The Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) framework has engaged educators in using data-driven approaches to support students in gaining the skills they need to succeed in academics. More recently, with the emerging growth of social and emotional learning (SEL) coming into focus, schools and districts are aiming to incorporate SEL in the same context to prepare students for lifelong success.
However, as recently noted in the SEL/MTSS Toolkit for State and District Leaders, there are guidelines and cautions around what assessments you choose to use for screening purposes, as most SEL assessments are not validated for screening uses. They state concerns in using screening data that puts students into tiers due to perceived deficits — just because students may have emotional or behavioral difficulties doesn’t mean they lack the skills or mindset to develop strengths in these areas.
The DESSA-mini screener from Aperture Education is 100% strengths-based. The screener doesn’t screen for deficits or risky behaviors, and Aperture doesn’t recommend using the DESSA-mini data to assign to tiers. It is used to identify students’ strengths and leveraging those to develop their growth opportunities. The DESSA-mini has not only been validated for screening use, but it is the only SEL screener to meet the standards set by The World Health Organization. It meets the technical standards for reliability, validity, statistical bias, representative sample, and classification accuracy.
Furthermore, the DESSA-mini uses align with The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) recommendations below:
- Using a screener for prevention.
- Using a screener for continuous improvement and progress monitoring.
- Using an SEL screener to support the understanding and development of competencies within the adults administering the tool.
If a need for instruction is identified after an educator completes the screener, a full DESSA assessment is done to help educators understand what skills a student already has, so they can give them opportunities to continue strengthening those skills and leverage them in learning opportunities. It also pinpoints emerging skills and skills gaps, which allows for differentiated instruction and supports equity.
Choosing the right screener is essential to supporting your students in the most effective way. Using more in-depth skill level data ensures the whole student is supported. The Aperture System focuses on intervening early to develop students’ competencies and preventing problems before they arise. Making decisions guided by data validates your district’s and educators' actions, promotes early intervention, and allows you to monitor student progress.
Read more about the Aperture System — home of the DESSA SEL assessment — and their strength-based screener.
Best Practices for Assessing Students' Social Emotional Competencies within an MTSS Framework
Interested in Learning How to Support the Whole Child with Branching Minds?
Branching Minds makes MTSS easy, efficient, and effective by bringing together all of the components of MTSS so teachers can collaboratively problem-solve and support all students’ holistic needs. Our system-level solution helps schools improve students’ outcomes across academics, behavior, and SEL equitably.
Our platform supports teachers with Behavior and SEL in the following ways:
✅ Assessing SEL Needs with the DESSA
✅ Understand Students Perception of their Own SEL Competence with the SECA
✅ Leveraging SEL Screeners for Tiering
✅ More effective problem-solving
✅ Finding the Right Evidence-based Interventions & Accommodations for Each Learner
✅ Creating Intervention Plans and Monitoring Daily & Weekly Progress in Behavior/SEL
✅ Logging & Monitoring Behavior Incidents
✅ Pattern Matching Behavior Incidents Across Groups