Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA)

General Information on the Measure
Purpose of the measure

DESSA assesses eight social and emotional competencies and is intended to help educators plan instruction, document students’ strengths and areas of need, inform progress monitoring, and evaluate program outcomes.

Main constructs measured

Cognitive competencies; Interpersonal competencies; Intrapersonal competencies

Applicable grade levels


Publication year for the most recent version


Year originally developed


Related measures
Measure Administration

Parents/guardians, teachers, or staff at schools and child-serving agencies, including after-school, social service, and mental health programs.

Method of administration

Paper/Pencil, Digital

Number of items


Item format

Five-point Likert-type scale

Administration time

Five to 10 minutes

Available languages

English, Spanish

Fee for use Fee charged by developer
Credentials required for administration


Overall score reporting

An overall Social-Emotional Composite score is reported.

Subscore reporting

There are eight subscores:

  • Self-awareness
  • Social awareness
  • Self-management
  • Goal-directed behavior
  • Relationship skills
  • Personal responsibility
  • Decisionmaking
  • Optimistic thinking
Scoring procedures

Scoring manual and online scoring service is provided by the assessment developers.

Interpretive information

DESSA results are reported using T-scores and percentile ranks. Tools are also available for pre-test/post-test comparisons and rater comparisons. Online administration produces individual student, classroom, site, and program-level reports.

Evidence of Technical Quality
Populations for which technical quality evidence has been collected

A nationally representative sample of 2,500 children from across the United States (LeBuffe et al., 2009). Ratings were provided by teachers, out-of-school time staff and parents/guardians, 227 raters from across the United States (Nickerson & Fishman, 2009).

Reliability evidence

Internal consistency coefficients were estimated for the Social-Emotional composite as well as the eight subscales; they were estimated separately for parent and teacher raters. Coefficient alpha ranged from 0.82 to 0.99. Test-retest reliabilities ranged from 0.79 to 0.90 (parents), and 0.86 to 0.94 (teachers/staff). Intra-rater reliabilities had correlation coefficients of 0.73 for parents, and 0.74 for teachers/staff (LeBuffe et al., 2009).

Validity evidence
Evidence based on content
Content-related validity evidence was gathered through literature reviews (LeBuffe et al., 2009).
Evidence based on response processes
No information available in the references reviewed.
Evidence based on internal structure
Items were organized into logically derived and statistically validated scales based on the CASEL framework of social and emotional competencies (LeBuffe et al., 2009).
Evidence based on relations with other variables
An analysis showed divergence in DESSA scores between students identified as having social, emotional or behavioral disorders and their peers (LeBuffe, P.A., Shapiro, V.B., & Naglieri, J.A. (2009). DESSA scores showed significant correlations in the anticipated directions with other measures of similar constructs, including the BASC-2 (Reynolds & Kamphaus, 2004) and the BERS-2 (Epstein, 2004).
Locating the Measure
Obtaining a copy of the measure

LeBuffe, P.A., Shapiro, V.B., & Naglieri, J.A. , "The Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA)," Kaplan Press, 2009.

Nickerson, A. B., & Fishman, C. (2009), "Convergent and divergent validity of the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment," School Psychology Quarterly, No. 24, 2009, pp. 48–59.

Epstein, M. H. , "BERS-2: Behavioral and Emotional Rating Scale," Examiner’s Manual, Vol. Second edition , Pro-Ed, 2004.

Reynolds, C. R., & Kamphaus, R. W. , "BASC-2: Behavior assessment system for children," 2004.


This measure is also reviewed in the AWG Guide.

Measure summary updated October 3, 2018.