16, 2023. The changes positively impact students and their families in Oregon. Notable changes include:

  • Language shifts that intentionally frame students and families using an asset-based approach.
  • Centering equity and anti-racist practices by shifting to a culturally responsive method that allows for stronger relationships to be built beginning at a child’s K-12 career as opposed to an assessment that may ultimately serve as a barrier and create long-term impact on the connection between school and home.
  • Removing the word “assessment” from the title and language in order to reinforce the new approach: Community Informed Information Gathering Process.
  • Allowing for flexibility to include other future culturally responsive components that are deemed necessary through our engagement process with partners.

Fall 2023 Pilot Process:
The Fall 2023 Family Conversation pilot wrapped up with over 30 schools in September. The Oregon Department of Education and Department of Early Learning and Care once again partnered with Oregon’s Kitchen Table to hold family and educator feedback sessions. The purpose of these sessions held in October and November 2023 was to gain insight about the process and clarity with a larger number of schools. A detailed report will be available on the Early Learning Transition Check-In: A Collaborative Engagement with Community website by spring 2024.

Fall 2024 Pilot Process:
The Oregon Department of Education and Department of Early Learning and Care are pleased to announce that nearly 50 schools across Oregon will be offering Oregon’s Family Conversation in the fall of 2024. The Family Conversation is the first component of the Early Learning Transition Check-In: A Collaborative Engagement With Community, welcoming children and their families or caregivers. 
School districts will be receiving their educator professional development materials the first week of May that expands upon the information shared with district leaders in November 2023.

As a reminder, school districts who are not taking part in the Fall 2024 pilot should not administer any components of the previous kindergarten assessment at the first meeting with students and will not be required to report their data to the state. Please read Assessment and Accountability Updates for future opportunities to learn about the Early Learning Transition Check-In Family Conversation.

Please email with any questions you may have about this topic.

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 culturallyresponsive components.

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

​When will all Oregon schools be required to hold the Family Conversation?

The specific year for its implementation is still under consideration. Legislative support is being considered to fund data collection and reporting. Feedback from school districts taking part in both pilots has highlighted the importance of allowing more time for thorough planning, communication, and implementation. Planning and coordinating school calendars, training staff promptly, and communicating with parents/caregivers require months of work. The goal is to equip schools with the information and recommended tools to facilitate a smooth start. As with any shift in procedures, there will need to be both thoughtful and intentional planning involved.

Will all entering kindergarten families eventually be required to take part in the Family Conversation?

At the very beginning of the kindergarten year, families have the option to take part in the Family Conversation in a way that is most comfortable for them. The main purpose of the Family Conversation is to provide an opportunity for families and educators to meet and build a relationship and exchange important information. Secondarily, it is a data collection process. As with all data collection processes, families have many choices. 

  1. Families/caregivers can take part.
  2. They could choose to decline to meet with the educator.
  3. They could also meet with the educator to share information about their child. They could ask certain questions not be entered into the data collection form.
Each of these approaches is a family engagement opportunity. Families can share important information about their child with those who will work with them and get their questions answered before the school year begins. It is also an opportunity for educators to connect families with resources. They can begin sharing about the kindergarten year.

What does the typical timeline of the Family Conversation look like?


​How will families learn about the pilot and their school’s participation?

The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) will provide participating schools with sample invitations and letters. They will send these to families. Schools may also customize these templates for their community. They can use the templates for any transition into kindergarten activity. ODE and the Department of Early Learning and Care (DELC) are also working with early learning and care partners. Their goal is to increase awareness and promote the Early Learning Transition Check-In to Oregon’s families and communities. Districts and schools should start talking to families about Family Conversation in early spring, during the transition into kindergarten events. The Family Conversation takes place at the beginning of the school year. It is important to communicate early and often. 

Will these templates be available in languages other than English?

The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and the Department of Early Learning and Care (DELC) will provide the Family Conversation One Pager in the following languages: Arabic, Chinese, Chuukese, English, Russian, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Sample invitations and letters for families will not be translated. School districts are encouraged to use parent- teacher conference protocol with materials inviting parents to the family conversation. Consistent and varied communication methods shared by multiple staff members is highly recommended. 

​How long should districts plan to meet with each family?

Pilot schools have shared the more formal portion of the conversation lasts anywhere between 10-15 minutes. Setting aside a 30-minute time frame for each family is helpful. We recommend educators build in time to build rapport, offer a tour of the classroom, and answer any questions families may have. Allow more time when translation is needed so all families can fully participate. Since the Family Conversation takes place at the very beginning of the school year, it is important to have all schedules, interpretation, and translation support arranged ahead of time.

Who should lead the Family Conversation?

The child’s kindergarten teacher should be the staff person to lead the Family Conversation. This goes back to one of the main intentions of the Family Conversation: support the relationship between educator and family If interpretation support is needed, the support person should attend the conversation with the child’s expected kindergarten teacher. Other important staff are welcome to attend the meeting. The main intent is for the kindergarten educator to build a relationship with the family and child. 

Will the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) be providing interpreters and translation services?

No. School districts should use the interpretation and translation process that they would normally use during conversations with families who need translations. This helps ensure all parent(s)/caregiver(s) can engage.

Furthermore, ODE’s Title III/Multilingual Learning Education Specialist provided additional clarity to this question which was pulled from the Office for Civil Rights (ED) and The Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice.

  • Title VI prohibits recipients of Federal financial assistance, including SEAs and school districts, from discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin.10 Title VI’s prohibition on national origin discrimination requires SEAs and school districts to take “affirmative steps” to address language barriers so that EL students and families may participate meaningfully in schools’ educational
  • LEAs have an obligation to communicate meaningfully with limited English proficient (LEP) parents and to notify LEP parents adequately of information about any program, service, or activity called to the attention of the linguistically-diverse parents
    • At the school and district levels, this might include: language assistance programs, special education and related services, IEP meetings, grievance procedures, notices of nondiscrimination, student discipline policies and procedures, registration and enrollment, report cards, requests for parent permission for student participation in district or school activities, parent-teacher conferences, parent handbooks, gifted and talented programs, magnet and charter schools, and any other school and program choice options
  •  LEAs must have a process to identify linguistically-diverse parents (or LEP parents) who might need interpretation/translation services and provide them with free and effective language assistance
  • LEAs must ensure they offer appropriate and competent translators who have proficiency in target language, including: ease of written and oral expression, knowledge of specialized terms or concerns as well as training in the ethics of interpreting and translating

Title I of the ESEA, as amended by ESSA, now requires LEAs to conduct effective outreach to parents of ELs, including regular meetings [see Section 1112(e)(3)(c)]

The provisions related to translation and interpretation for linguistically-diverse families and students outlined below are considered ‘baseline’ civil rights obligations that districts/schools must meet regardless of whether they receive Title III funding or not. Title III funding is rather narrow in that it applies to students who qualify for English Language services, but the assumption is that Title III exists to build upon the basic civil rights provisions outlined below. These civil rights provisions are required regardless of whether a district receives Title III funding or not.

Can we use any of the portions from the previous version of the Oregon Kindergarten Assessment during this time?

No. The reimagined tool aims to provide a platform. Families can begin to build meaningful relationships with kindergarten educators. Considering the valuable input from community members and educators who have taken part in many feedback sessions, conducting academic measurements with students would be more appropriate after an educator and child have become more acquainted, rather than at the initial meeting.

Can we administer other assessments or screening tools during the Family Conversation?

No. The Family Conversation intends to build connections with the family. It also aims to form a relationship with them. Child assessments and/or screening tools are important to administer. They give a sense of foundational skills. They also provide an educator with information about instruction. After the educator and child have gotten to know each other, they should administer them.

Does the Family Conversation need to be held in person?

Please try to hold Family Conversation in person with the family. If family cannot attend in person, a remote meeting or phone call could be arranged. Schools should avoid sending questions home as a survey to be completed and sent back to school. This aligns with one of the main purposes of building relationships.
Doing so would mis-align with one of the main purposes of the Family Conversation. For virtual schools, please follow your processes for engagement with families. If virtual schools conduct in-person family engagements, it is preferred to hold the Family Conversation in person. 

May schools use Title I-A funds with the Family Conversation pilot?

Yes, this could be an allowable use of Title I-A funds. The caveats would include:

  • Is the Title I-A funded school implementing a school-wide program?
  • Is the activity identified in the school’s needs assessment?

Our district is interested in participating in the pilot during the 2024-25 school year. We do not currently have dedicated time set aside to implement the Family Conversation. What should we do now?

  • Complete this interest form by January 31, 2024. This allows the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and the Department of Early Learning and Care (DELC) to communicate directly with interested school districts. They can share future training materials, opportunities, and offer support.
  • Brainstorm links to existing initiatives that already exist in the school district around family engagement and kindergarten transitions.
  • Engage with district leaders about adjustments to calendars to accommodate the Family Conversation.

We are a large district and would like to implement the Family Conversation. Is it possible to start with a few schools or classrooms in the first year and add as we refine our systems in subsequent years?

Yes. Three large school districts took part in the pilots. All started implementing the Family Conversation with a few schools. School districts would need to be very clear to all partners: families, early learning partners, district, and school staff about their implementation plan. Some pilot districts and their families reported confusion about the schedule if it differed from other schools within the same district.

How did districts accommodate the Family Conversation with existing funds?

Two OARS that are good starting points. OAR 581-022-0102(30) provides guidance on instructional time. OAR 581-022-2320(6) provides guidance on how school boards can support this work. These sample schedules are also great resources for support. They can be adjusted to meet the needs of districts. These OARs and sample schedules are great starting points. The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and the Department of Early Learning and Care (DELC) recommend connecting with other school districts in your area. These districts have taken part in the pilots previously. For more information, please email

Our district already holds home visits with families. Can we continue or will the Family Conversation take its place?

The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and the Department of Early Learning and Care (DELC) recognize that districts have existing opportunities to connect with kindergarten families before the beginning of kindergarten, including implementing home visits. We encourage districts to link the Family Conversation with their existing initiatives. This includes home or porch visits that support transitions into kindergarten. Some general questions to consider:

  1. Do the purposes align?
  2. How can the questions from the Family Conversation be used to support the visit?
  3. What are ways to document what families share without circumventing home or porch visit principles?


Interpretive Guidance


These reports show the school, district, and state level results from the Oregon Kindergarten Assessment.

The Look-Back report is an update to the Kindergarten Assessment Results and includes disaggregated student results for three additional student groups: Economically Disadvantaged students, Limited English Proficient students, and Students with Disabilities. Data aggregation is based on Third Period Cumulative ADM Collections (data verified in August of the following year). This report also contains the previously-reported disaggregated data by student gender and ethnicity.


Transitioning into Kindergarten