Press Releases


CSDE Announces New Partnership to Launch Statewide K-12 Social-Emotional Learning Assessment System

Universal Screener Provides Data to Strengthen Social -Emotional Skills, Informs Instruction for Students Who Need Additional Support

(HARTFORD) – In honor of national Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Day today, the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) announced it is entering into a partnership with Aperture Education to provide a statewide SEL assessment for K-12 schools. Starting in the fall of 2021 and after a thorough procurement process, CSDE will make Aperture’s research-backed social-emotional learning assessments, the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) System and the DESSA-mini, available to all Connecticut districts at no cost.

“Reinforcing a strong, statewide system of supports around SEL and mental health is how we will most effectively address the unprecedented level of trauma, anxiety, and uncertainty that both students and school staff have experienced over the past year. Outside the context of the pandemic, we know the integration of SEL is a key component in PK-12 education and contributes to whole-child success in school, life, and career,” said Acting Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker. “As we continue to advance this important work together, adding DESSA as part of a coordinated approach to providing SEL supports will allow us to build upon existing efforts already underway in districts across the state.”

The DESSA system is a strength-based assessment of behaviors related to social-emotional well-being that helps in identifying interventions and supports, including documenting progress over time and outcomes. Additionally, there is a supplemental assessment to target specific areas of need for individual students based on results of the primary assessment. The Aperture System consists of two SEL Assessments:

  1. The DESSA-mini is an 8-item universal screener that can be completed in 60 seconds and provides a snapshot of each student’s overall social and emotional competence.
  2. The DESSA is a follow-up assessment typically completed for students found to be in need of additional SEL instruction on the DESSA-mini. It takes 5 minutes and provides a more detailed understanding of each student’s unique social-emotional strengths and opportunities for growth in areas such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

These assessments are relatively quick to complete, provide school staff with the data to understand students’ current social -emotional skills, and inform SEL instruction for students who need additional support.

“Connecticut is showing tremendous leadership in ensuring equitable access to social and emotional learning in its schools and we are honored to partner with the CSDE on this initiative,” said Jessica Adamson, CEO of Aperture Education. “By providing schools with reliable, actionable SEL data, we can help them identify the best ways to support every students’ well-being which will help them set students up for success both in school, and in life. We are looking forward to collaborating with districts across the state to help them support the whole child.”  

DESSA system is already being piloted in the state in the districts of Windham, Middletown, and Naugatuck. A Connecticut Director of Pupil Services and Special Education had this to say about the system:

“After researching a number of assessments our leadership team elected to use the DESSA as our Universal Screen in grades K - 6. It is a teacher friendly tool that can  be  completed  quickly to provide immediate individual, classroom and school level data, and the online platform has a  variety  of  excellent  visuals,  graphs,  and  reports. Use of this assessment provides comprehensive actionable data that facilitates appropriate core instruction and tiered intervention in the SEL domains.”

CSDE has made it a priority to strengthen its SEL supports that set the stage for all future learning and contribute to a positive school climate and better academic outcomes. This partnership is just one example of how CSDE is leading the way in providing SEL support, resources, and guidance. 

The DESSA will be available to 100 districts in two cohorts for the 2021/22 school year, and nearly 200 districts for the 2022/23 school year.  The partnership includes training, access to reporting features, hundreds of growth strategies and interventions, and technical assistance. To learn more, visit


About Aperture Education 

Aperture Education empowers over 3,000 schools and out-of-school-time programs across North America to measure, strengthen, and support social and emotional competence in K-12 youth and educators. This system enables education leaders to make strategic, data-based decisions about SEL within their organizations. The Aperture system includes the DESSA suite of strength-based assessments, CASEL™-aligned intervention strategies, and robust reporting, all in one easy-to-use digital platform. Aperture has supported more than one million students in their social and emotional growth and continues to develop innovative solutions to bring the whole child into focus. To learn more, visit  




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