Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve pulled together a list of our most frequently asked questions. Looking for something specific? Email us:

Social and Emotional Learning: The Basics

SEL is defined by CASEL as, “the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

Social and emotional skills are important for both children and adults to build and maintain healthy relationships and to develop a strong and balanced sense to self. These skills are vital in school, after school and in the workplace.

Social and emotional skills have always been an integral part of a school’s environment, but are now more clearly defined and practiced. From self-management to relationship skills, students are confronted each day with situations where social and emotional skills can be used as a toolkit for success.

There are a number of ways you can support SEL at home. If your child’s school has an SEL program in place, there may be resources available to supplement what they are learning. Make sure to check out our free SEL resources page just for parents and families to find activities.

Social and emotional learning, grit, growth mindset, resilience, and personalized competencies are just a few of the terms used to describe the “soft skills” or non-cognitive factors linked to student success. Learn more about each of these terms here.

SEL Assessment

An SEL assessment is a series of questions that is used to understand a child’s level of social and emotional competence.

The DESSA stands for the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment and is the assessment portion of Aperture Education’s SEL system, Evo Social/Emotional. The DESSA was co-authored by our VP of Research & Development, Paul LeBuffe, as a way to measure and understand a child’s social and emotional competence. It is a nationally normed and standardized, strength-based assessment. This means it has been tested and validated by extensive research, and emphasizes a student’s social and emotional strengths rather than deficits.

The DESSA asks educators to rate a student using a likert scale (selecting never, rarely, occasionally, frequently, very frequently) based on observations during the past 4 weeks. The DESSA asks things like “During the past 4 week, how often did the child…
-learn from experience
-remember important information
-accept another choice when his/her first choice was unavailable”

No. The DESSA-mini, DESSA, and DESSA-SSE can be completed without student involvement. However, raters should know the student for at least four weeks. All ratings are based on observable student behaviors and are typically completed by teachers, parents, counselors or other administrators.

The DESSA has garnered critical acclaim in several publications. It has also been recognized by CASEL, the American Institutes for Research (AIR), and the Raikes Foundation. Learn more.

Raters can include parents, guardians, teachers, and out-of-school-time staff. The DESSA was tested to ensure its accuracy is not dependent on who is rating the student. Learn more.

Yes. The DESSA and the DESSA-mini have been tested for reliability and validity. Learn more.

The DESSA can be rated digitally on the Evo SEL platform. It can also be printed off to create paper record forms.

Yes. The DESSA-mini and the DESSA are available in both English and Spanish.

School staff sometimes use the DESSA as a measure of pre- and post-intervention. Meaning, for example, they screen one time before teaching social and emotional lessons to understand the base line of needs and again after actions have been taken to bolster social and emotional skills.

Reports and Security

Students should never be labeled or graded negatively if they show a “need for instruction” on the DESSA-mini, DESSA, or DESSA-SSE. The purpose of the DESSA is to help identify areas of social and emotional strengths as well as social and emotional skills that need to be developed. Students may need help developing these skills and the DESSA provides teachers, counselors and parents with an objective, reliable and valid way of understanding what skills students need to develop as well as monitoring whether the strategies we use to develop the skills are working. If you are concerned about how your student’s school or program leadership is using the DESSA results, we encourage you to have an open conversation with them about these concerns.

Aperture’s Evo SEL online system will maintain the records for as long as your school, district or program maintains a license to use the system but that does not mean that the score will go onto any official school record. The purpose of the DESSA is to help educators understand the strengths and needs of students so they can teach students the social and emotional skills they need to be effective in school and out of school. If you have specific concerns regarding how DESSA data is being used, we encourage you to have a conversation with your principal or program administrator.

Absolutely. Security is our top priority at Aperture Education. We ensure security of student data by hosting our system on the most comprehensive coverage of any provider. Learn more about our dedication to security on our [Privacy Page].

Parents are typically entitled to see the results of any of their children’s assessments. Please ask your school or organization for more details.