At the beginning of the school year, teachers assess children on literacy skills. If a child falls below grade-level expectations, or consistently has difficulty learning literacy skills, teachers will begin to provide increased support in the classroom. This may include differentiated or small-group instruction and is intended to bridge learning gaps so that evaluation is unnecessary. In the public system this instruction is called either Response to Intervention (RTI) or Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS).
If a child continues to fall behind, s/he may be referred for a comprehensive educational evaluation. After the referral, a team meets to discuss the plan and decide on assessments. This team may include a school psychologist, classroom teacher, resource specialist, SLP (speech language pathologist), OT (occupational therapist), family and school administrators. The assigned case manager will communicate with caregivers throughout the process and give a timeline to prepare the child.
Evaluations may involve classroom observation, interviews, review of work samples and records, as well as assessments in areas such as language, cognition, attention, reading, writing and math. Depending on the number of tests, the evaluation may take place over days or weeks, but (in California) must be completed within 60 days of the referral.
After assessments are completed, each professional writes a report of findings and recommendations. The team determines if the child qualifies for special education services and then discusses results with caregivers at the eligibility meeting. Schools use the term “specific learning disability” in reading, writing or math instead of the terms “dyslexia,” “dysgraphia” or “dyscalculia.” If the child qualifies for services, the team presents the individualized educational plan (IEP), which includes type and amount of services, along with accommodations and specific, measurable goals. If the child attends a private school, caregivers can accept the IEP, but refuse services.
Understood.org has extensive information on these programs:
PDF article for parents explaining what to expect before, during and after evaluation
Link to article explaining RTI in easy to understand terms
PDF article differentiating these remediation programs
Link to Understood video that gives "an inside look at a dyslexia evaluation." Recommended to watch together.