About the DESSA

Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA)

The Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA), a social and emotional assessment, is a standardized, norm-referenced, strength-based measure of the social and emotional competencies of children in kindergarten through eighth grade. It encourages the collaboration of both parents and educators alike and demonstrates versatility in its administration; the DESSA can be completed by parents/guardians, teachers, out-of-school-time program staff, and staff at other child-serving agencies.

In the DESSA manual, authors Paul LeBuffe, Valerie Shapiro, and Jack Naglieri explain that the goals of the DESSA include helping educators plan social and emotional instruction and growth strategies, providing documentation of students’ social and emotional strengths and needs, and allowing users to monitor progress and evaluate child and program outcomes.

Devereux Student Strengths Assessment-Mini (DESSA-mini)

The Devereux Student Strengths Assessment-Mini (DESSA-mini) is a brief, 8-item version of the DESSA that provides a snapshot of a student’s social and emotional competence. This social and emotional assessment can be completed in one minute by teachers and out-of-school-time staff and includes four alternate forms, each containing a different set of 8 items. The DESSA-mini was designed to be used for universal screening of social and emotional competence and ongoing progress monitoring.

Learn more about the DESSA-Mini

With the Evo Social/Emotional assessment and intervention system, both the DESSA (72 items) and the four DESSA-minis (8 items each) can be completed and integrated into a comprehensive assessment system within schools, districts, out-of-school-time programs, and other child-serving agencies.

A User-Friendly Social and Emotional Assessment

One of the fundamental features of the DESSA is its user-friendly format. The length of the DESSA-mini, which can be completed in one minute per child, makes it an inherently easy social and emotional assessment tool to use. An educator can rate an entire class with the DESSA-mini in one planning period.

Additionally, the DESSA assessment form is consistent between raters, which means that both educators and parents answer the same questions, allowing for accurate comparisons between raters. As an added benefit, the DESSA and DESSA-mini can each be completed without prior training and only require a 6th-grade reading level.

The DESSA’s behavior rating scale is based on everyday, observable behaviors. This means that raters don’t have to do anything outside of observing students to complete the assessment. Also, because students are not involved in the rating process, educators won’t lose valuable instructional time or have to plan how to get each student in front of a device.

A Holistic Social and Emotional Assessment

The DESSA is aligned to the highest-regarded social and emotional learning framework, which was put forth by CASEL, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. The DESSA measures the competencies outlined in the CASEL framework, but it offers more nuance in order to provide the most actionable data and a holistic look at a child’s strengths and needs. This social and emotional assessment also has its roots in resilience literature, measuring key within-child protective factors.

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The DESSA measures these eight competencies:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Self-Management
  • Social-Awareness
  • Relationship Skills
  • Personal Responsibility
  • Decision Making
  • Goal-Directed Behavior
  • Optimistic Thinking

A Research-Based and Standardized Assessment

The DESSA has been nationally standardized in the United States with a sample of 2,494 children. The DESSA standardization sample closely approximated the K–8 population of the United States for age, gender, geographic region of residence, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. The DESSA was normed across teachers, teacher aides, parents, and other adult relatives as well as after-school and other program staff.

Learn more about the research and standardization behind the DESSA.

A Reliable and Valid Evaluation

Educators need a social and emotional assessment tool that is both statistically reliable and valid. Research has shown that the DESSA meets or exceeds the psychometric standards for reliability and validity put forth by the American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education.

Learn more about the statistical evidence behind the DESSA.

Distinguished and Recognized

The DESSA has received acclaim from important organizations. In addition, several prominent publications have featured the DESSA as an effective social and emotional assessment.

Learn more about the DESSA’s recognition.

*The information regarding the DESSA was provided by LeBuffe, Shapiro, and Naglieri in their work entitled Devereux Student Strengths Assessment K–8th Grade: A Measure of Social-Emotional Competencies of Children in Kindergarten through Eighth Grade.