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Preschoolers with Disabilities: Characteristics, Services, and Results:

NCSER 2006-3003
May 2008

Executive Summary

The Pre-Elementary Education Longitudinal Study, commonly referred to as the PEELS study, is funded by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER). It will follow a nationally representative sample of children with disabilities ages 3–5 for a period of six years. This study is designed to describe the characteristics of children receiving preschool special education, their educational programs and services, and their transitions from preschool programs to elementary schools. The study will examine the achievement of students with disabilities in preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school and determine the factors associated with this achievement.

In its first year of data collection (2003–2004), information on 2,906 children with disabilities and their families was gathered through parent/guardian interviews, child assessments, and teacher and service provider questionnaires. In addition, information was collected through mail questionnaires from each child's preschool program director or school principal, local educational agency (LEA), and state educational agency (SEA). PEELS data collection will continue through 2009. PEELS data are weighted to generate national estimates; therefore, the results can be generalized to the entire U.S. population of children with disabilities ages 3–5.1

This overview report combines Wave 1 data from all of the PEELS instruments. It includes data on the following:

  • Characteristics of children and their families;
  • Characteristics of educational services and providers;
  • Transitions from early intervention to preschool, and preschool to elementary school; and
  • School-related readiness and behavior.


1 A small supplemental sample of LEAs and children will be added to PEELS in Wave 2 to account for undercoverage in one region of the country. Wave 1 sampling weights will be adjusted at the conclusion of Wave 2 data collection.