NEWS RELEASE: Oregon Communities to Guide Redesign of the Oregon Kindergarten Assessment

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Oregon Department of Education - Oregon achieves - together
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May 20, 2022
Media Contacts: Marc Siegel, Oregon Department of Education
Melanie Mesaros, Early Learning Division


Oregon Communities to Guide Redesign of the Oregon Kindergarten Assessment

Community input supports development of responsive and relevant assessment tool

(Salem, Ore.) – The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and Oregon Early Learning Division (ELD) are collaborating with communities across the state to redesign the Oregon Kindergarten Assessment (OKA). The redesigned tool will be culturally responsive and foster a safe and supportive environment in which Oregon’s young children and families can learn and thrive. 

On May 19, ODE and ELD presented the initial plan for developing a redesigned tool to replace the OKA to the Oregon State Board of Education. The process of redesigning that tool will be referred to as the “Early Learning Transition Check-In: A Collaborative Engagement with Community.” The redesigned tool that results from this process will provide the state with a snapshot of data on Oregon’s children and families as they begin kindergarten. 

“The data from this redesigned tool will inform state-level decisions about Oregon’s early learning and care programs, policies, and practices,” said David Mandell, Chief of Policy and Research at the Early Learning Division. “The tool will also build awareness and strengthen connections between families and educators in our K-12 schools and ultimately help with efforts to meet the needs of Oregon’s children and families.”

Due to impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, the OKA was suspended by the State Board of Education from fall 2020 to 2021. The OKA was previously given each fall to entering kindergartners to assess three core areas of learning and development: early literacy, early math and interpersonal/self-regulation skills. 

“This suspension presented us with an opportunity to examine how we were gathering information about our kindergarteners,” said Dan Farley, Director of Assessment at the Oregon Department of Education. “By redesigning with Oregon communities, we can develop an assessment tool that is meaningful and supportive of Oregon children, families, and educators.” 

With guidance from an advisory panel, ODE and ELD created a timeline for developing the first component of the new approach, a family interview. In the next month, ODE and ELD will begin the redesign by hosting family listening sessions to gather initial feedback on the interview questions. Families of color and families with children experiencing disabilities are being prioritized for these sessions. In the fall, ODE and ELD will work with five to 10 schools from across the state to test the family interview component. To learn more about the timeline, visit the ELD website.

Background on the Oregon Kindergarten Assessment

In the past, the state received feedback from families and educators that the Oregon Kindergarten Assessment was not a culturally responsive tool and was particularly 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 and whether it duplicated existing screening and monitoring systems. The new tool, or tools, will be designed and implemented using anti-racist practices that are culturally responsive.

More details about Early Learning Transition Check-In: A Collaborative Engagement with Community are available online.