DESSA Research & Standardization

Combining a strong research backing with statistical standardization, the DESSA is an assessment tool that delivers accurate and reliable results.

Rooted in Research

The concept of the DESSA is underpinned by a strong academic basis. Researchers LeBuffe, Shapiro, and Naglieri formulated the DESSA from scholarly literature surrounding social-emotional learning, positive youth development, and resilience.

Research has found a positive connection between social-emotional learning and successful education. A 2014 Schonfeld et al. report shows social-emotional learning has the ability to improve the academic situations of at-risk youth.

Likewise, positive youth development also has strong scholarly support. As researchers Catalano, Berglund, Ryan, Lonczak, and Hawkins (2004) explain in a broad article on the topic, positive youth development has the potential to increase students’ academic performance and mitigate behaviors such as drug use, violence, and absenteeism.

Since the DESSA was conceptualized from these schools of thought, it offers educators a valuable tool for achieving the success of the previously mentioned educational strategies. Administrators whose students include both well-adjusted children and at-risk youth will find that the DESSA is an assessment that addresses these needs.

Standardized for Reliability

Educators can rely on the DESSA to deliver accurate results. During national standardization, researchers involved teachers, parents, and educational staff for conducting DESSA assessments. For the participating students, researchers gathered over 2,000 children from the 50 states of the U.S. to form a broad sample size.

As a benchmark, the developers of the DESSA used the Statistical Abstract of the United States 2008. The DESSA’s reliability is bolstered by its conformity to the characteristics of the larger U.S. population. For example, the DESSA’s gender and racial distribution, as well as the geographic regions represented by the students, correlate to data on U.S. demographics. Additionally, researchers standardized the socioeconomic status of the children by referencing school lunch programs. This helped the study approximate the same number of children below the poverty level as the population at large.

The statistical rigor applied to the development of the DESSA assures educators and administrators alike that the DESSA assessment tool can be applied to students nationwide, regardless of age, gender, or other factors.

*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.


  • Positive Youth Development in the United States: Research findings on evaluations of Positive Youth Development programs. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
    Catalano, R. F., Berglund, M. L., Ryan, J. A. M., Lonczak H. S., & Hawkins, J. D. (2004). 591(1), 98-124. doi: 10.1177/0002716203260102
  • Cluster-randomized trial demonstrating impact on academic achievement of elementary social-emotional learning. (2015). Schonfeld, D. J., Adams, R. E., Fredstrom, B. K., Weissberg, R. P., Gilman, R., Voyce, C.,…Speese-Linehan, D. School Psychology Quarterly, 30, 406-420. doi:10.1037/spq0000099