All elementary school and Middlesex Middle School parents recently received an email from their principal providing notice that Darien Public Schools (DPS), in partnership with the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE), is administering the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA-Mini) to assess eight social emotional learning (SEL) skills that are aligned to CASEL standards and serve as a foundation to the RULER program.
The assessment is entirely voluntary and parents may opt-out of the DESSA-Mini by filling out a linked form in their Principal's email communication. All opt-out requests must be received by November 1st.
Darien Parents highlighted the following issues raised by the DESSA-Mini assessment:
Distraction from Academics: Is this the best use of our students' and teachers' precious classroom time?
Burdensome on Teachers: Have our teachers been given the proper training and resources to be able to successfully perform this assessment?
Sidelines Parents in the Learning Process: Why is the district relying on an assessment that employs the CASEL framework which explicitly puts families and caregivers at the periphery of a child's SEL development?
Failed Local Track Record: The DESSA-Mini examination tool was recently implemented by the NYC Department of Education through a 3-year, $18 million contract. Originally intended to be mandatory, after pushback from teachers and parents, the assessment was quickly made optional due to privacy concerns, lack of supporting data, and scope of practice issues. Why aren't we learning from NYC’s mistakes?
Blurring the Lines of the Schools' Role: What is the line between a "preventative" mental health program and medical treatment performed within our elementary schools?
Undefined and Expansive Mission: Why are psychological evaluations being given in the classroom during school hours to students in a group setting rather than privately, on an as needed, case by case basis by trained school psychologists? A presentation shown to Hindley parents suggests actions taken as a result of the DESSA-Mini may impact "large groups within classrooms or grade levels." Why is DPS taking a potentially one-size-fits-all approach to psychological evaluations?
SEL Scope Creep: When DPS drafted their Strategic Plan, was there ever a conversation involving all stakeholders, including parents, to determine the degree to which public schools should be explicitly conducting the practice of group psychology?