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Peer-Reviewed Articles, Published Reports, Articles & Chapters Featuring the DESSA by Aperture Education

Our research and development team strives to conduct research to provide the evidence base for our resources, advance the state of knowledge in our field, and provide information that will contribute to advocacy efforts for students’ social and emotional health.

About the DESSA

The DESSA is a 72-item, standardized, norm-referenced behavior rating scale that assesses eight social and emotional competencies that serve as protective factors for children in kindergarten through the eighth grade. The DESSA-mini is comprised of four 8-item parallel forms which are designed to be used on a universal (i.e. school- or program-wide) basis to determine the need for social and emotional interventions. The four 8-item forms are standardized, norm-referenced behavior rating scales that screen for social and emotional competencies which serve as protective factors for children in kindergarten through the eighth grade. If you are considering the use of the DESSA to measure outcomes for individual children, groups of children, and/or for program improvement purposes, this document provides the rationale for examining outcomes along with providing specific approaches for measuring outcomes.


DESSA Research Authored by the Aperture Team

Shapiro, V.B., Kim, B.K.E., Robitaille, J.L., LeBuffe, P.A., & Ziemer, K.L. (2018). Efficient implementation monitoring in routine prevention practice: A grand challenge for schools. Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research9(3), 377-394. https://doi.org/10.1086/699153

LeBuffe, P.A., Shapiro, V.B., & Robitaille, J.L. (2018). The Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) comprehensive system: Screening, assessing, planning, and monitoring. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology55, 62-70. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appdev.2017.05.002

Lee, J., Shapiro, V.B., Kim, B.K.E., & Yoo, J.P. (2018). Multilevel structural equation modeling for social work researchers: An introduction and application to Healthy Youth Development. Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research9(4), 689-719. https://doi.org/10.1086/701526

Chain, J., Shapiro, V.B., LeBuffe, P.A., Bryson, A.M., & American Indian and Alaska Native Advisory Committee (2017). Academic achievement of American Indian and Alaska Native Students: Does social-emotional competence reduce the impact of poverty? American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research24(1), 1-29. http://dx.doi.org/10.5820/aian.2401.2017.1

Shapiro, V.B., Kim, B.K.E., Robitaille, J.L., & LeBuffe, P.A. (2017). Protective factor screening for prevention practice: Sensitivity and specificity of the DESSA-Mini. School Psychology Quarterly32(4), 449-464. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/spq0000181

Shapiro, V.B., Accomazzo, S., & Robitaille, J.L. (2017). In the same ballpark or a whole new ball game? Staff as raters of youth behavior. Journal of Child and Family Studies26(4), 1051-1055. https://doi.org/10.1007/s1082

Shapiro, V.B., Kim, B.K.E., Accomazzo, S. & Roscoe, J.N. (2016). Predictors of rater bias in the assessment of social-emotional competence. The International Journal of Emotional Education8(2), 25-44.  https://www.um.edu.mt/library/oar//handle/123456789/14432

Simmons, C.A., Shapiro, V.B., Accomazzo, S., & Manthey, T.J. (2016). Strengths-Based Social Work: A Meta-Theory to Guide Social Work Research and Practice. In N. Coady & P. Lehmann (Eds.), Theoretical perspectives for direct social work practice (3rd edition, pp. 131-154). New York: Springer Publishing Company. https://escholarship.org/uc/item/7bn5d1w1

Shapiro, V.B. (2015). Resilience: Have we not gone far enough? A response to Larry E. Davis. Social Work Research, 39(1): 7-10. https://doi.org/10.1093/swr/svv001

Shapiro, V.B., Accomazzo, S., Claassen, J., & Fleming, J.L. (2015). The choices, challenges, and lessons learned from a multi-method social-emotional / character assessment in an out of school time setting. Journal of Youth Development: Bridging Research and Practice10(3), 32-45. http://jyd.pitt.edu/ojs/index.php/jyd/article/view/5/3

Smith, G.T., Shapiro, V.B., Sperry, R.W., & LeBuffe, P.A. (2014). A strengths-based approach to supervised visitation in child welfare. Child Care in Practice20(1), 98–119. https://doi.org/10.1080/13575279.2013.847056

Naglieri, J.A., LeBuffe, P.A., & Shapiro, V.B. (2013). Assessment of social-emotional competencies related to resilience. In S. Goldstein & R. Brooks (Eds.), Handbook of Resilience in Children. Boston, MA: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-3661-4_15

Naglieri, J.A., LeBuffe, P.A., & Ross, K.M. (2013). Measuring resilience in children: From theory to practice. In S. Goldstein & R. Brooks (Eds.), Handbook of Resilience in Children. Boston, MA: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-3661-4_14

LeBuffe, P.A., Ross, K.M., Fleming, J.L., & Naglieri, J.A. (2013). The Devereux Suite: Assessing and promoting resilience in children ages 1 month to 14 years. In S. Prince-Embury & D. Saklofske (Eds.). Resilience in Children, Adolescents, and Adults: Translating Research into Practice (pp. 45-59). New York, NY: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-4939-3_4

LeBuffe, P.A., Shapiro, V.B., & Naglieri, J.A. (2012/2014). The Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA): Assessment, technical manual, and user’s guide. Fort Mill, SC: Aperture Education.

Naglieri, J.A., LeBuffe, P.A., & Shapiro, V.B. (2011). Universal screening for social emotional competencies: A study of the reliability and validity of the DESSA-mini. Psychology in the Schools48(7): 660-671. https://doi.org/10.1002/pits.20586

Naglieri, J. A., LeBuffe, P. A., & Shapiro, V. B. (2011/2014). The Devereux Student Strengths Assessment – Mini (DESSA-Mini): Assessment, technical manual, and user’s guide. Fort Mill, SC: Aperture Education.

Woodland, S., Porter, R.E., & LeBuffe, P.A. (2011). Assessing strengths in residential treatment: Looking at the whole child. Residential Treatment for Children and Youth, 28(4), 283-302. https://doi.org/10.1080/0886571X.2011.615233

Naglieri, J.A., Goldstein, S., & LeBuffe, P.A. (2010). Resilience and impairment: An exploratory study of resilience factors and situational impairment. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment28(4), 349-356. https://doi.org/10.1177/0734282910366845

LeBuffe, P. A., Shapiro, V. B., & Naglieri, J. A. (2009/2014). The Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA): Assessment, technical manual, and user’s guide. Fort Mill, SC: Aperture Education.

LeBuffe, P.A. & Shapiro, V.B. (2008). Supporting parent-professional collaboration through strength-based assessment. In C. Newman, C. Liberton, K. Kutash, & R. Friedman (Eds.). A System of Care for Children’s Mental Health: Expanding the Research Base, 20, 263-266. http://rtckids.fmhi.usf.edu/rtcconference/proceedings/20thproceedings/20thChapter08.pdf

Shapiro, V.B. & LeBuffe, P.A. (2007). Strengths that matter: An empirical investigation of elementary school student success. In C. Newman, C. Liberton, K. Kutash, & R. Friedman (Eds.). A System of Care for Children’s Mental Health: Expanding the Research Base, 19, 107-110. http://rtckids.fmhi.usf.edu/rtcconference/proceedings/19thproceedings/19thChapter03.pdf

Shapiro, V.B. & LeBuffe, P.A. (2006). Using protective factors in practice: Lessons learned about resilience from a study of children aged five to thirteen. In B.M. Lester, A.S. Masten, & B. McEwen (Eds.). Resilience in Children. Annals of the New York Academy of the Sciences, 1094, 350-353. https://doi.org/10.1196/annals.1376.048

Nickerson, A.B., Brosof, A.M., & Shapiro, V.B. (2004). Predicting positive outcomes for students with emotional disturbance. California School Psychologist9, 39-49. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03340906


Externally Authored DESSA Research and Evaluation

Doromal, J.B., Cottone, E.A., & Kim, H. (2019). Preliminary validation of the teacher-rated DESSA in a low-income, kindergarten sample. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment37(1), 40-54. https://doi.org/10.1177/0734282917731460

Anderson, R.E. (2018). And still WE rise: Parent-child relationships, resilience, and school readiness in low-income urban Black families. Journal of Family Psychology32(1), 60-70. DOI: 10.1037/fam0000348

Brock, L.L., Kim, H., Kelly, C.L., Mashburn, A.J., & Grissmer, D.W. (2018). Theory of mind, directly and indirectly, facilitates kindergarten adjustment via verbal ability, executive function, and emotion knowledge. Psychology in the Schools, 1-18. https://doi.org/10.1002/pits.22216

Chance, E.K. (2018). The effects of the Ready for Success classroom guidance program on the social-emotional skills and competence, reading proficiency, and promotion rate of third-grade students (Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED585853

Conover, K. (2018). “Tell Me a Story®”: Promoting resiliency in military children (Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved from: https://scholarworks.umass.edu/dissertations_2/1226/

Kilpatrick, K.D., Maras, M.A., Brann, K.L., & Kilgus, S.P. (2018). Universal screening for social, emotional, and behavioral risk in students: DESSA-mini risk stability over time and its implications for screening procedures. School Psychology Review47(3), 244-257. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328225394_Universal_Screening_for_Social_Emotional_and_Behavioral_Risk_in_Students_DESSA-mini_Risk_Stability_Over_Time_and_Its_Implications_for_Screening_Procedures

Orduna, I. (2018). Effectiveness of a group theraplay intervention for improving the socio-emotional functioning of children with developmental disabilities (Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved from: https://ubir.buffalo.edu/xmlui/handle/10477/78554

Volpe, R.J., & Briesch, A.M. (2018). Establishing evidence-based behavioral screening practices in U.S. schools. School Psychology Review47(4), 396-402. http://naspjournals.org/loi/spsr

Walker, J.D., & Berry, C. (2018). Assessing and supporting social-skill needs for students with high-incidence disabilities. Teaching Exceptional Children51(1), 18-30. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0040059918790219

Warmbold-Brann, K., Maras, M.A., Splett, J.Q., Smith-Millman, M., Dinnen, H., & Flaspohler, P. (2018). Examining the long-term stability of a strengths-based screener over 2 years. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment36(8), 767-781. https://doi.org/10.1177/0734282917720564

Whitehead, L., Allan, M.C., Allen, K., Duchak, V., King, E., Mason, C., Mooney, L., &Tully, S. (2018). ‘Give us a break!’: Using a solution focused programme to help young people cope with loss and negative change. Bereavement Care37(1), 17-27. https://doi.org/10.1080/02682621.2018.1443597

DeMaiolo, J.N. (2017). Getting gritty with it: An analysis of grit and reading stamina in first grade students (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from: https://etd.ohiolink.edu/pg_10?0::NO:10:P10_ACCESSION_NUM:miami1499873738234926

Jones, S., Brush, K., Bailey, R., Brion-Meisels, G., McIntyre, J., Kahn, J., Nelson, B., & Stickle, L. (2017). Navigating SEL from the inside out: Looking inside & across 25 leading SEL programs-A practical resource for schools and OST providers. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Graduate School of Education. Retrieved from: http://www.wallacefoundation.org/knowledge-center/Documents/Navigating-Social-and-Emotional-Learning-from-the-Inside-Out.pdf

Melnick, H., Cook-Harvey, C.M., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2017). Encouraging social and emotional learning in the context of new accountability. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute. Retrieved from: http://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/sel-new-accountability.

Sepanta, M., Juzdani, M.H., & Ahmad, A. (2017). Psychometric properties of Persian version of the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment Scale. Developmental Psychology: Journal of Iranian Psychologists14(53), 63-73. https://www.sid.ir/en/journal/ViewPaper.aspx?id=597438

Soares, D.A., George, C.C., & Vannest, K.J. (2017). Screening and progress monitoring in secondary schools. In J.R. Harrison, B.K. Schultz, & S.W. Evans (Eds.). School Mental Health Services for Adolescents (pp. 249). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Byrd, C., Chmela, K., Coleman, C., Weidner, M., Kelly, E., Reichhardt, R., & Irani, F. (2016). An introduction to camps for children who stutter: What they are and how they can help. Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups1(4), 55-69. https://doi.org/10.1044/persp1.SIG4.55

Compton, A. (2016). Examining the longitudinal stability of a dual-factor model of mental health in early elementary school students (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from: https://digital.lib.washington.edu/researchworks/handle/1773/37096

Hatchimonji, D.R. (2016). Grit in Latino middle school students: Construct validity and psychometric properties of the short grit scale (Master’s thesis). Retrieved from: https://rucore.libraries.rutgers.edu/rutgers-lib/49206/

Lorenz, C.M. (2016). Universal screening for social emotional competencies: Is DIBELS an option? (Master’s Thesis). Retrieved from: https://www.twu.ca/library

McNeeley, J.T. (2016). An evaluation of the Second Step social emotional learning program in a public charter elementary school (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations Publishing: https://search.proquest.com/openview/46879309557a79bb1d1a3d26b334a70c/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y

Augustine, C.H., McCombs, J.S., Pane, J.F., Schwartz, H.L., Schweig, J., McEachin, A., & Siler-Evans, K. (2016). Learning from summer: Effects of voluntary summer learning programs on low-income urban youth. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1557.html

Anderson, R.E. (2015). Focusing on family: Parent-child relationships and school readiness among economically impoverished black children. The Journal of Negro Education, 84(3), 442-456. www.jstor.org/stable/10.7709/jnegroeducation.84.3.0442

Bacal, E.B. (2015). The relationship between placement and social skills in gifted students (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ASU electronic dissertations and theses. Retrieved from: https://repository.asu.edu/items/29921

Denham, S.A. (2015). Assessment of SEL in educational contexts. In J.A. Durlak, C.E., Domitrovich, R.P. Weissberg, & T.P. Gullotta (Eds.), Handbook of Social and Emotional Learning: Research and Practice (pp. 285-300). View Book Synopsis.

Low, S., Cook. C.R., Smolkowski, K. & Buntain-Ricklefs, J.B. (2015). Promoting social-emotional competence: An evaluation of the elementary version of Second Step®. Journal of School Psychology, 53, 463-477. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2015.09.002

Maras, M.A., Thompson A.M., Lewis, C. Thornburg, K., & Hawks, J. (2015). Developing a tiered response model for social-emotional learning through interdisciplinary collaboration. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 25, 1-26. https://doi.org/10.1080/10474412.2014.929954

Rossi, Jessica. (2015). Teacher Child Interaction Training as a universal prevention program in preschool and kindergarten classrooms. (Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved from: https://commons.lib.jmu.edu/diss201019/11/

Pendry, P., Smith, A.N., & Roeter, S.M. (2014). Randomized trial examines effects of equine facilitated learning on adolescents’ basal cortisol levels. Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin2(1), 80-95. https://www.apa-hai.org/human-animal-interaction/haib/effects-of-equine-facilitated-learning/

Harrison, J.R., Vannest, K.J., & Reynolds, C.R. (2013). Social acceptability of five screening instruments for social, emotional, and behavioral challenges. Behavioral Disorders38(3), 171-189. https://doi.org/10.1177/019874291303800305

Jenson, J., & Peña S.L. (2013). Research brief number 29: Participation in Second Step Program improves social and emotional skills in 2012-2013. The Bridge Project. The Graduate School of Social Work University of Denver, Denver, Co. View Research Brief. Learn about The Bridge Project.

Kong, T. (2013). Socioemotional competencies, cognitive ability, and achievement in gifted students (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ASU electronic dissertations and theses. Retrieved from: https://repository.asu.edu/items/20861

Nickerson, A.B., & Fishman, C. (2013). Promoting mental health and resilience through strength-based assessment in US schools. Educational and Child Psychology, 30(4), 7-17. Retrieved from: https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2014-01610-002

Pendry, P., & Roeter, S. (2013). Experimental trial demonstrates positive effects of equine facilitated learning on child social competence. Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin, 1(1), 1-19. Retrieved from: https://www.apa-hai.org/human-animal-interaction/haib/experimental-trial-demonstrates-positive-effects-of-equine-facilitated-learning-on-child-social-competence/

Perham, H.J. (2012). Interpersonal skills of gifted students: Risk versus resilience. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ASU electronic dissertations and theses: https://repository.asu.edu/items/14759

Tsang, K.L.V., Wong, P.Y.H., & Lo, S.K. (2012). Assessing psychosocial well-being of adolescents: A systematic review of measurement instruments. Child: Care, Health and Development, 38(35), 629-646.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2214.2011.01355.x

Ysseldyke, J., Lekwa, A.J., Klingbeil, D.A., & Cormier, D.C. (2012). Assessment of ecological factors as an integral part of academic and mental health consultation. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 22, 21-43. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10474412.2011.649641

Nickerson, A.B., & Fishman, C. (2009). Convergent and divergent validity of the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment. School Psychology Quarterly, 24(1), 48-59. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0015147


DESSA Reviews

Atlas, J. A. (2010). Test review of the Devereux student strengths assessment. In R. A. Spies, J. F. Carlson, & K. F. Geisinger (Eds.), The eighteenth mental measurements yearbook (pp. 178–180). Lincoln, NE: Buros Center for Testing.

Haggerty, K., Elgin, J., & Woolley, A. (2011). Social-emotional learning assessment measures for middle school youth. Seattle, WA: Social Development Research Group, University of Washington: Commissioned by the Raikes Foundation.

Malcomb, K. K. (2010). Test review of the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment. In R. A. Spies, J. F. Carlson, & K. F. Geisinger (Eds.), The eighteenth mental measurements yearbook (pp. 180–182). Lincoln, NE: Buros Center for Testing.

Atlas, J. A. (2010). Test review of the Devereux student strengths assessment. In R. A. Spies, J. F. Carlson, & K. F. Geisinger (Eds.), The eighteenth mental measurements yearbook (pp. 178–180). Lincoln, NE: Buros Center for Testing.

Haggerty, K., Elgin, J., & Woolley, A. (2011). Social-emotional learning assessment measures for middle school youth. Seattle, WA: Social Development Research Group, University of Washington: Commissioned by the Raikes Foundation.

Malcomb, K. K. (2010). Test review of the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment. In R. A. Spies, J. F. Carlson, & K. F. Geisinger (Eds.), The eighteenth mental measurements yearbook (pp. 180–182). Lincoln, NE: Buros Center for Testing.


Devereux Center for Resilient Children Research Reports

The Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) Spanish Equivalency Study

Devereux Center for Resilient Children. (2014).The Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) Spanish Equivalency Study. Villanova, PA: Sean Woodland, Gabriel Smith, Jennifer Fleming, Kylie O’Neill-Mullin, Alex Shortall, & Katherine Ross.

An Examination of the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) as Related to the Social and Work Skills Subscales on the ABAS-II with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Co-occurring Autism Spectrum Disorders

Devereux Center for Resilient Children. (2013). An Examination of the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) as Related to the Social and Work Skills Subscales on the ABAS-II with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Co-Occuring Autism Spectrum Disorders.Villanova, PA: Richard Allen.

The Devereux Student Strengths Assessment and its Relationship to Academic Achievement

Devereux Center for Resilient Children. (2009).The Devereux Student Strengths Assessment and its Relationship to Academic Achievement. Villanova, PA: Amanda Ball.

Examining the Contextual Validity of the DESSA and DESSA-mini for use in Primary and Middle School Settings

Devereux Center for Resilient Children. (2009). Examining the Contextual Validity of the DESSA and DESSA-mini for use in Primary and Middle School Settings. Villanova, PA: Paul LeBuffe, Amanda Ball & Christopher Hughes.

DESSA-mini: A Strength-based Universal Screener of Students’ Social-Emotional Competence

Devereux Center for Resilient Children. (2009). DESSA-mini: A strength-based universal screener of students’ social-emotional competence. Villanova, PA: Christopher Hughes.

For more information on our research, team, and the Aperture System, contact us.

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