How the RISE Identifies Students with High-Risk Behaviors In Need of Intervention

How the RISE Identifies Students with High-Risk Behaviors In Need of Intervention

By Sam Goldstein, PhD, and David Herzberg, PhD


The Risk Inventory and Strengths Evaluation (RISE) is a set of rating forms for evaluating six types of risky behaviors in combination with three critical psychological strengths in individuals ages 9 through 25 years. RISE parent, teacher and self forms provide evaluation in home, school and community settings from the perspective of both the informant (for individuals ages 9 to 18 years) and self (for individuals ages 12 to 25 years). RISE is the first inventory of its kind to evaluate risks and strengths simultaneously.

RISE provides norm referenced T-scores for examining the broad constructs of risk and strength, as well as subscale scores and a critical item set to assist evaluators in focusing on dangerous behaviors such as aggressive conduct, early sexual activity, substance abuse and suicidality. RISE is designed for school psychologists, counselors, clinical psychologists and other mental health professionals working with children, adolescents and young adults.

A number of longitudinal studies over the past four decades have investigated the complex interaction of strength/protective and risk factors in shaping development across the life span. Such studies have sought to develop a model to apply this knowledge in clinical practice. Recent meta-analytic studies have focused on risk and protective factors as predictors of life outcome. These studies contribute to a better understanding of the complex interaction of risks with strengths/protective factors (for a review these studies see Goldstein and Brooks, 2013).

To reverse the increasing prevalence of mental health problems in children and adolescents, practitioners must equally focus on preventive factors within the individual as well as in the immediate and extended environments. Understanding these phenomena is as important as developing an understanding of the mechanisms and processes that define the path by which disorders progress. To this end, RISE was designed to integrate assessment of risky behaviors and psychological strengths providing the evaluator with quantitative measures of each.

RISE can be administered using print materials or via the WPS Online Evaluation System. Parent and self-form respondents answer sixty-six questions about risky behaviors and psychological strengths. The RISE teacher form includes thirty-six questions about these same topics. Item response format is a six-point scale of the frequency of the target behavior during the previous four weeks. Risk subscales measure:  bullying/aggression, delinquency, eating/sleeping problems, sexual risk, substance abuse, and suicide/self-harm.  Strength subscales assess emotional balance, interpersonal skill and self-confidence. RISE is intended for use in both educational and clinical settings. It is designed to be used as a core component of a comprehensive clinical assessment. Because it includes measures of psychological strengths, RISE can be employed in conjunction with school based social-emotional learning programs. RISE scores can function as outcome measures to assess the effectiveness of such programs and interventions designed to increase students’ interpersonal competence and ability to cope with stress.

RISE was standardized on nationally representative samples of participants with a match to the U.S. national census. RISE scores were validated by comparing samples of clinic referred individuals to demographically matched control groups of typically developing individuals. These validity studies included:  at risk youth, gang membership, suicidality/depression, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, eating disorders, and substance abuse.

More than 4,000 RISE forms were completed during the RISE standardization study. Data for the typically developing normative sample were obtained by forty-six data collectors representing twenty states from all four U.S. census regions. The data collectors were school psychologists and other mental health professionals. They recruited children, adolescents and young adults along with their parents and teachers to complete the RISE forms. Both printed and online forms were used to collect the standardization data. Each demographic category was over-sampled to facilitate optimization of the normative sample prior to analysis. Examination of age-related trends in RISE raw scores revealed no need for age stratified norms.

On RISE Parent and Self forms, raw scores are calculated for the six risk subscales. Because the items that comprise these subscales measure low frequency behaviors, the raw score distributions in the standardization sample were highly positively skewed. In practical terms, this means that among typically developing youth the average raw score on these subscales is near zero and that there is little variance in these scores in the standardization sample.

Because of these distributional characteristics, a conventional approach was not used to interpreting these scores; that is, converting the raw scores to T-score distributions. Instead, clinically useful raw score cutoffs (or risk thresholds) were identified for each risk subscale by comparing the raw score distributions in the standardization sample to those in the clinical samples. The cutoff score chosen was the highest raw score that yielded a sensitivity of at least 0.60 in identifying cases in the clinical youth samples.

The eating/sleeping problems subscale was handled differently because its raw score distribution was significantly less skewed than those of the other five risk subscales. For this subscale, the cutoff was set at the raw score that most closely approximated a T-score of 60. Again, this was done to ensure that a high-risk classification based on this subscale raw score corresponded with elevated risk under a conventional T-score interpretative approach.

Apart from the six items on the Impression Management Response Validity Scale, every RISE item appears on only one Risk or Strength subscale. Thus, the Risk Summary Scale is composed of the items of the six risk subscales and includes no other items. Similarly, the Strength Summary Scale is composed of the items of the three strength subscales and includes no other items. The table below contains a summary of the measures generated by RISE.

Table 1. What the RISE Measures

     RISE Index:

  •          A combined global measure of risk and strength


     Risk Summary Scale:

  •          Measures overall involvement in high risk behaviors


     Strength Summary Scale: 

  •          Measures overall psychological strengths


     Risk Subscales (Parent and Self forms only):


  •           Bullying/Aggression
  •           Delinquency
  •           Eating/Sleeping Problems
  •           Sexual Risk
  •           Substance Abuse
  •           Suicide/Self-Harm


     Strength Subscales:


  •           Emotional Balance
  •           Interpersonal Skills
  •           Self-Confidence


Response Validity Scales (Parent and Self forms only):


  •           Inconsistent Responding
  •           Impression Management



Because the strengths subscales measure psychological assets related to wellness and resiliency, higher scores are considered good. This is in contrast to the risk subscales in which higher scores indicate greater levels of risk. Strength items reflect a set of constructs that contribute to healthy psychological function: emotional regulation and balance, interpersonal skill, empathy and positive self-regard.

The results from RISE should not be used in isolation to diagnose or plan treatment for an individual. Within a comprehensive assessment, RISE offers a critical source of data that until this time were unavailable in a single measure. Alongside results from other behavior rating scales, direct performance tests, a review of school and medical records, clinical interviews and observations of the individual in a naturalistic setting, RISE is a critical component in a comprehensive assessment.


Sam Goldstein, PhD, and David Herzberg, PhD, authored the RISE.



Goldstein, S., & Brooks, R. (2013). Handbook of Resilience – 2nd Edition. New York, NY: Springer.

Goldstein, S. & Herzberg, D. (2018). Risk Inventory and Strengths Evaluation. Los Angeles, California, Western Psychological Services.