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School District Organizational Assessment Questionnaire (OAQ)


What is the purpose of the School District OAQ?

The school district OAQ provides a standardized, comprehensive annual assessment of healthy eating and physical activity practices occurring at school districts. This tool can be used to meet federal triennial assessment requirements and is helpful for program planning in school districts where policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) change interventions are planned and implemented at the district (i.e. organizational) level. California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) will also use aggregated data from OAQ for program evaluation purposes.

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Who should complete the OAQ?

The OAQ should be completed by district-level staff with support from the Local Health Department team.

LHDs should consider engaging to following district representatives to help with OAQ completion:

  • District Superintendent
  • Nutrition or Food Service Director or Assistant Director
  • Physical Education and Curriculum Lead
  • Health Education Department
  • School Nurse or Health Coordinator
  • Wellness Champion or Wellness Policy Committee Lead
  • Gardening and Cooking Program Supervisor
  • Farm to School Program Manager

Depending on the district representatives you identify, it may be a good strategy to plan for OAQ completion to happen during a regular meeting of the school district’s wellness committee.

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When should the OAQ be completed each year?

LHDs should work with their school district partners to complete OAQ, ideally between May and October before any PSE activities begin for the upcoming year. Use the results and scores from the OAQ to plan your PSE activities with the district.

The OAQ should be submitted online using the Survey123 link found on the SLAQ Questionnaires webpage, organized by setting.

If completing the OAQ for the same district on an annual basis, the OAQ should be completed within a month of when the previous OAQ was conducted. For example, if the OAQ was completed in June 2023 then the next OAQ for the same district should be conducted between May and July of 2024.

Check out our Evaluation Activity Timeline  resource for more guidance.

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Do I need to complete an LHD Activity Checklist if using the OAQ?

Yes! The OAQ also has an accompanying OAQ LHD Activity Checklist (LAC). The OAQ LHD Activity Checklist should be submitted online upon completion of all CalFresh Healthy Living efforts for the school year.

OAQ Survey 123 link can be found on the SLAQ Questionnaires webpage, organized by setting.

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How was the School District OAQ created?

The OAQ was developed by NPI for use by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and local health departments to fill a gap in school district assessment. The OAQ incorporates questions from other instruments, including items previously considered for the school Site-Level Assessment Questionnaire (SLAQ), as well as new questions crafted to address CalFresh Healthy Living’s programmatic priorities.

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Does the School District OAQ assess school district wellness policy?

The OAQ only assesses school district practices. School districts completing the OAQ in partnership with local health departments are asked to complete and share scores from the Rudd Center’s highly regarded school wellness policy assessment, WellSAT. The OAQ asks for school districts to report their WellSAT scores, so school districts should plan to complete it prior to submitting their OAQ through Survey 123.

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What is the WellSAT and where can I find more information about it?

The Wellness School Assessment Tool (WellSAT 3.0) is an online tool used to evaluate school wellness policies. This tool was developed by the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Health for use by school districts and others to assess the quality of their district’s wellness policies. The WellSAT is most commonly used to meet the USDA’s triennial assessment requirement. Visit the WellSAT website for more information on how the WellSAT is used in the Triennial Assessment.

To learn more about conducting the WellSAT assessment, visit the WellSAT tool website.


UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Health. Wellness School Assessment Tool. 2023. https://www.wellsat.org/default.aspx

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How is the WellSAT used in the OAQ?

It is important to assess both formal wellness policy as well as practices that are actually in effect. To provide a comprehensive but streamlined district assessment process, NPI made the decision to limit questions on the OAQ to practices, taking advantage of the WellSAT for coverage of policy. When a district completes the WellSAT assessment, they receive two scores that assess different aspects of their policy: Comprehensiveness and Strength, which are then reported on the OAQ. LHDs should work with their district partners to ensure those scores are reported as part of the online submission of the OAQ. The WellSAT score reported on the OAQ should be from a WellSAT assessment completed within the last three years. In addition, we encourage school districts to re-do the WellSAT more often than three years when there has been a significant change to district wellness policy.

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How is the School District OAQ different from the school SLAQs?

While SLAQs assess a specific school site, the OAQ focuses on district-level practices that impact schools throughout a district. For example, both the OAQ and school SLAQ ask questions about the presence of wellness committees, with some additional follow-up questions. When answering this set of questions on the OAQ, the survey respondent should provide information relating to the district’s wellness committee. When answering on a school SLAQ, the respondent should only consider a site-level wellness committee. Likewise, both instruments ask about staff training: OAQ respondents should only consider training that happens district-wide, while SLAQ respondents should consider training that happens at their school site.

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How can Local Implementing Agencies use the School District OAQ?

The OAQ provides comprehensive and structured information about the nutrition and physical activity practices at a school district. Local implementing agencies (LIAs) and school district partners can use this information for several purposes:

  1. Understand strengths and areas of opportunity and guide discussion and decisions during program planning.
  2. Track changes at a district across years.
  3. Contribute to aggregated statewide data analyses to understand how nutrition and physical activity practices are associated with program outcomes across California Depending on an LIA’s focus, they may use an OAQ, SLAQ, or a combination of the two.

 For questions, please email the SLAQ team: EvaluateSNAPEd@ucanr.edu.

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What are the PSE reporting requirements for work in schools and how do they work together?

Here are the different PSE reporting elements related to schools and school districts:

  • Elementary or Secondary School SLAQ (Site-Level Assessment Questionnaire)
  • School District OAQ (Organizational Assessment Questionnaire)
  • District or School LAC (LHD Activity Checklist)
  • PSE report module in PEARS (Program Evaluation and Reporting System)
  • Organization-Level PSE Supplemental questionnaire

Depending on the nature and timing of your PSE project, you may not need to complete each of these reports every year. Use this table to determine what needs to be completed and when.


The X’s in the table below indicate which element is required for each scenario:


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Do you have suggestions on how to introduce the OAQ to school districts?

Yes, we have a “ One-pager ” that LHDs can give to sites that will explain what the OAQ is and why it is important. Additionally, you may want to complete the OAQ-based Action Planning Tool when you follow-up with your sites as a constructive way to review the OAQ results and demonstrate that completing the OAQ is a first step towards identifying areas of opportunity and driving change.

Helpful tip: Remind districts that periodic assessment of public schools' compliance with the local school wellness policies is a required part of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, and the OAQ provides a way to meet that requirement. Be sure to reinforce the benefit of completing the OAQ annually, focusing on how important the data collected is to planning programs that are customized to their districts' needs.

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