Social and
for K-12

Empower your educators to build a measurable and
actionable social and emotional learning (SEL) program
with the DESSA suite of assessments.

Evidence-based SEL Assessment to Support Student Growth

Directly aligned to the CASEL™ framework, the DESSA is a nationally standardized, strength-based behavior rating scale that assesses students’ social and emotional competence with editions that support students K-12. It has been used by districts and out-of-school time programs across the country to support social and emotional learning, and has been used or evaluated in 130+ peer reviewed studies.

Download the DESSA Manual for an in-depth look into the research behind the DESSA and how it can be implemented in your district or organization.

About the DESSA

The DESSA provides a common lens and language for crafting an SEL program that involves educators, parents, and students. The DESSA is commonly used to inform the delivery of SEL at Tier 1, Tier 2, or Tier 3 as well as measuring the results of that delivery, and supports a variety of educational models including:

  • Academic Success
  • Mental Health
  • School Climate and Culture
  • 21st Century Skills
  • College and Career Readiness
  • Gifted and Talented
  • Equity
  • Restorative Justice

We Start With Strengths

The DESSA is entirely strength-based; meaning that the items query positive behaviors (e.g., get along with others) rather than maladaptive ones (e.g., annoy others). For each behavior, the rater (a teacher or parent) is asked to indicate on a five-point scale how often the student engaged in that behavior over the past four weeks.

Sample Questions:

Social Awareness

How often did the child work well in groups?


How often did the child get things done in a timely fashion?

Relationship Skills

How often did the child offer to help somebody?

Goal-Directed Behavior

How often did the child keep trying when unsuccessful?

CASEL-aligned Competencies

The DESSA provides information about eight key social and emotional competencies aligned to the CASEL framework. DESSA scores can be used to pinpoint each child’s specific strengths and opportunities for growth in each of the eight social and emotional competency domains and guide school/program-wide, class-wide, small group strategies, and individual strategies to promote those competencies.

Reliable, Valid, Respected

Trusted by Johns Hopkins University, American Institutes for Research (AIR), the Rand Corporation, City Year, and the Y of the USA for use in major studies, the DESSA sets the standard for SEL assessment. The DESSA measures were developed to meet or exceed the standards promulgated by the American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education (AERA, 2014). The DESSA-mini one-minute screener is the only screener to meet universal criteria set forth by the World Health Organization.

The DESSA for K-8

The DESSA suite for students K-8 includes the DESSA-mini, a one-minute screener and progress monitoring tool, and the DESSA, a diagnostic assessment tool.

A teacher and parent rating tool established in over a decade of science and peer-reviewed literature.

  • 72 questions
  • 5-8 minutes to complete
  • 8 competencies aligned to CASEL
  • English and Spanish

DESSA-mini (K-8)
The DESSA-mini can be completed by teachers and parents to enable universal screening and progress monitoring of social and emotional competence.

  • 8 questions
  • 1 minute to complete
  • 4 alternate forms for progress monitoring

The DESSA and DESSA-mini have helped districts and out-of-school time programs across the country use social and emotional learning to support K-8 tiered instruction, improve academics, reduce behavioral infractions, increase student engagement, and more. Learn all of the ways you can understand students’ specific strengths and opportunities for growth to guide SEL instruction in your district, school, or program in the DESSA manual.

The DESSA for 9-12

The DESSA suite for students 9-12 includes the DESSA High School Edition (HSE) mini, a one-minute screener, the DESSA High School Edition, a teacher-completed diagnostic assessment, and the DESSA-High School Edition Student Self-Report, a student-completed assessment.

DESSA HSE (9-12)
A teacher-rating tool to help high school staff and students dig deeper into student strengths and growth opportunities.

  • 43 questions
  • 3-5 minutes to complete

DESSA HSE mini (9-12)
The DESSA-mini provides universal screening and progress monitoring of social and emotional competence when completed by teachers and parents.

  • 8 questions
  • 1 minute to complete
  • 4 alternate forms for progress monitoring

A student self-rating that delivers real-time results and immediate strategies to incorporate student voice and choice in SEL.

  • 55 questions
  • 5-7 minutes to complete
  • Real-time feedback directly to students through the Aperture Student Portal

The DESSA-High School Edition suite has helped districts and out-of-school time programs support students grades 9-12 grow their social and emotional competence in preparation for college and career. Learn more about how the DESSA-HSE can support your high school students in the DESSA Manual.

Make an Impact with Your Biggest Strength: Your Educators

Effective SEL implementation starts with caring and knowledgeable educators who model SEL to their students. Through the Educator Social and Emotional Reflection and Training (EdSERT) professional development program, you and your staff will learn about the CASEL-aligned competencies assessed through the DESSA, how to use these competencies in supporting your own well-being, and strategies to model and use in the classroom.

Ready to build a strength-based SEL program designed around research-based standards and reliable data?