Continuum of Assessments for Reading Difficulties

Assessments in FCPS start in the classroom and may include a referral to the Local Screening Committee. While these assessments do not diagnose dyslexia, they can document the presence of characteristics of dyslexia.


Teachers can evaluate students for the characteristics of dyslexia with a variety of formative assessments. Classroom assessments are used to determine present levels of decoding, fluency, and spelling skills, and can measure the underlying foundational skills of phonological awareness and phonics as well.

If classroom assessments indicate markers for dyslexia (i.e., unexpected difficulties in decoding, fluency and/or spelling), a student may be referred to the multi-departmental team responsible for planning interventions, sometimes called the Responsive Instruction Core Team. Through that process, additional data can be collected about the student’s response to interventions. The student’s progress will be monitored and will inform the need for more intensive support. See the section entitled, “Responsive Instruction for Students with Dyslexia’ for more information.

It is important to note that, sometimes, the student is reading at grade level even though there are some indicators of difficulty with fluency or spelling. Given the possibility of comprehension strengths that assist a student to compensate for word-level difficulties, a determination of “grade level reading” is made by using a variety of classroom assessments to determine decoding, fluency and spelling skills, such as a measure of oral reading fluency, and/or phonics surveys and spelling inventories.


Families and educators alike can refer a student to the Local Screening Committee (LSC) at their school if they have concerns about a student’s decoding, fluency and spelling and suspect the student has dyslexia or any learning disorder. A parent, guardian or an educator can fill out a Multipurpose Referral form (see the forms available at to describe the concerns. The LSC convenes to discuss these concerns. Parents and guardians are important members of the team.

After reviewing all available data from multiple sources, the LSC may propose interventions, referral and consideration for a Section 504 qualification (see “504 Plans for Students with Dyslexia”), or further assessment. For example, the LSC may propose that:

  • There is sufficient evidence to warrant an evaluation for special education.
  • There is NOT sufficient evidence to warrant an evaluation for special education.
  • The student should be considered for a Section 504 initial qualification.  (This 504 evaluation may or may not require additional formal assessment.)

Based on the referral concerns and available data, the committee may recommend the specific assessments needed to determine eligibility. These may include a psychological evaluation, a sociocultural evaluation, an educational evaluation, or others based on specific referral questions. Parental consent to evaluate is required before any evaluations are conducted.


Functioning in the following areas will be examined and ruled out as significant factors contributing to a student’s reading challenges prior to assessing for dyslexia:

  • Vision is checked so that it is clear that the student is able to see the written text.
  • Hearing is checked to rule out a hearing impairment as a contributory factor to poor linguistic decoding and comprehension skills.
  • Second language learning is evaluated with regard to overall level of expressive (i.e., speaking) and receptive (i.e., listening) language skill acquisition.
  • Receptive and/or expressive language skills are considered to determine their impact on reading.

The evaluation process for assessing an individual with reading concerns includes phonological awareness, the ability to hear and manipulate sounds within words; word reading and phonics skills; and fluency... Various tests are available to the schools to assess these areas. Students with dyslexia often have:

  • Difficulties with phonological and phonemic awareness.  Assessments target the student’s ability to distinguish sounds within words, segment sounds within words, and blend sounds to form words.
  • Difficulties developing phonic and word reading skills. Assessments target real word reading, as well as nonsense word reading.
  • Compromised fluency and reading rates. Assessments targeting the “see it say it” connection within the brain or rapid naming abilities are included as part of the evaluation, as well as measures of reading rate.

Once evaluations are completed, the results are shared with the student’s parents or guardians, and as appropriate, with the student, and an eligibility committee convenes to discuss these results. The committee will consider the student’s eligibility for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). See the section entitled, “Special Education Services for Dyslexia” for more information about how this process relates to students with dyslexia.


If the LSC decides not to evaluate, they may recommend an additional intervention as a next step in in supporting a student’s literacy development. This intervention may be delivered through the process of Responsive Instruction. Learn more in the section entitled, “Responsive Instruction for Students with Dyslexia.”

The LSC may also determine that there is sufficient data available to determine Section 504 qualification. Learn more in the section entitled, “504 Plans for Students with Dyslexia.”

View additional information about Local Screening processes

The FCPS online dyslexia handbook provides information and resources to FCPS schools and parents alike as they support students with dyslexia.

© 2017 Fairfax County School Board. All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced, displayed, modified or distributed without the express prior written permission of the copyright holder. For permission, contact the FCPS Department of Special Services, Office of Special Education Instruction, Willow Oaks Corporate Center, 8270 Willow Oaks Corporate Drive, Fairfax, VA 22031.