Positive deviance in the Oregon kindergarten assessment: Identifying schools and communities that are beating the odds

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Entering kindergarten when developmentally ready can have substantial impacts on a child's future academic success and physical health. Children from low-income households are more likely to enter kindergarten with lower school readiness than their more affluent peers, and the educational gap may widen throughout the schooling years. The current study used positive deviance inquiry to identify elementary schools in Oregon serving large percentages of children receiving free or reduced-price lunch exceling on the Approaches to Learning segment of the state 2018-19 kindergarten assessment. We assessed the student demographics of these positive outlier schools and compared characteristics of schools grouped by poverty status. Additionally, we examined the association between school poverty status and school-level kindergarten assessment scores, and further explored the variables potentially influencing this relationship (school size, charter status, and location). Over a quarter of Oregon's top performing schools were high-poverty schools, labeled as positive outliers. The average Approaches to Learning score of positive outlier schools was 0.61 points higher (95% CI: 0.55, 0.68) compared to other high-poverty schools (p<0.0001), and 0.42 points higher (95% CI: 0.33, 0.50) compared to low-poverty schools (p < 0.0001). These findings highlight that poverty is not always predictive of poor social-emotional skills or overall school readiness and exploration of family, school and community school readiness efforts is underway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)360-368
Number of pages9
JournalEarly Childhood Research Quarterly
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023


  • Oregon kindergarten assessment
  • Positive deviance
  • Poverty
  • School readiness
  • Social-emotional development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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