The DESSA assesses 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.

As a reminder, a student’s score on the DESSA Pre-Assessment and Post-Assessment will be in one of three descriptive ranges:

  • Need for Instruction and/or Support, scores of 40 and below indicate that the student has a “need for instruction” to further develop social and emotional skills,

  • Typical, scores of 41-59 inclusive indicate that the student is showing a “typical” amount of positive behaviors related to social and emotional competence, and

  • Strength, scores of 60 and above indicate that the student has social and emotional “strengths”.

Teachers, counselors, and other staff supporting students review a student’s Pre-Assessment (typically administered at the beginning of the school year) and gather additional data to assign support strategies to help the student improve their social and emotional competencies. Support strategies can include individual and group counseling, check-in, and check-out systems, mentorship, etc., and the student’s score on their Pre-Assessment along with the additional data gathered usually determines the type and frequency of support strategies. Once a Post-Assessment is administered (typically at the end of the school year) a student will have a “Pre” and a “Post” score. The difference between these scores shows whether and by how much a student has grown, partly as a result of the assigned support strategies.

While the ultimate goal is for students scoring in the Need for Instruction and/or Support range to end up in the Typical or Strength range, and for students scoring in the Typical range to end up in the Strength range, it is important to remember that growth can take time and it is often the case that students grow within a given range versus jump to another descriptive range, especially in the short-term.

The graphic below will help you understand what different amounts of growth mean and what different ranges suggest about the support strategies assigned to a student.

Large Decrease

-8 or more

Support strategies are unlikely to be working well. Consider discontinuing the current plan and consult with the pupil personnel team and/or counselor to better understand factors that may be impacting the student.

Medium Decrease

-7, -6, or -5

Support strategies are moderately ineffective. Consider enhancing current supports by adjusting tiers from group to individual and/or adding new supports. Consult with the pupil personnel team and/or counselor to determine appropriate adjustments.

Small Decrease

-4, -3, or -2

Support strategies may be somewhat ineffective. Consider increasing frequency, duration, and/or intensity, or try new strategies. If only using group strategies/supports, consider individualized strategies/supports.

No Change

-1, 0, or +1

Support strategies may not be working as intended. Consider reviewing additional data (attendance, implementation fidelity, etc.) and try new strategies. Consult with pupil personnel team and/or counselor.

Small Increase

+2, +3, or +4

Support strategies are somewhat effective. Consider increasing frequency, duration, and/or intensity, or try new strategies. If only using group strategies/supports, consider individualized strategies/supports.

Medium Increase

+5, +6, +7

Support strategies are moderately effective. Consider enhancing current supports or adding new supports, as resources permit.

Large Increase

+8 or more

Support strategies are working well. Continue the current plan!

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