Peer Reference Report Guidance for Special Education

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The Peer Reference Report compares a child’s domain ratings on the DRDP (2015) to a sample of same-age peers.1 The Peer Reference Report provides special education teachers, service providers, and families with information about a child’s development relative to these peers, and indicates areas of strength and areas for further support. The report should always be used together with other DRDP reports and observations of the child in typical environments. Special educators may use the information from this report to guide written developmental updates, to support individualized instruction, and to make curricular modifications. They may also share this report with families and other providers to better understand and plan support for each child’s learning and development.

What information is displayed in the Peer Reference Report?

  • The assessment period and child’s age are indicated at the top of the page.
  • The infant and toddler report displays each of the five domains from the DRDP (2015) Infant/Toddler View.
  • The preschool report displays each of the six domains from the DRDP (2015) Preschool Fundamental View.
  • With the exception of the birth-24 month age range, the domain boxes on the Peer Reference Report show 12-month age bands for children from 24 to 60 months of age. The youngest or earliest developing band (birth to 24 months) is at the bottom left of the box. The oldest or latest developing band (60+ months) appears at the top right of the box.

What are the features of the Peer Reference Report?

The DRDP domain/subdomain name represents the abbreviation and full name of the DRDP (2015) domains and subdomains.

The domain icon directly links to the icons used in the Infant/Toddler Early Learning and Development Foundations and the Preschool Learning Foundations.

The child’s age band is highlighted in blue and corresponds to the child’s age at the time of the DRDP assessment.

The child’s ratings for each measure in a domain are statistically transformed to create the overall domain rating. The long blue vertical line in each domain box indicates the child’s overall rating.

The standard error is the thin blue horizontal line through the domain rating. The standard error line represents an estimate of the range of scores within which the child’s domain rating lies.

The age-group mean is the short black vertical line in the middle of each dark band. This represents the mean of the domain ratings for ALL the children in the specified age band.

1 Same-age peers refers to total sample of 19,694 children ages birth to 5 enrolled in both CDE-sponsored Early Education and Support Division (EESD) programs (n=16,937) and infants, toddlers, and preschoolers with disabilities enrolled in CDE-sponsored Special Education Division (SED) Part C (early intervention) or Section 619 (preschool) programs (n=2,757).

Understanding the Age Bands

Assessment instruments generally describe children’s development in terms of age (e.g., age equivalents) using one of two methods. The first method is based on generally accepted knowledge and beliefs (such as the research literature, standards, or professional opinion) of when children reach certain developmental milestones.

The second method (the method used for this report) is based on a measurement approach in which data from a large sample of children are collected. Data from this sample are then examined to determine what ranges of scores correspond to which ages: 36-month-olds typically have one range of scores while 48- or 60-month-olds have higher ranges of scores. This second method was used to develop the DRDP (2015) age bands for the Peer Reference Reports.

This report compares the average ratings of one child to a sample of children in the same age range. The peer reference sample includes over 15,000 children enrolled in California Department of Education programs, birth through 60 months of age, in the spring of 2015. The sample is comprised of children with and without disabilities and includes children from across all federal disability categories. The report is not intended to determine whether the child has reached a developmental milestone at a specific age.

Within each age band, the darker shading represents the range of ratings for the sample of children who demonstrated skills within age expectations, defined as a domain rating ±1.2 standard deviations above and below the mean of the peer reference sample. The lighter shading in each band represents the range of ratings for the children who were close to age expectations, defined as a domain rating between 1.3 and 2 standard deviations below the mean of the peer reference sample. A domain rating located 2 standard deviations below the mean (in the white space) indicates that the child is not at age expectations for this domain.

The age-group mean within each age band is denoted by the small black vertical line. It is defined as the average domain rating of the children within the peer reference sample within each age band. A child’s domain rating located to the right of the mean in the age band indicates that the rating is above the mean for the same-age children in the sample.

A child’s domain rating located to the left of the mean in the age band indicates that the rating is below the mean for the same-age children in that age range in the peer reference sample.

The range of domain ratings will overlap when displayed as age bands. As a result, these reports do not provide discrete age equivalents. They do illustrate the overlap in the range of development observed from one age band to the next. If a child’s domain rating falls in the low range of the age band, it is important to consider all aspects of the child’s development, especially the child’s age. A child who has just entered an age range, and therefore is younger than other 36- to 48-month-olds in the same range, will tend to have ratings at the lower end of the age band. A child at the older end of an age range may tend to have higher ratings than other 36- to 48-month-olds.

How can the information in the Peer Reference Report be used?

Special educators can use the Peer Reference report to:

  1. Compare a child’s domain ratings relative to same-age peers.
  2. Assist in identifying child strengths relative to same-age peers.
  3. Assist in identifying areas that may need further support.
  4. Better understand a child’s developmental progress over time relative to same-age peers.

Peer Reference Report – Status Version

To identify areas of strength and areas that may need further support:

  1. Identify the domain ratings that fall within the darker shading of the age bands. These domain ratings are within age expectations and are areas of strength.
  2. Identify the domain ratings that fall within the lighter shading of the age bands. These domain ratings are close to age expectations, but indicate the child may need additional support.
  3. Identify any domain ratings that fall below the age band that are not at or close to age expectations. These ratings mean the child likely needs additional support.
  4. Review the Child Reports, both status and progress versions, for additional information about the child’s development.
  5. Consider the information presented in these reports in relation to observations made of the child in typical environments and other information about this child (e.g., classroom, home, interviews with other providers or family members).

DO use the Peer Reference Reports to:

Do NOT use the Peer Reference Reports:

Identify a child’s strengths and areas that may need additional support. As the only source of information used in understanding how to support a child’s development and learning.
Reference where a child’s domain ratings are in relation to a sample of other children similar to his or her age. To determine a precise age-equivalent score or developmental age for the child.
To determine eligibility for Early Start, preschool, transitional kindergarten, or kindergarten.
Write general developmental updates such as present levels of development for the IFSP or present levels of performance for the IEP. As the only source of information in writing developmental updates.

For more information or if you have questions, contact Desired Results Access Project at
(800) 673-9220 or