Assessments FAQ

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Where did the items on the SSIS SEL Rating Forms come from?

The items on the SSIS SEL Rating Forms are items from the original SSIS Rating Scales, which have been used to assess and guide interventions for thousands of students.

How do you know the SSIS SEL assessment items are representative of the CASEL SEL competencies?

Two methods, one qualitative and the other quantitative, were used to establish that the SSIS SEL items on the Teacher, Parent, and Student versions of assessments are representative indicators of CASEL SEL competencies. First, an expert panel, including a senior CASEL representative, independently conducted a content review where SSIS items were read and assigned to one of the five SEL competencies. Second, a confirmatory factor analysis was conducted and demonstrated that the pool of assigned items did in fact cluster into five groups indicative of domains characterized as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.

Why does the SSIS have so many different SEL assessments?

Assessments have different purposes and their results can meaningfully be used to answer different questions. It is unlikely that one assessment could be designed to address screening, status and progress/growth, diagnostic, and program evaluation questions.

Example questions that drive sound assessment decisions are:

Screening question: As a group, what are students’ SEL strengths and areas in need of improvement?

Instructional Needs question: What skills can be taught and how can this be done effectively?

Progress Monitoring question: How well are individual students progressing in SEL programs during the course of a school year?

Status and Growth question: How did students respond to an intervention program and which students need more intervention to improve?

Identification question: Which students are having persistent difficulty and need more intense support?

Program Effectiveness question: Did the intervention program work as expected? In summary, no single assessment is designed to validly answer all these questions. It takes an integrated system of assessments that yield valid scores and provide reports that link directly to intervention actions.

What is the best way to assess SEL skills?

There is not one best way to assess SEL skills because educators have different needs and different questions to be answered, and students also have different needs. This said, there are sound consensus steps to take to ensure your assessment yields high quality and useful information.

            First, before doing an assessment, it is important to have a clear sense of the SEL skills that are valued and taught by the school or entity serving the children of interest. Once you know the skills of importance, you can use them to focus your selection of an assessment instrument. Second, select an assessment with substantial evidence that it yields reliable and valid scores. Also look closely at the score reports that are generated by the assessment to make sure it provides you information to answer the question(s) that motivated the assessment. Third, make sure that the individuals – teachers, parents, children — using the assessment can do so with integrity. In some cases, training or direct support will be necessary to ensure quality assessment results.

            Several viable approaches to SEL assessment exist. These include direct observations, interviews, knowledge tests, and behavior rating scales. Books have been written about these various approaches to assessment. All things considered; however, the most time efficient and comprehensive assessments often are behavior rating scales that allow for multiple informants – students, teachers, and parents. Not all informants are always needed to answer pertinent questions and make decisions, but the option to have multiple perspectives on the status of students’ SEL skills is useful and provides a more comprehensive picture of performance. The SSIS SEL assessment all use behavior rating scale technology to facilitate a comprehensive examination of skills in a time efficient manner to generate intervention focused reports. Many competing assessment approaches can be efficient, but often do not provide specific intervention recommendations.

How do the SSIS SEL assessments differ from most SEL assessments?

The SSIS SEL assessments are truly one of a kind in that no other assessment is directly aligned to an evidence-based intervention program that teaches all the skills assessed. First, all the skills assessed and taught in this aligned and integrated SEL system are those advanced by CASEL. Some other assessments measure some of the CASEL competencies, but none of these assessments were designed to be aligned with an evidenced-based intervention program that teaches all five CASEL competencies. Second, the SSIS SEL is comprehensive featuring multiple informants (teachers, parents, and students) for assessing a wide age range of children (ages 3-18). Third, its scores are based on a large, nationally representative sample of children in the United States and it offers norms for males, females, and the combined sample. Fourth, it provides informative reports that focus on the strengths of children and strategies for improving areas of need. Fifth and finally, the SSIS family of assessments is recognized as technically sound and has been used in thousands of published research studies on children and youth’s social behavior.

What educational decisions can you confidently make with your SEL assessments?

We have designed SSIS SEL assessments to provide sound data that can be used to make a number of educational decisions about schools, programs, and students. These include:

            Screening decisions (e.g., As a group, what are students’ SEL strengths and areas in need of improvement?

            Instructional Needs decisions (e.g., What skills can be taught and how can this be done effectively?)

            Progress Monitoring decisions (e.g., How well are individual students progressing in SEL programs during the course of a school year?)

            Status and Growth decisions (e.g., How did students respond to an intervention program and which students need more intervention to improve?)

             decisions (e.g., Which students are having persistent difficulty and need more intense support?)  

            Program Effectiveness decisions (e.g., Did the intervention program work as expected?).  Note, no single SSIS assessment can be used to answer all these questions.

Can students fake responses on the SSIS SEL Rating Forms?

A few students, perhaps 2 or 3 out of 100, respond in ways that are very atypical in comparison to their peers. That is, they may endorse one type of response (e.g., Almost Always) for all or a statistically high percentage of items. Such a pattern of responding across multiple items in a row is indicative of an intentional inaccurate set of responses. The SSIS assessments monitor and report this type of responding. The remedy is to request a re-administration, if the results are being used to make an individual decision. For group decision, these type of response patterns from 1 or 2 students have little impact on the overall reported averages of a group but are noted for full accountability purpose.

Is there evidence to support that the SSIS SEL Rating Forms provide valid scores for preschoolers, elementary students, and secondary students?

Yes, there is extensive evidence to support claims that the SSIS SEL Rating Forms (Teacher, Parent, and Student) and other SSIS assessments as well yield reliable and valid scores for SEL competencies of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. The first place to examine this evidence is in the SSIS SEL Edition Manual (Gresham & Elliott, 2017). In this manual you will find evidence that these assessments yield highly reliable scores (see internal consistency estimates, test-retest estimates, and inter-rater estimates) and valid scores (see internal structure evidence, evidence based on relations to other social behavior measures, item content reviews). In addition, the psychometric evidence documented prior to the publication of these assessments, there are studies completed by the authors and independent researchers after publication of the assessments. Several psychometric reports of these studies have been published in major refereed journals. Finally, CASEL’s SEL Assessment Guide (https://measuringsel.casel.org/access-assessment-guide/) reviewed and listed the family of SSIS assessment technically sound measures.

Why do you need teacher, parent, and student Rating Forms?

If you want to get a comprehensive understanding of a student’s SEL skills, you must examine his/her functioning in multiple environments. Whenever possible, you want to get the student’s perceptions, but in the case of children younger than 8 or 9, this can be difficult and unreliable. In addition, it is often difficult to be objective as a self-rater, therefore it is useful to get additional perspectives from adults who know a student well and who are likely to be involved to help the student continue to improve his/her SEL skills. Well-designed assessments provide adults an opportunity to take a close look at a student and share recent observations about their strengths and weaknesses. Assessments that do not consider at least two perspectives – the students and a key adult – are not likely providing a full picture of performance. When important decisions are being made, a comprehensive picture of a student’s performance is needed.