The DESSA SEL Assessment

A standardized, strength-based SEL assessment that measures the social and emotional competence of youth in kindergarten through 8th grade.
Looking for the DESSA for high school students? Learn more about the DESSA-High School Edition.



What is the DESSA SEL Assessment?

The Devereux Students Strengths Assessment (DESSA), originally developed by the Devereux Center for Resilient Children, is the flagship social emotional learning assessment of Aperture Education’s DESSA System. It is a standardized, strength-based behavior rating scale completed in 5 to 8 minutes and used by educators and parents to measure the social-emotional competence for children in grades K-8. Grounded in resilience theory and directly aligned to the CASEL framework, the DESSA is a user-friendly, practical social emotional learning assessment that meets the highest professional standards. The DESSA is commonly used to inform the delivery of SEL at tier 1 or tier 2 as well as measuring the results of that delivery.

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Social Emotional Learning Assessment with the DESSA

Research-Based: The DESSA is both nationally standardized and norm-referenced, with a standardization sample of n=2494. In addition, it exceeds the recommended standard for rater reliability. For more specific information, visit our DESSA 101 page.

Progress Monitoring: In addition to the full, 72-item DESSA and 43-item DESSA-HSE, the DESSA-mini (a shorter, 8-item social emotional learning assessment) can be used to monitor your students’ social and emotional development throughout the school year, providing actionable data to steer quality SEL intervention.

CASEL Aligned: Aperture Education’s 8 social and emotional learning (SEL) competencies are directly aligned to the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning’s (CASEL) highly-regarded five SEL competency framework.

Multi-lingual: The DESSA is provided in both English and Spanish, serving all raters – including families – who may not speak English as a first language.

Personalized Use: Along with access to the DESSA, DESSA-HSE, and DESSA-mini, users also have access to the full suite of growth strategies and foundational practices, as well as 24/7 system support and a team of dedicated personnel. This ensures that each users experience is efficient, yet personalized.

Safe and Secure: See our Privacy Policy for a full statement on our commitment to safe and secure data collection, including adding our signature to the Student Data Privacy Pledge.



Identify Student Strengths Using Social and Emotional Competencies

The DESSA covers the following social and emotional competencies:

SEL Assessment — Self Awareness

Self Awareness

SEL Assessment — Self-Management

Self-Management

SEL Assessment — Social Awareness

Social Awareness

SEL Assessment — Relationship Skills

Relationship Skills

SEL Assessment — Goal Directed Behavior

Goal-Directed Behavior

SEL Assessment — Personal Responsibility

Personal Responsibility

SEL Assessment — Decision Making

Decision Making

SEL Assessment — Optimistic Thinking

Optimistic Thinking

The DESSA SEL assessment has been cited by a number of research and media organizations for its strong research-based foundation, emphasis on promoting the social and emotional strengths of children, and ability to be used in conjunction with many other effective SEL programs.

Navigating Social and Emotional Learning from the Inside Out
from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Wallace Foundation