Evidence Base for the DESSA by Aperture Education

Educators can easily incorporate the DESSA into their broader SEL program, knowing that the DESSA is supported by an empirical evidence base that demonstrates its reliability and validity.

Research Supporting the Reliability of the DESSA

Having a social-emotional assessment tool that is reliable when administered by various individuals is a necessity. Researchers LeBuffe, Shapiro, and Naglieri tested the reliability of the DESSA in a number of ways.

When developing the assessment, statistical analysis of internal reliability was conducted using the sample gathered for the DESSA’s standardization. LeBuffe, Shapiro, and Naglieri examined the data using Cronbach’s alpha. In their research, they confirmed that the DESSA demonstrates internal reliability.

Equally important is the DESSA’s ability to produce consistent results independent of its administration date. Accordingly, LeBuffe, Shapiro, and Naglieri conducted a study that measured the correlations between two DESSA assessments conducted at two different times. The results showed that the correlations, both for parents and teachers, gave strong support for the validity of the DESSA.

Additionally, research was conducted to determine the reliability of the DESSA given different raters. For educators, it is important that an assessment tool can produce a reliable picture of a child’s social-emotional state whether that assessment is completed by a teacher, counselor, or parent. Research conducted by the DESSA’s developers has confirmed that results are not significantly affected by the person who administers the assessment.

Research Supporting the Validity of the DESSA

If an assessment is reliable, it must also prove to be valid. Researchers LeBuffe, Shapiro, and Naglieri probed this aspect of the DESSA in their research.

To test validity, LeBuffe, Shapiro, and Naglieri compared the results of two groups of children given DESSA assessments. While one group came from the standardization sample, the other group was formed from children undergoing intervening education because of emotional difficulties. Statistical analysis showed that the scores of the two dissimilar groups were divergent, indicating the DESSA’s validity as an assessment of students’ social-emotional strengths and needs.

The validity of the DESSA was also bolstered by a 2009 study conducted by Nickerson and Fishman. Using other assessment tools (the BASC-2 and the BERS-2), researchers tested the DESSA and found that it exhibited both convergent and divergent validity.

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


Nickerson, A. B., & Fishman, C. (2009). Convergent and divergent validity of the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment. School Psychology QuarterlyLink: DESSA Convergent and Divergent Validity

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