We value science.

With over 30 years of combined research among them, Aperture Education’s team of full-time researchers is dedicated to ensuring that every product we provide to our customers meets the highest standards of validity and reliability. We balance science with practicality to ensure we’re providing the highest quality products while keeping educators’ valuable time in mind.

Having a social and emotional assessment tool that is reliable and valid is of the upmost importance. Raters need to be confident that their students’ results will be accurate and actionable, regardless of who rates the student or when the rating takes place.

Extensive research was done by the research team behind the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) to ensure that the DESSA was both valid–that it could produce consistent results independent of its administration date–and reliable–that the results of the assessment are not statistically affected by the person conducting the rating.

For more specific information on the reliability and validity studies, visit our Evidence Base for the DESSA page.

Meet Our Research Team

With over 30 years of combined experience in education, social and emotional learning, and resilience; Aperture Education takes pride in its strong research and development team. Led by our Vice President of Research & Development and former Director of the Devereux Center for Resilient Children, Paul LeBuffe, our team is actively engaged in conducting research and evaluation studies that advance knowledge and practice in the SEL field and support our mission. Below, you will find the research and publications specifically related to our Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA), a key feature of the DESSA System.

Paul LeBuffe, Vice President of Research & Development

Paul’s career has focused on providing teachers, program staff, and parents with tools and strategies to promote the social and emotional well-being of children, adolescents and the adults themselves. He is an author of many widely-used assessments in this area including the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA). Paul has published widely and presented internationally on the measurement and promotion of resilience and social and emotional competence. He lives in Downingtown, PA with his wife Penny, a special education teacher. To promote his own resilience, Paul enjoys canoeing and playing the piano very badly.

Jennifer Robitaille, Senior Research Associate

Jennifer is a Senior Research Associate at Aperture Education, where her primary research interests include the measurement and promotion of social and emotional competence and resilience in children and youth. Her role at Aperture allows her the opportunity to do many of the things she loves (reading, writing, and crunching numbers) while working to support the well-being of children. She lives in the Lehigh Valley of PA with her husband Rob, a high school science teacher and swim coach. When she’s not working, you can find Jen hiking, exploring local craft breweries, and spending time with family and friends.

Alyssa Ciarlante, Research Associate

Alyssa is a Research Associate at Aperture Education, where she works to support the development of new social and emotional assessments. A self-proclaimed “numbers nerd” with years of experience working with children and youth, Alyssa’s position allows her to combine two of her passions: supporting the healthy development of children and gaining insight through data analysis. She lives in Havertown, PA and enjoys cooking, spending time with her family and friends, and adding to her ever-growing book collection.

Kim Williams, Strategies Development Specialist

Kim is a Strategies Development Specialist and Master Trainer for Aperture Education. Kim has been immersed in the world of social and emotional learning since 2001. While not an “official” teacher, Kim has worked in classrooms, schools, and other youth serving organizations guiding their processes, structures, policies, and resources in support of the whole child. Her love of travel has been fed by her experiences as a trainer for evidence-based SEL programs. She has traveled to China, the UK, and all over the U.S. training and learning from others. Kim lives in FL with her husband, Bob, and their dog, Gracie.

Ongoing Research Projects

Bay Area Schools

Aperture Research Analyst Dr. Valerie Shapiro is also an Assistant Professor of Social Welfare and Co-Director of the Center for Prevention Research in Social Welfare at the University of California Berkeley. Valerie has received a Stuart Foundation grant to study the implementation of social-emotional learning strategies in Bay Area schools, using the DESSA as an outcome measure. This research project, in collaboration with Dovetail LearningBerkeley Unified School District, and San Lorenzo Unified School District, will collect information from various sites to understand the naturally occurring variation that exists in implementation activities and outputs. This project will also explore the relationship between program implementation and outcomes, generating recommendations for the routine implementation of social-emotional learning programs.  This research will support the adoption and high-quality implementation of effective social-emotional learning programs in schools, promoting the social and emotional well-being of children.

For full press release click here.

Anchorage School District

Anchorage, Alaska School District is a leading district in implementing Social and Emotional Learning Standards, adopting them district-wide in 2006.  The district educates almost 50,000 students, speaking 91 different languages, with minority students comprising more than 50 percent of the population.  Anchorage has been using the DESSA and DESSA-mini to guide their SEL work and assess social and emotional competencies since 2008.

Through this collaboration, Aperture has not only helped Anchorage to be effective at implementing SEL through assessment, evaluation, and reporting, but collaborative research shows a direct relationship between social and emotional competencies and success in math and reading!

More recently, Aperture has been able to work with Anchorage to assess and build the protective factors of Alaska Native youth. Aperture is collaborating with Project Ki’L, a Title VII Indian Education Program.  Project Ki’L provides an afterschool and summer program that focuses on the culture of Alaska Native and American Indian boys to increase social-emotional skills and academic success. For this project, DESSA is used by teachers and program administrators to design curricula and measure outcomes. View a news clip about Project Ki’L!

Joan Sherman Program for Resilient Children

Aperture Education has partnered with SCAN Inc., in Fort Wayne, Indiana to use the DESSA to measure and build the protective factors of children in supervised visitation services. These children have been removed from their home due to allegations of abuse and neglect. Through this partnership a curriculum called the Joan Sherman Program for Resilient Children has been developed which uses a coaching model to help parents engage positively with their children during supervised visits.  This project involves a multi-site research study to evaluate the effectiveness of this program for enhancing parenting skills, developing children’s protective factors, and preventing future abuse and neglect.  For more information on the Joan Sherman Program for Resilient Children, click here.

For more information on our work within the Child Welfare System, click here.