Student Development Survey

Elementary Student Version

The Student Development Survey – Elementary version  (SDS-E) measures students’ opinions about themselves and their school regarding areas of development along the six pathways, school climate, and attitudes towards reading and school. The SDS-E is a 40-item survey that asks students to rate how frequently they perform particular behaviors or experience feelings described in the items. The four-point rating scale ranges from “all of the time” to “never.” The responses are coded in the following manner:  All the time=3, Most of the time=2, Sometimes=1, Never=0.

The SDS-E is designed for students in grade 3 to grade 5. It contains nine dimensions, listed in Table 1 below with the items that define them. All of the dimensions are scored in the positive direction; the higher the mean score,* the more favorable the students view of that dimension. The mean score can range from a high of 3.0 to a low of 0.0.  For example, if Student-Teacher Relationships has a mean score of 2.7, this means that most students like their teachers and feel that their teachers care about them and believe in them all or most of the time.

Before computation of the mean score on the Safety dimension, items 32, 33, and 34 were reversed in the following manner: 0 is changed to 3, 1 is changed to 2, 2 is changed to 1, and 3 is changed to 0.

Table 1: Student Development Survey Dimensions

Elementary Dimensions

Item Numbers


Social development

1, 2, 9, 11, 29


Ethical development

3, 4, 5, 6, 10


Language development – expressive

7, 13, 18, 20, 24


Cognitive development

12, 14, 17, 30



15, 16, 19


Attitude toward reading

21, 22, 23


Attitude toward school

26, 27, 37


School safety

32, 33, 34


Student-Teacher relationship

28, 36, 38, 39, 40


Explanation of pathway dimensions on Student Development Survey – Elementary Version

A statistical procedure known as Principal Factor Analysis** completed on the pilot data from responses of approximately 240 elementary school students, grades three through five, yielded five pathway dimensions: social development, ethical development, language development – expressive, general cognitive development, and thinking. The items defining the psychological and physical pathways did not group together to form the relevant factors. This may be a reflection of the items selected a priori to operationalize these pathways and/or the developmental stage of the respondents. For additional technical information, please contact Dr. Christine Emmons, Director of Program Evaluation at (203) 737-4004.

*The mean score on each subscale represents the sum of the average score of each person on the set of items defining the variable (see Table 1), divided by the number of people responding to that subscale. For example, the score of each student on each of the Student-Teacher Relationship items would be added, and then divided by the number of items (5) to obtain each student's mean score on Student-Teacher Relationship. Each student's mean score would be summed and divided by the number of students, to get the overall mean for Student-Teacher Relationship.

**Principal Factor Analysis is a procedure through which items are grouped together to form a factor or dimension that represents how closely these items are measuring the same underlying construct.