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Changes in the Characteristics, Services, and Performance of Preschoolers with Disabilities from 2003-04 to 2004-05

NCES 2008-3011
May 2008

Executive Summary

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) (P.L. 94-142) has guaranteed the educational rights of children with disabilities for more than 30 years. And although it has been two decades since the 1986 amendments to EHA extended services to preschoolers with disabilities, the characteristics, educational needs, and growth of these children still remain largely unexamined. The Pre- Elementary Education Longitudinal Study (PEELS), funded by the U.S. Department of Education, is examining the characteristics of children receiving preschool special education, the services they receive, their transitions across educational levels, and their performance over time on assessments of academic and adaptive skills.

PEELS includes a nationally representative sample of 3,104 children with disabilities who were ages 3 through 5 when the study began in 2003-04. The sample is divided into three age cohorts (A, B, and C) based on the children's age at first data collection, ages 3, 4, and 5, respectively. The children will be followed through 2009. PEELS data were collected through several different instruments and activities, including a direct one-on-one assessment of the children, a telephone interview with their parents/guardians, and mail questionnaires to the teacher or service provider of each child.

This is the second in a series of overview reports that provide broad findings from the study. This report covers findings from the first two waves of data collection—school year 2003-04 and school year 2004-05.