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DESSA Assessment in ACPS

As part of ACPS’ commitment to social, emotional, and academic learning (SEAL), our schools will be using a tool called the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA). For students in grades K-8, the DESSA-mini tool asks teachers to assess how often a student has demonstrated specific life skills in the past month. Students in grades 9-12 will take the DESSA-HSE-SSR themselves to be able to assess their own skills over the past month. 

 Sample DESSA-mini questions include: 

  • How often did the child keep trying when unsuccessful? 
  • How often did the child offer to help somebody? 
  • How often did the child do routine tasks or chores without being reminded? 
  • How often did the child work hard on projects?

Sample DESSA-HSE-SSR questions include:

  • How often did you serve an important role at home or school?
  • How often did you take an active role in your learning?
  • How often did you trust that your hard work will pay off?
  • How often did you share credit when appropriate?

The purpose of the DESSA is to identify which life skills students have already learned and what skills they might still need to develop. Once schools identify the skills that might need more development, they will work to incorporate those areas into daily SEAL lessons. Our goal is to ensure that your child is continuously developing the skills they need for lifelong success both inside and outside of the classroom.

It is important for parents or guardians to know: 

  • The screening instrument does not assess or diagnose students’ mental health
  • The assessment will be completed in both the fall of 2023 and spring of 2024
  • All of the questions have been reviewed by the division and are deemed appropriate for use by teachers of students in grades K through eight and with students in grades nine through twelve. 
  • You have the right to opt-out your child. Students in grades nine through twelve may also opt-out on the day the survey is given. Opt-out information will be sent to families through Qualtrics.
  • Access to the results of the DESSA will be limited to those who directly serve the student (e.g. classroom teacher, school counselor, nurse, psychologist, or social worker, principal)
  • Parents or guardians will be able to review their child’s results in the PowerSchool Parent Portal during the 2023-24 school year

Learn more: DESSA Assessment FAQs

The DESSA is published by Aperture Education who has serviced hundreds of school districts and afterschool programs nationwide. Our district chose the DESSA in part because of Aperture Education’s strong commitment to respecting and protecting your child’s privacy. Aperture Education will never share your child’s data with a third party. We also chose Aperture Education because they offer a “parent portal” on their website that provides resources, tips, and strategies to parents on supporting their child’s development.

View additional information about the DESSA, the privacy policy, or the parent portal

If you have any questions or concerns about the survey, contact Dr. Victor Martin, Executive Director of Student Support Teams, at  

Families have the right to opt out their child from participation by informing their school counselor by Nov. 9, 2023. Students in grades 9-12 may also opt-out on the day the survey is given.

Opt-out Form