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User's Guide to the DRDP access Assessment System for Preschool Special Education

This Guide contains essential information on how to use the DRDP access to observe, assess, and report on the development of preschool children with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). The fourth edition includes new information and tools for special education teachers, service providers, and administrators.

Download the PDF or Read the Document Online

PDF versionThe User's Guide can be downloaded as a 27 page PDF (best for printing on single-sided pages or reading on the screen) and it can be read as a single web page below (best for screen-reader applications).

Print and Bind the Booklet

PDF facing-pages versionThe User's Guide can be downloaded as a 28 page (14 sheet) PDF for printing double-sided and binding with a color cover (print cover on two sheets of cardstock) for the front and back of the booklet. Spiral binding can be done at a printshop.

User's Guide to the DRDP access Assessment System for Preschool Special Education
(Fourth Edition, Revised August 2011)

Table of Contents


Overview of the DRDP access Assessment System
Eligible Children
The Instruments Used for Preschool Special Education
Responsible Assessors
IEP Team Responsibilities
Key Points to Keep in Mind

Navigating the DRDP access
Components of the DRDP access
Similarities and Differences between the DRDP access and the DRDP PS©2010

Adaptations Used with the DRDP access
The Seven Categories of Adaptations

Children with IEPs who are English Learners

Three Steps to Using the DRDP access
Step 1: Collect Documentation
    Direct, Naturalistic Observations
    Conversations with Others
Step 2: Rate the Measures
    Process for Rating Each Measure on the DRDP access
Step 3: Finalize the Assessment

Reporting Data
Time Periods for Reporting Data

Building Your Capacity to use the DRDP access


Welcome to the Fourth Edition of the User's Guide to the DRDP access Assessment System for Preschool Special Education. This guide provides essential information on how to use the DRDP access to observe, assess, and report on the development of three-, four-, and five-year-old children with IEPs who receive preschool special education services. The User’s Guide is available on the Web at

The Fourth Edition of the User's Guide includes several important revisions. In particular, it includes information only on the DRDP access, as the PS DRDP-R instrument is no longer used by the California Department of Education. You will also note that DRDP access is no longer reported to SEDRS, and is reported instead to the California Department of Education/Special Education Division's CASEMIS (California Special Education Management Information System).

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Overview of the DRDP access Assessment System

The Desired Results System is an initiative of the California Department of Education (CDE) developed to determine the effectiveness of its child development and early childhood special education services and programs. The system assures that children who are enrolled in state-funded preschool programs benefit from those programs.

The Desired Results System includes four components:

  1. Assessment of individual children’s developmental progress using the Desired Results Developmental Profile (DRDP) instruments.
  2. Support of families’ goals using parent surveys.
  3. Assessment of children’s educational environments using the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale (ECERS).
  4. Assessment of program quality using the Categorical Program Monitoring/ Contract Monitoring Review (CPM/CMR) instrument.

All programs funded by the Child Development Division (CDD) of CDE implement these four components. The Special Education Division (SED) implements only the first component, the DRDP access Assessment System, to meet both statewide assessment and required federal reporting for preschool special education. All preschool-age children in California who have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) participate in the DRDP access Assessment System.

California is one of very few states in the nation that has developed its own assessment system designed specifically for measuring child progress toward desired outcomes and is using the data to meet federal reporting requirements.

The Desired Results System is part of California's Preschool Learning System, which also includes the Preschool Foundations (learning standards) and the Preschool Curriculum Frameworks. These resources are available on the California Department of Education website at

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Eligible Children

Every three-, four-, and five-year-old child with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) who receives preschool services (regardless of setting or level of service) must be assessed two times a year using the DRDP access. The assessments are completed in the fall and spring. Eligible children must have a signed IEP and special education services initiated by these dates:

For more information about assessment windows and reporting dates, please refer to the “Data Submission” section of this guide or

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The Instruments Used for Preschool Special Education

Central to the Desired Results System are the DRDP assessment instruments that measure children's progress. The DRDP instruments are observational assessments used to document children's developmental status and progress. The instruments are designed to guide program staff in observing and documenting child progress for the purpose of program improvement. The DRDP instruments are authentic assessment tools based on recommended practices for naturalistic observation of young children by familiar adults as they participate in activities and routines in familiar environments.

The DRDP ©2010 was designed for three age groups: infants and toddlers, preschoolers, and children in CDD-funded after-school programs. The DRDP access is a combination of the infant/toddler and preschool versions of the DRDP instruments resulting in a birth-to-five instrument for use in preschool special education. The DRDP access more adequately measures the progress of children with IEPs who may not yet be functioning at a three-year old developmental level when they enter preschool.

The DRDP instruments are based on the four Desired Results that California has identified for all young children who participate in state-funded early care and education services and their families. A Desired Result is a condition of well-being for children and families, each defining a single overall outcome. The Desired Results that have been identified for young children in California are:

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Responsible Assessors

The primary service provider is responsible for making sure the DRDP access assessment is completed. This includes credentialed classroom special education teachers, speech therapists, and other itinerant and related service staff. The primary service provider is responsible for collecting documentation and reporting data twice a year for each child.

When a child receives special education services and is enrolled in an early childhood program, both the DRDP access and the DRDP ©2010 must be completed. All of the child's service providers should participate in completing the assessment collaboratively. DRDP results will be reported to both SED and CDD according to the requirements of each Division.

In special circumstances, e.g. children served solely by California Children's Services, non-public schools, and non-public agents, special education administrators will determine the assessor.

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IEP Team Responsibilities

The primary service provider who will complete the DRDP access should be determined at the IEP meeting. IEP teams are responsible for documenting that the DRDP access is the statewide assessment instrument used with the child, and recording the adaptations that will be used during the child's typical day, and, therefore, for the DRDP access assessment. The adaptations used for the child must be recorded on the IEP and must also be marked on the Information Page when submitting the DRDP access results. The IEP team should revisit the adaptations annually to consider if any changes need to be made in the adaptations identified for a child. For full descriptions, additional information, and the worksheet Adaptations to be Used in the DRDP access Assessment, refer to the Adaptations section. The worksheet may assist IEP teams in listing the adaptations that will be used by an individual child for the DRDP assessment. Additionally, the document The IEP Team's Responsibility for Identifying Adaptations for Use with the DRDP access Assessment System, available at, provides more specific guidelines for IEP teams, families, and other service providers.

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Key Points to Keep in Mind

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Navigating the DRDP access

In this section you will become familiar with the content of the DRDP access. You can download the Manual (the full version of the instrument) and Rating Records at no cost at

The Rating Record also is included in the DRDP access Manual.

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Components of the DRDP access

The DRDP access consists of the five primary components listed in Figure 1.

Figure 1: The components of the DRDP access
Desired Results, Indicators, Measures - Definitions, Developmental Levels, Descriptors, Examples

These components are described below. A sample page from the DRDP access manual is shown in Figure 2.

Desired Result

A Desired Result is a condition of well-being for children and families, each defining a single overall outcome. Each of the Indicators in the DRDP access represents one of the four Desired Results for children:

  • DR1: Children are personally and socially competent
  • DR2: Children are effective learners
  • DR3: Children show physical and motor competence
  • DR4: Children are safe and healthy


An Indicator is a specific measurable dimension within an overall Desired Result. For example, "Language (LANG)—Children show growing abilities in communication and language" is an Indicator in Desired Result 1. The DRDP access contains 10 Indicators


A Measure is the developmental sequence along which a child's observed behavior is assessed. Measures are the individual assessment items in the DRDP access. An Indicator is made up of several Measures, each covering one aspect of development within that Indicator. For example, the Indicator "Language (LANG)—Children show growing abilities in communication and language" has four Measures:

  1. Language Comprehension
  2. Responsiveness to Language
  3. Expresses Self Through Language
  4. Uses Language in Conversation

The DRDP access has 48 Measures.


The definition specifies the developmental achievement (knowledge or skill) that is being measured. It provides more information about the area of development described in the Measure.


Each Level within a Measure includes a Descriptor, Examples, and corresponding number. The DRDP access covers a birth to five developmental range and the Levels proceed from earlier development at the bottom to later development at the top. The numbers have no significance to the rating – they are provided to make data entry easier and more accurate.

The Descriptor in each Level describes the behaviors that would be observed if a child were at that level of mastery. Reading the Descriptor will help you better understand the developmental sequence of each Measure.

Examples illustrate the Descriptors. An Example is one way, but not the only way, a child might demonstrate mastery for a particular Level. Keep in mind that these are only examples: many of the behaviors that you observe in determining a child's Level may not appear on the list of examples provided.

Figure 2: DRDP access Navigational Map

PS DRDP-R Navigational Map showing Desired Result, Indicator, Measure, Definition, Level


You will notice three other components of the Measure pages and Rating Record (Rating Records appear at the front of each manual) that will help you rate the Measures: Not Yet, Emerging, and Unable to Rate.

Not Yet

The "Not Yet" rating indicates that the child has not yet mastered the behaviors described for the first Level. "Not Yet" appears on only the seven Measures of the DRDP access that begin at a preschool age.

These seven Measures and their Indicators are:

  • Measure 9 in Social and Interpersonal Skills (SOC 6): Conflict Negotiation
  • Measure 15 in Self-Regulation (REG 5): Taking Turns
  • Measure 29 in Math (MATH 4): Shapes
  • Measure 33 in Math (MATH 8): Patterning
  • Measure 35 in Literacy (LIT 2): Concepts of Print
  • Measure 38 in Literacy (LIT 5): Emerging Writing
  • Measure 39 in Literacy (LIT 6): Comprehension of Text

In these seven Measures, the earliest level represents expectations for a three year old, so an infant would not be expected to demonstrate these skills.


Emerging indicates that the child demonstrates skills at the next Level but these skills are not yet mastered. More information about Emerging is provided in the Rate the Measures section of this guide.

Unable to Rate

Unable to Rate is used in the rare circumstance that you are unable to rate a Measure. More information about Unable to Rate is provided in the Rate the Measures section of this guide.

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Similarities and Differences Between the DRDP access and the DRDP PS©2010

Preschool-age children with IEPs served in Child Development Division programs are assessed with the DRDP© (2010) as well as the DRDP access. Teachers and service providers are encouraged to share their observations of children served by both programs. Many of the Measures can be rated using these observations.

You will find five basic differences between the DRDP access and the DRDP PS© 2010 described in Table 1.

Table 1: Similarities and Differences between the DRDP access and the DRDP PS©2010

Primary differences between the instruments
Component DRDP access DRDP PS© 2010
Page Orientation
Number of Levels
Named vs. Numbered Levels
Number of Measures
Domains vs. Indicators


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Adaptations Used with the DRDP access

Adaptations are changes in the environment or differences in observed behavior that allow children with IEPs to be accurately assessed in their typical environments. The adaptations identified for the DRDP access have been developed so that the assessment will more accurately measure a child's abilities rather than the impact of a child's disability.

The DRDP access Measures are rated by considering a developmental sequence of behaviors and then determining the highest level at which the child demonstrates mastery. Sometimes the presence of a disability prevents children from demonstrating particular skills that they have mastered. Adaptations enable assessors to identify children's mastery more accurately, rather than rating Measures at lower levels because of the presence of a disability.

It is important to note that procedures such as providing verbal or gestural prompts, providing a model of the desired behavior, or using a partial or full physical prompt are not adaptations. These are considered to be instructional strategies that should be faded out as the child gains the skill.

Seven broad categories of adaptations have been identified for children with IEPs when assessed with the DRDP access. These categories should not be tied to any specific disability. Rather, an individual child's needs should be considered and the appropriate adaptations put in place. These seven categories can be used for documenting adaptations for both the IEP and the DRDP access Information Page. The following pages outline the seven categories of adaptations and their definitions. You can also find this information at

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The Seven Categories of Adaptations

1. Augmentative and Alternative Communication

Methods of communication other than speech that allow a child who is unable to use spoken language to communicate with others. Examples include sign language, picture cards, and electronic communication devices. Assessors should use these systems as part of the observation of a child using language in a natural context. Assessors should not just elicit responses or contrive adult-directed situations.

If American Sign Language is the child's primary language, it is designated as the home language, and not an adaptation. If sign language is used as a bridge to learning verbal language, then it is considered an adaptation.

2. Alternative Mode for Written Language

Methods of producing written language used by a child who cannot see well enough or cannot hold and manipulate a writing utensil well enough to produce written symbols. If a child cannot see or cannot hold a pencil or marker, this adaptation may be used to assist in reading or writing, or emergent reading or writing. Examples of this adaptation include using a Braillewriter, keyboard, or computer.

Naturally, preschool-age children are not proficient at reading and writing. This adaptation allows for children to explore reading and writing and develop their skills in a developmentally appropriate manner as defined in the DRDP access Literacy Indicator.

3. Visual Support

Adjustments to the environment that facilitate a child's ability to see. Any type of visual support is acceptable, including:

4. Assistive Equipment or Device

Tools that make it possible or easier for a child to perform a task. Do not introduce any new device or equipment for observations: teachers need to be familiar enough with the device to understand its features, how it is set up, how it is used efficiently without interfering with instructional time, and how to conduct basic troubleshooting. The child should be familiar with the use of the device. Any type of adaptive equipment or assistive device that the child needs for mobility, positioning or manipulating objects is acceptable, including:

5. Functional Positioning

Functional positioning enables postural support that allows a child to have increased control of his body. It is important that positioning devices are available to the child across settings so that the child may access these daily routines and activities and so they may be observed in a variety of activities.

Examples include:

6. Sensory Support

Sensory support includes either increasing or decreasing sensory input to facilitate a child's attention and interactions in the environment. Some children may need increased sensory input and others may need decreased input. Some children require different types of sensory support in different activities. Sensory support may include:

7. Alternative Response Mode

Using alternative response modes means recognizing that a child might demonstrate mastery of a skill in a unique way that may differ from the child's typically developing peers. For this adaptation, the environment is not modified as in the other adaptations. Rather, we identify the child's unique yet consistent responses that may indicate the presence of a skill. Some children demonstrate skills in ways that look different from their typical peers. For example, the child with autism may look out of the corner of his eye instead of establishing direct eye contact, or the child with a physical impairment may use atypical movement patterns. The form of a child's response may differ from that of his peers and still may be considered to demonstrate mastery of a skill.

As you will recall from the earlier discussion, the IEP team is responsible for identifying appropriate adaptations for the child in the program setting. Adaptations must be recorded in the IEP so that they will also be in place when children are observed for the assessment. A worksheet for recording adaptations at the IEP meeting is available at, and is illustrated in Table 2.

Table 2: Adaptations to Be Used with the DRDP access Assessment

Adaptations To Be Used in the DRDP access Assessment
Adaptation Yes No If yes, briefly describe
Augmentative or alternative communication      
Alternative mode for written language      
Visual support      
Assistive equipment or device      
Functional positioning      
Sensory support      


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Children with IEPs who are English Learners

For children who are English Learners, you will need to determine how to observe and document each child's communication in his or her home language and in English. The Measures on the DRDP access can be rated based on the child's use of more than one language and more than one language mode. Any means of consistent communication should be considered in rating the Measures, including gestures, eye gaze, and the use of any spoken or written languages or combination of languages.

Assessors may need to include someone in the assessment process who speaks the child's home language so that the child can be appropriately credited for what he says and knows even if he does not say it or understand it in English. There are several possibilities for recruiting someone for the assessment who speaks the child's home language:

For more information, refer to the document Assessing Children with Disabilities who are English Learners: Guidance for the DRDP access and the PS DRDP-R for Children with IEPs at

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Three Steps To Using the DRDP access

This section describes the three steps for using and completing the instrument:

Step 1: Collect Documentation

Assessors gather and document information in order to inform ratings on the DRDP access. There are two primary sources of information that can be used to rate a Measure:

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Direct, Naturalistic Observations

Observation is the foundation of the DRDP access. The DRDP access is considered an authentic assessment. Authentic assessment is a recommended practice for early childhood assessment that includes ongoing documentation of information about the child's progress based on naturalistic observations of the child throughout his or her day. Naturalistic observations occur:

Table 3 describes strategies to help you implement naturalistic observation.

Table 3: Strategies to help you implement naturalistic observation

10 Strategies for Naturalistic Observation

Know the instrument – Be familiar with the instrument, including the Indicators, Measures, and the Levels being observed.

Use appropriate adaptations – Ensure that appropriate adaptations (as determined by the IEP team) are in place when observing the child.

Observe objectively – Focus on what the child does. Be as objective as possible. Use description as much as possible.

Be aware of your biases – Avoid using labels, qualitative descriptors, or stereotypic expectations.

Observe strategically – Observe for skills that correspond to the DRDP access Measures and record your observations. You may be able to gather information on more than one Measure during one observation.

Observe variety and consistency – Be aware of a child's overall performance, even when focusing on a single aspect of behavior. Observe children over time and in different settings.

Observe naturally – Observe children during their daily routines and in settings in which they are as comfortable and familiar as possible.

Observe daily or routinely – When observations are gathered daily, children become accustomed to being observed and seeing notes being recorded.

Be specific and complete – Intentionally and purposefully record the specific details of what you actually observe as soon as possible. Details are important and might be easily forgotten.

Plan ahead – Devote enough time to observations. Plan to observe during activities that do not require your full assistance. Arrange activities in a way that will allow children's conversations to be heard.

The DRDP access ratings are based on determining a child's level of mastery, which by definition is consistent behavior over time. A single observation may not provide a true picture of the child's development. If a child is tired, under stress, or not feeling well during one particular observation, the results may not accurately reflect the child's best, most consistent skills. You will find additional information about naturalistic assessment by viewing the short video, What is Authentic Assessment at

Good observation skills include remaining objective and being specific, direct, and complete in documenting observations. The DRDP access ratings are based on descriptive observations and not on the interpretation of the assessor. However, an assessor's interpretation of an observation may lead to more specific questions or help to identify additional documentation that may be needed.

Strategies for Effective Observation

It is possible, and even advisable, to observe for more than one Measure or observe more than one child at a time. As you review the Measures of the DRDP access, consider specific routines or activities during the day where you would be able to observe more than one Measure or more than one child. You might want to create a schedule for particular days that identifies which Measures and which children you will focus on during specific activities.

It is important to schedule observations and ratings so that six months elapsed between each child's assessment. Initial data from the DRDP access assessments indicate that six months is necessary to accurately reflect progress in three-, four-, and five-year old children with IEPs. Establish your observation, documentation, and rating plan so that the children who may be assessed at the end of the fall assessment period are not assessed at the beginning of the spring assessment period.

If a child participates in a highly structured educational environment, you may need to plan to observe during less structured activities or to seek input from those who care for the child during unstructured times. You may wish to note the settings of observations in your documentation and the degree of adult assistance provided to the child.

Remember that observation is ongoing throughout the school year, and the DRDP access windows provide a period of time to make sure you have documentation for each of the Measures in time to submit the results to your SELPA.

Please refer to the DRDP Timeline at – this interactive Flash presentation describes how the process of observing, documenting, rating, and submitting data for the DRDP access fits within the practice of ongoing authentic assessment.

Table 4: "Do's and Don'ts" when Observing Children

When making observations...
Do Don't
Observe children in the context of typical routines and activities, interacting with familiar people, in familiar places, with familiar materials. Ask the family, child care provider, or teacher to set up contrived testing situations.
Try to schedule home visits around typically occurring routines and activities in which you are likely to be able to observe the kinds of behaviors that you want to see in order to confidently rate a Measure. Ask the family, child care provider, or teacher to rearrange their schedule and routines.
Use materials or toys that a child can easily see, grasp and manipulate.  
Ensure that hearing aids or cochlear implants are functioning properly. Ensure that glasses are worn, if needed.  
Allow children adequate time to complete any task they are engaged in, even if they require more time than their peers to complete a task.  


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Strategies and Resources for Documentation

A variety of methods are available for recording information gathered through naturalistic observations, including anecdotal records, brief notes, tallies, logs, checklists, rating scales, portfolios, photographs, audio recordings, and videos.

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Many assessors use a form of portfolio to organize documentation. Portfolios may contain anecdotal notes, children's work samples, photos of children's activities, audio or video recordings, and transcripts of the child's language. Choose a portfolio method that works for you and your program.

Electronic Portfolio
If you enter your notes into a computer, you can produce an electronic portfolio to summarize your evidence. Some teachers add photos, such as in this example. Please check with your local administrator for procedures regarding consent for photography and video.

DRDP access Indicator Portfolio
A simple method of creating a portfolio is to organize your notes by DRDP access Indicators. The notes can be sorted into Measures, and attached to a page labeled by Indicator. Each child assessed has his or her own page in this notebook. The children's names can be arranged in the sticky notes across the bottom of the pages.

Rating Booklet Portfolio
You may use the Rating Booklet as a ready-made portfolio. It includes all of the Measures, but with no examples, and can be used for compiling notes for each child. The Rating Booklet for the DRDP access can be found at

The Spanish version of the Rating Booklet can help special educators talk about the DRDP access assessment with families who speak Spanish. Families will be better able to understand how the DRDP access is organized and what skills are measured with it. You can download the Spanish version of the Booklet at

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Conversations with Others

Although direct observation of a child is the primary method used to inform ratings, other sources of evidence should be used to supplement observations. Multi-source (e.g., teachers, parents, other service providers or caregivers) and multi-method (e.g., observations, documents, parent report) approaches are helpful in obtaining accurate assessments of a child's level of mastery. The primary service provider should take the lead in gathering the information that will inform the assessment and should document the sources and methods that were used.

A central goal of the DRDP access is to obtain measures of the child's developmental progress based on typical day-to-day behaviors. Therefore, it is very helpful to seek input from individuals who have ongoing contact with the child and know the child well in order to obtain the most complete and accurate picture of the child's skills and abilities.

Collaborating with others in the assessment process is especially important in situations where the special educator has limited contact with the child. For example, the child may attend a general education early childhood program and receive only specific special education services, such as speech therapy.

Parent descriptions of child behavior in the home or in community settings will help assessors make more accurate ratings and can add to the assessor's information about the child's behaviors across settings, particularly for those skills the child may not demonstrate routinely in the educational setting. For example, a teacher or therapist may not regularly observe the child's dressing skills.

Special educators will need to work hand-in-hand with general education teachers and childcare providers to complete the observations and DRDP access ratings. How this collaboration will take place – who will be involved and what roles each individual will play – will vary, depending on the situation.

Strategies for Collaboration

Since the primary service provider is responsible for completing the assessment, he or she should take the lead in partnering with others in this process. How this collaboration occurs will depend on each situation. The following steps can enhance collaboration:

Table 5: "Dos and Don'ts" when Collaborating with Families and Other Providers

When having conversations with families and other providers…
Do Don't
Have conversations with the family and other providers that will help inform your rating of the Measures. Ask the parent to complete the instrument.
Formulate questions before you have the conversation. Read the Measure, Levels, or Examples to families and ask them to rate the Measure.
Be sure your conversations are clear enough that both you and the family understand the Measure and the Descriptors in the same way. Have such a general conversation that you and the family have different understanding of the behaviors being discussed.
Honor the family's (and your own) time by planning your contact with them carefully. Dishonor the family's time by being unprepared.


The Role of Families

Inviting parents to share observations of their children's development and behavior is considered recommended practice for the DRDP access Assessment System. Parents' observations provide useful data for informing both assessment and intervention decisions. When combined with practitioners' observations, the perspectives of parents help assessors converge on a more complete picture of children across settings. Research findings suggest that parents' observations are reliable and valid and should be considered an essential component of a comprehensive assessment process. For more information about the insights from research on parent observation, please refer to the document The Role of Family Observations in the Desired Results Assessment System at

Assessors may find it useful to invite family members (and other caregivers) to share their observations. This is especially important when the assessor has limited contact with the child. If the child attends a general education early childhood program and receives only Related Services, such as speech therapy, then the primary service provider might find it very useful to ask both the family and the general education teacher for their observations.

Asking parents to share their observations is also particularly useful for those skills the child might not demonstrate routinely in the educational setting. For example, a teacher or therapist might not regularly observe some of the child's self-care skills. Parents have repeated opportunities to observe their child over time and in different settings as they interact with toys, other children, and adults. As a result, parents' descriptions of their child's behavior in the home or in community settings will help assessors make more accurate ratings and can add to the assessor's information about the child's behavior across settings. Gathering parental perspectives about their child's development and behavior provides important and ecologically valid data, which is useful for making informed assessment and intervention decisions.

When perspectives vary from the practitioner's observations, consider the following:

Remember, not all perspectives about children's behavior based on parent or professional observations need to be congruent. Rather, aim for convergence or the pooling of perspectives from those who know the child best and have repeated opportunities to observe behavior across settings and time.

For information to assist families in understanding the DRDP access Assessment System (available in multiple languages), visit the For Families page at
You can download the document An Introduction to the Desired Results for Families of Preschoolers with IEPs as well as other resources for families.

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Step 2: Rate the Measures

Rating the Measures of the DRDP access means determining the child's level of mastery for each Measure based on ongoing documentation about the child's behaviors and skills. There are two steps to rating the Measures:

  1. Determine the child's level of mastery based on your observations and other documentation of the child's skills. Carefully read the Descriptors and decide the highest level of mastery that is most consistent with your observations and other documentation.
    Mark the highest level of mastery on the Rating Record.
  2. Indicate if the child is emerging to the next level.

You will need the following items in order to rate the Measures of the DRDP access:

Manual The Manual is the full version of the instrument. It includes a set of detailed instructions, descriptions of the seven adaptations, a demographic Information Page, a Rating Record, and full descriptions of each Measure.
Rating Record The Rating Record is required. It presents all Measures on one page. A column is provided for you to enter the number that corresponds to the highest level the child has mastered for each Measure.
Important Note

Regardless of how you record your ratings, you are required to complete the one-page Rating Record and Information Page. The data from the Rating Record and Information Page will be entered into either CASEMIS (California Special Education Management Information System) or an individual SELPA's Management Information System (MIS). Check with your administrator for the data reporting procedures within your SELPA.

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Process for Rating Each Measure on the DRDP access

1. Determine the highest level of mastery

Mastery indicates that the child typically demonstrates the behaviors indicated by a Descriptor. The acronym CDE may help you remember these three criteria for mastery. Behaviors are considered to be mastered if the child demonstrates them:

Keeping these three criteria in mind, identifying the child's highest level of mastery should be straightforward:

As you review the Descriptors and the Examples to determine mastery, carefully consider what you know about the child. As you reflect on the observations and other documentation that you've gathered, choose the Level that best depicts the child's highest level of mastery.

Many of the behaviors that you observe may not be included as examples. A child does not need to demonstrate any or all of the skills listed in the Examples. Keep in mind that you are rating the Measure based on the Descriptors, and the Examples provide you with only a few illustrations of skills for each Descriptor. A rating of mastery can be given even if none of the specific examples are observed.

Occasionally, mastery might not seem perfectly clear. A child may behave at a higher or lower level, but in general the child mainly demonstrates behaviors representative of one Descriptor. Sometimes, a child might seem to exhibit inconsistent behavior across the observation period. If you observe skills that seem to be across two or more Levels, or if a child demonstrates inconsistent behavior, choose the Level that the child demonstrates most typically and solidly.

You may also select from two additional rating options when determining mastery. You may assess that the child is not yet at the earliest level of development or you may determine that you cannot rate the Measure.

Not Yet

"Not Yet" allows you to indicate that the child is not yet demonstrating skills at the first Level. "Not yet" appears on only seven Measures of the DRDP access. A list of these Measures are in the "Components of the DRDP access" section of this guide. Most of the Measures on the DRDP access capture children's development beginning at birth or in early infancy. However, because of the nature of what is being observed, some Measures describe behaviors that begin at preschool age. When you really look at these Measures you wouldn't expect infants to demonstrate these skills. In addition, the precursors to these Measures fall in other areas of development. For example, in the Literacy Measure, "Emerging Writing," you would expect the precursor skills to be fine motor, not literacy.

If you determine that the child has not yet mastered the first level that is described, select the "Not Yet" rating. On the Rating Record, "Not Yet" has a rating of zero. Notice that these Measures have fewer Levels than those intended for birth to kindergarten and that the Levels for Measures that have a "Not Yet" rating begin at a number higher than 1.

Unable to Rate

In the rare instance that you are truly unable to rate a Measure, check the Unable to Rate box on the Rating Record in the column labeled UR and, in the column to the right, circle either "absence" or "other" as the reason why. For example, when the child's attendance is so inconsistent that the assessor cannot determine the rating for a Measure, select Unable to Rate and circle "Absence."

The instrument developers knew there would be rare instances for this rating. For example, a child who has a broken leg may temporarily not be able to demonstrate certain motor skills. You would then select Unable to Rate and circle "Other."

Please make sure that necessary adaptations are in place before using the "Unable to Rate" option. Making changes to the environment or considering differences in the manner in which a child demonstrates a skill may allow a rating on the DRDP access. If you are unable to rate a Measure, make every effort to conduct additional observations and/or collect additional documentation.

The DRDP access was designed according to standards of universal design in order to include all children. The nature of a child's disability or the severity of a child's disability are not valid reasons why one would be unable to rate a child on a Measure.

The DRDP access should be completed over time, so not having enough time or information are not valid reasons to indicate Unable to Rate. If you are unable to rate a Measure because you don't have enough information, you should make additional observations or collect additional documentation.

Note: You can practice rating the Measures of the DRDP access by completing the online modules at:

Record the level of Mastery on the Rating Record

Each Measure has between five to nine Levels. Each Level has a corresponding number: record this number in the Rating column on the Rating Record. These numbers have no significance to the rating – they are only provided to make it easier to record the ratings.

The Levels associated with each Measure's developmental sequence apply within that Measure but not across Measures. As a result, a level 4 (for example) on one Measure is not necessarily developmentally equivalent to a level 4 on any other Measure.

2. Indicate if the child is emerging to the next level

If your observations indicate that the child has mastered a Level and is also demonstrating behaviors indicated for the next Level (although not yet easily or consistently across settings), the child may be "Emerging to the next level." Note that if the child is rated at the highest Level in the Measure, the child cannot be rated as Emerging.

You must mark the level of mastery before indicating that the child is emerging to the next level. It is recommended that you document evidence of emerging behaviors. "Emerging" may not be selected for Measures that are rated "Not Yet."

Note: Indicating that the child is emerging to the next level within a measure does not affect the rating of mastery.

What to Do if You Cannot Confidently Rate a Measure

Occasionally, you may find that you can't confidently rate a Measure based on the documentation that you currently have. You might find the following process illustrated in Figure 3 useful. First, narrow down the range of levels as best you can. Then, identify the kinds of settings in which you or others might observe the child demonstrating those kinds of skills. Conversations with others may be helpful, but save time by formulating some starter questions beforehand. Arrange to make observations or talk with others until you have the documentation needed to rate the Measure with confidence.

Figure 3: Process if You Cannot Confidently Rate a Measure

Planning for Additional Evidence

One good approach when completing the DRDP access is to review all of the Measures and rate those Measures for which you have gathered sufficient documentation and can confidently make a rating. When you come across Measures that require additional documentation (either through additional observations or conversations with others), you can use the Planning for Additional Evidence Worksheet to plan how you will gather this additional documentation. Using the worksheet, you can identify and organize which Measures need further observations or conversations with families or other providers. The worksheet is available at

Figure 4 provides a sample of the Planning for Additional Evidence Worksheet.

Figure 4: A Sample from "DRDP access: Planning for Additional Evidence Worksheet"

Planning for Additional Evidence sample page

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Step 3: Finalize the Assessment

There are two steps to finalizing the assessment:

  1. Make sure all information is accurate and complete on the
    1. Information Page
    2. Rating Record
  2. Submit the completed Information Page/Rating Record to the designated data entry personnel by the locally determined deadline.
    1. Check with your administrator to find out where and when to send completed data

1. Complete the Information Page/Rating Record

The Information Page identifies information about the child and school, including the child's name, student identification number (issued by districts for reporting to CASEMIS), statewide student identifier (contact your district administrator to obtain this number), SELPA code, birth date, gender, home language, ethnicity, disability, and DRDP access adaptations.

The Information Page also collects information about the assessor and program: title and name of person completing the assessment (i.e., primary service provider responsible for the IEP), school district, and the date the DRDP access assessment was completed. Be sure to fill out the Information Page accurately and completely including any adaptation(s) that the child uses.

Make Sure All the Measures are Rated

Make sure you have determined a rating for all of the Measures. Because you will eventually need to mark your ratings on the one-page Rating Record, consider using the Manual for reference as you determine your ratings, but indicate your ratings directly on the Rating Record.

2. Submit the Information Page/Rating Record

Assessors may contact their administrators to determine:

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Reporting Data

Assessment data is reported either directly into CASEMIS or into a SELPA's Local Management Information System (MIS).

Your SELPA or District Administrator will determine how you should submit the Information Page and Rating Record. You may be asked to submit your DRDP access results in one of two ways:

Note: Whichever way you are instructed to report, keep paper copies of the Information Page and Rating Record in the child's file.

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Time Periods for Reporting Data

The time periods for observation/documentation and submission of data are provided in Table 6. These time frames are general – consult your program administrator for specific dates. Assessors need to submit their data to SELPAs in a timely way so that SELPAs will have sufficient time for data entry, accuracy checks, and certification. Please contact your local SELPA office for the specific dates that your data are due.

Table 6: Timelines for DRDP Data Collection and Reporting

Assessment Period General Period for Observation and Documentation General Period to Submit DRDP access Data to SELPA Date by which SELPAs Certify Data
Fall October – November December – January By February 1
Spring March – April May – June By July 1

Use this month-by-month guide provided in Table 7 to review the tasks for observation, documentation, and submitting data for the DRDP access:

Table 7: Month-by-Month Guide to DRDP access Tasks

Month DRDP access Task
Beginning of the school year Initiate observations of children's skills and behaviors for the DRDP access.
In October Focus on those Measures for which you have not yet gathered observations. Ensure observations are current with child's skills and progress.
November Complete a Rating Record/Information Page for each child, ensuring those observations have been updated and are current as of November 30.
By December Check with local administrators for the date when DRDP access data must be submitted.
January/February Continue observations of children's skills and behaviors for the DRDP access.
March Focus on those Measures for which you have not yet gathered observations. Observations should be current with child's skills and progress.
April Complete a Rating Record/Information Page for each child, ensuring that observations have been updated and are current as of April 30.
May Check with local administrators for the date when DRDP access data must be submitted.


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Building Your Capacity to use the DRDP access

Become familiar with the instrument

Before you begin your observations, become familiar with the instrument. Taking time to understand how the sequences of development are described will help guide your observations and documentation.

Always use authentic assessment practices

The DRDP access is based on authentic assessment practice—the naturalistic observation of children in typical settings and activities with familiar people. Take care to document observations during the course of the day with minimal interruption in the flow of daily activities. Do not set up artificial testing situations. To help ensure that an accurate picture of the child's capabilities is obtained, make observations in a variety of situations, at different times of the day and over time. By limiting the times and situations for observation, you may not see the full range of the child's skills.

Collaborate with others

Although your ongoing observations are a primary method of informing your rating of the Measures, you are also encouraged to gather observations from parents and other providers.

Know where to go for further information, resources, and training opportunities is the official site for information, policy updates, and resources related to the use of the DRDP access for preschool special education. A variety of useful resources and assessor tools are available on the website, including online learning modules and guidance for using the DRDP access. The documents referenced in this guide, as well as many additional useful resources, can be found on the site. In addition, check with your administrator or SELPA office for local training opportunities.

Thank You!

The DRDP access Assessment System is the result of many years of collaboration between CDE's Child Development and Special Education Divisions. Your use of the DRDP access will assist the state of California with supporting program improvement activities and with meeting accountability requirements. More importantly, it is hoped that the information from the assessment will support your work with children and will enhance your professional practice.

Contact the Desired Results access Project with questions about the DRDP access Assessment System for preschool special education:

User's Guide to the DRDP access Assessment System for Preschool Special Education (Revised August 2011) was produced by the Desired Results access Project to support the implementation of the Desired Results Assessment System for the Special Education Division of the California Department of Education. It is available at

© 2011 Desired Results access Project, Napa County Office of Education Funded by the California Department of Education (CDE), Special Education Division

First Edition, December 3, 2006
Second Edition, January 17, 2008
Third Edition, November 6, 2009
Fourth Edition, August 15, 2011

All rights reserved
Permission is granted to reproduce the document in its entirety for the purpose of professional development.

Suggested Citation:
McLean, M., Edelman, L., & Salcedo, P. (2011). User's Guide to the DRDP access for Preschool Special Education (Fourth Edition, August 2011). Sacramento: California Department of Education, Special Education Division.


To print this document, use the PDF files linked at the top of this page.

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Last updated: 10/29/2014