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Social and Emotional Learning Screening Assessments
December 2020


What is the research on the purpose of social and emotional learning screening assessments for grades K–12 and their effectiveness in meeting that purpose?

Ask A REL Response

Thank you for your request to our Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Reference Desk. Ask A REL is a collaborative reference desk service provided by the 10 RELs that, by design, functions much in the same way as a technical reference library. Ask A REL provides references, referrals, and brief responses in the form of citations in response to questions about available education research.

Following an established REL Northwest research protocol, we conducted a search for evidence- based research. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, Google Scholar, and general Internet search engines. For more details, please see the methods section at the end of this document.

The research team has not evaluated the quality of the references and resources provided in this response; we offer them only for your reference. The search included the most commonly used research databases and search engines to produce the references presented here. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The research references are not necessarily comprehensive and other relevant research references may exist. In addition to evidence-based, peer-reviewed research references, we have also included other resources that you may find useful. We provide only publicly available resources, unless there is a lack of such resources or an article is considered seminal in the topic area.


Abrahams, L., Pancorbo, G., Primi, R., Santos, D., Kyllonen, P., John, O. P., & De Fruyt, F. (2019). Social-emotional skill assessment in children and adolescents: Advances and challenges in personality, clinical, and educational contexts. Psychological Assessment, 31(4), 460–473. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"The development and promotion of social-emotional skills in childhood and adolescence contributes to subsequent well-being and positive life outcomes. However, the assessment of these skills is associated with conceptual and methodological challenges. This review discusses how social-emotional skill measurement in youth could be improved in terms of skills’ conceptualization and classification, and in terms of assessment techniques and methodologies. The first part of the review discusses various conceptualizations of social-emotional skills, demonstrates their overlap with related constructs such as emotional intelligence and the Big Five personality dimensions, and proposes an integrative set of social-emotional skill domains that has been developed recently. Next, methodological approaches that are innovative and may improve social-emotional assessments are presented, illustrated by concrete examples. We discuss how these innovations could advance social-emotional assessments and demonstrate links to similar issues in related fields. We conclude the review by providing several concrete assessment recommendations that follow from this discussion."

Anthony, C. J., Elliott, S. N., DiPerna, J. C., & Lei, P. W. (2020). The SSIS SEL Brief Scales–Student Form: Initial development and validation. School Psychology, 35(4), 277–283. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"The SSIS SEL Brief Scales-Student Form (SSIS SEL"b"-S) was developed to create an efficient assessment of students' social and emotional learning (SEL). Using item response theory with ratings from 800 students in Grades 3-12 from the standardization sample, 20 items were selected from the full-length SSIS SEL Rating Form - Student to maximize score information and rating efficiency. After identifying items for the SSIS SEL"b"-S, we conducted several reliability and validity analyses. These analyses provided initial support for the use of the SSIS SELb-S for low-stakes decision making contexts. As such, the SSIS SEL"b"-S holds promise for incorporating the perspectives of students ages 8-18 into assessments of their SEL competencies."

Berg, J., Osher, D., Same, M. R., Nolan, E., Benson, D., & Jacobs, N. (2017). Identifying, defining, and measuring social and emotional competencies. Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"The work of American Institutes for Research (AIR) for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is intended to take a broad approach to help inform the identification of key indicators and related measures of social and emotional development. To accomplish this objective, our scan seeks to identify and organize into a coherent picture the broad array of emerging and established frameworks developed to organize constructs that fall within the broad umbrella term social and emotional (SE) competencies. These frameworks have been developed with a variety of goals, which include theory building, the development of programs and curricula, the development of SE competency measures, and the translation of theoretical and empirical research to practice. These translational frameworks can be especially useful because they organize and present existing research in a way that is visually appealing and usable to educators. In addition to informing the identification of indicators and measures, the scan seeks to contribute to better conceptual clarity and organization of the field. By highlighting and organizing the competencies that frameworks identify as being important, we hope to help those who want to make evidence-informed choices to support their efforts in building young people’s SE competencies (Blyth, Jones, & Borowski, forthcoming). Our hope is that the report will serve as a resource and guide for researchers and will help provide direction to those who seek to more fully integrate social and emotional learning (SEL) into their practice."

Bettencourt, A., Gross, D., & Ho, G. (2016). The costly consequences of not being socially and behaviorally ready by kindergarten: Associations with grade retention, receipt of academic support services, and suspensions/expulsions. Baltimore, MD: Baltimore Education Research Consortium.

From the Abstract:
"In 2014-15, over 50% of kindergarten children in Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools) did not meet benchmarks for social-behavior readiness. These include the readiness skills children need to follow directions, comply with rules, manage emotions, solve problems, organize and complete tasks, and get along with others. Social-behavioral readiness skills develop early, before children enter school, and they are essential for learning in a classroom setting. What is the impact of not being socially and behaviorally ready on children's academic outcomes? This report examines the relationships between social-behavioral readiness in kindergarten as measured by the Maryland Model for School Readiness (MMSR) and three costly school outcomes for City Schools' students through third grade: being retained in grade, receiving additional services and supports through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 plan, and being suspended or expelled from school. The findings of this study underscore the critical importance of young children entering school with essential social-behavioral skills and the costly consequences of not being socially and behaviorally ready for students and their families, school systems, and society. The following are appended: (1) Characteristics for Cohorts 1 and 2 Original Sample Compared to Final Analysis Sample; (2) Assessment Standards and Indicators of Social-behavioral Readiness on the MMSR and the KRA; and (3) Logistic Regression Models for Students in Cohorts 1 and 2."

Crowder, M. K., Gordon, R. A., Brown, R. D., Davidson, L. A., & Domitrovich, C. E. (2019). Linking social and emotional learning standards to the WCSD Social–Emotional Competency Assessment: A Rasch approach. School Psychology, 34(3), 281–295. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Growing interest in understanding the role of students' social-emotional competence for school success necessitates valid measures for large-scale use. We provide validity evidence for the 40-item Washoe County School District Social-Emotional Competency Assessment (WCSD-SECA), a student self-report measure that came from a researcher-practitioner partnership. The WCSD's social and emotional learning standards, which detail when and at what grade students are expected to express different competencies, contributed to hypotheses about the social-emotional competency levels targeted by the WCSD-SECA items. Across two survey years, Rasch analyses showed that the empirical item ordering aligned with the expected ordering to varying degrees, that items better targeted students at low to middle competency levels, and that some items showed differential item functioning across grades and gender/race-ethnicity. Future research can use similar methods to theorize and test how items array along latent competency dimensions in general and for particular subgroups. Especially when accomplished within a researcher-practitioner partnership, such efforts can mutually inform district social and emotional learning standards, helping document student progress in a locally and practically relevant way. By making the WCSD-SECA items freely available, we make it easy for researchers and practitioners to complete future refinements and adaptations."

Denham, S. A., Bassett, H. H., & Zinsser, K. (2012). Computerizing social-emotional assessment for school readiness: First steps toward an assessment battery for early childhood settings. The Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children at Risk, 3(2), 1–50.

From the Abstract:
"The transition into formal schooling is a crucial foundation that can set children on a cycle of success or failure in both academic and social domains. A child's abilities to express healthy emotions, understand emotions of self and others, regulate emotion, attention, and behavior, make good decisions regarding social problems, and engage in a range of prosocial behaviors, all work together to promote a successful school experience. However, many children have deficits in these skills by school entry, and educators lack the requisite tools to identify, track and assess skills these children need to learn. Thus, because social-emotional learning (SEL) is so crucial, assessment tools to pinpoint children's skills and progress are vitally necessary. Previous work by the authors and other researchers has led to the development of strong assessment tools; however, these tools are often developed solely for research use, not practitioner application. In the following, using our assessment battery as an example, we will discuss the steps necessary to adapt SEL assessment for computer-based administration and optimal utility in early childhood education programs."

Denham, S. A., Ji, P., & Hamre, B. (2010). Compendium of preschool through elementary school social-emotional learning and associated assessment measures. Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning.

From the Abstract:
"This compendium, a deliverable for "Assessments for Social, Emotional, and Academic Learning with Preschool/Elementary-School Children," focuses on tools to assess the social and emotional learning (SEL) of preschool and elementary school students (i.e., five- to 10-year-olds), along with aspects of the contexts in which they learn and their learning behaviors. The assessment tools in this compendium have been gathered to provide researchers, especially educational and policy practitioners, a means to gauge the SEL skills of the preschool/elementary students in their care, as well as to evaluate contexts that promote SEL and its long-term outcomes. Many compendia of measurement tools are currently available, but this compilation has special value because (1) it follows the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning's framework of SEL-related inputs; and (2) it is more comprehensive than most. The tools in this compendium are organized into three sections: (1) Aspects of School Context; (2) The Five SEL Core Competencies: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision-Making; and (3) Academic-Related SEL Competencies."

Elliott, S. N., Davies, M. D., Frey, J. R., Gresham, F., & Cooper, G. (2018). Development and initial validation of a social emotional learning assessment for universal screening. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 55, 39–51. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is a critical aspect of schooling. While a theoretical model put forward by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has defined five well-accepted components of SEL, few assessments claim to measure these SEL components. This study examined the initial validation of scores for a new universal screening measure called the Social Emotional Learning Screening Assessment (SELA). The SELA's content and internal structure were based on the CASEL five model and the existing SSIS Performance Screening Guide. As part of a larger project, experienced Australian teachers of 268 children from prep through year 3 provided initial user and psychometric evidence for the SELA. The results indicated the teacher-completed SELA is well aligned with the CASEL model and offers educators a time-efficient, sensitive, and reliable measure that effectively identifies students at-risk socially and academically. Although preliminary but promising, further research with the SELA is required to replicate and extend these findings to educators in US schools and to test its application with larger, more diverse samples of students."

Gokiert, R.J., Georgis, R., Tremblay, M., Krishnan, V., Vandenberghe, C., & Lee, C. (2014). Evaluating the adequacy of social-emotional measures in early childhood. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 32(5), 441–454.

From the Abstract:
"Technical adequacy and usability are important considerations in selecting early childhood social-emotional (SE) screening and assessment measures. As identification of difficulties can be tied to programming, intervention, accountability, and funding, it is imperative that practitioners and decision makers select appropriate and quality measures from the plethora of measures available. This study systematically reviewed and evaluated the technical adequacy and usability of 10 commonly used SE assessment and screening measures, using a framework for evaluating selected properties of measures (e.g., reliability, validity). Through this review, it was found that there are inadequacies in many commonly used SE measures, deserving the attention of both users and developers."


Keywords and Search Strings: The following keywords, subject headings, and search strings were used to search reference databases and other sources: (SEL OR "social-emotional" OR "social and emotional"), Learning, Screen, Assessment, Measurement

Databases and Resources: We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and EBSCO databases (Academic Search Premier, Education Research Complete, and Professional Development Collection).

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

Date of publications: This search and review included references and resources published in the last 10 years.

Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority was given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, as well as academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, and Google Scholar.

Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references:

  • Study types: randomized control trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, and policy briefs, generally in this order
  • Target population and samples: representativeness of the target population, sample size, and whether participants volunteered or were randomly selected
  • Study duration
  • Limitations and generalizability of the findings and conclusions

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by stakeholders in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest. It was prepared under Contract ED-IES-17-C-0009 by REL Northwest, administered by Education Northwest. The content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.