Social Emotional Learning

What is Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and why implement a universal screener? 

Research shows us the important roles social and emotional skills play in each child’s academic success in school, in the community, and, eventually, in higher education and the workplace. Skills such as demonstrating self-control, persisting at challenging tasks, making good decisions, and working well in groups are all necessary to being successful students and adults. The process by which students learn these and other similar skills is called social and emotional learning (SEL). SEL is closely aligned with Virginia Department of Education standards, the Virginia Profile of a Graduate, and our own NCPS mission statement dedicated to educating and supporting the whole child.

In order to determine how we can continue to incorporate SEL into our classrooms and support students in need, NCPS will use a universal SEL screening tool. This screener will help to identify what additional strategies and supports we can incorporate into the classrooms, as well identify student’s academic behavioral and emotional strengths and areas of need. 

      Social and Emotional Flyer
Social Emotional Benefits   Who will complete the forms and how long does it take? 

As part of this program, our teachers will be using a tool called the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment, or DESSA, which was developed by the Devereux Center for Resilient Children. This tool asks teachers to rate how often a student has demonstrated specific social and emotional skills in the past month.

The DESSA-mini will be used as our screener and will be completed by teachers of students K-12; it is estimated to take less than one minute to complete per student. The full DESSA takes less than 10 minutes to complete. For students grades 9-12, the DESSA-Student Self-Report will also be used. This tool engages students in a reflection of their own social and emotional strengths and empowers them to set their own goals for growth. It takes most high school students less than 7 minutes to complete. 

What kinds of questions are asked?

Here are a couple of examples questions from the teacher form: 

How often in the last month did the student… 
1.  stay calm when faced with a challenge?
2. perform the steps of a task in order?3. keep trying when unsuccessful? 

For more Information:

To view additional information about the DESSA visit

To view information on Virginia’s Department of Education’s Social Emotional Learning initiative, visit

If you have specific questions related to your child and the DESSA, please contact the School Counselor at your child’s school. 

If you have general questions related to the DESSA, please contact Amanda Schimmoller, NCPS School Psychologist at 804-580-0757.