Navigating the Oakland School District IEP process

I am getting my son, who is in 5th grade, independently tested and preliminary result show ADD with dyslexia. After a request to have him assessed with OSD to see if he can have services the school administrator is insisting on a SST (Student Success Team) meeting.  At that meeting we will discuss his needs and put together a plan to address the needs. After the plan has been put in place for a minimum of 4 - 6 weeks, then we meet again to evaluate the plan and to see what is working and what is not. It it looks like the plan is working, we continue or modify as needed. If the plan isn't working we look to see what else would be appropriate, which may include testing, In my mind this is a stalling tactic and delays the actual assessment from Oakkland Special Ed by at least 2 months . Is it mandatory to do this step? Can I just insist to have him tested by OSD?

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Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) is an excellent resource for information about special education. If you live in Alameda, Contra Costa or San Joaquin Counties, a DREDF Education Advocate can talk to you about special education and give you resources so you can make informed decisions about your child’s education and other individual needs. Call 800-348-4232 or email iephelp [at] to request a conversation with a DREDF education advocate. My understanding is that you need to make a specific written request to the school for an IEP assessment to begin the IEP process, and the school district must then follow the legal guidelines for responding to your request, including applicable deadlines. The links below provide more details on the IEP process.

The DREDF website also has a lot of information about special education, including:

Home page for special education:
A Guide for California Parents - Special Education Due Process and the Resolution meeting:

I am a retired teacher, but I believe that this is still the case.  Give the school a written request for testing and the clock starts:  they legally have a certain number of days to complete testing (I think it's 45 but perhaps another educator will respond here).   There are organizations that help parents navigate this process and advocate for their child.  Check the BPN archives.

Yes, you can always request that your child be tested (do it in writing), but the district can also deny your request through a PWN ( prior written notice). The SST process exists to see how the child responds to interventions. 

Yes, they are stalling and it's not necessary.  DREDF is a fantastic local resource to learn about the special education process and your rights.  DREDF has a sample letter on their website to send to the OUSD Director of Special Ed to get the process of testing moving forward more quickly.  DREDF also has free monthly workshops and counselors that you can call for help.  

Also, there is a really good book that has just been published by Kelli Sandman-Hurley, called Dyslexia Advocate, that is a very good book that outlines how to advocate for a child with dyslexia within the public education system.  Good luck!

The short answer to your question is YES! But there may be details in your case I am not understanding. Please put your request for an evaluation in writing and send it to the special education teacher at your school, your principal, and cc four or five program coordinators at OUSD's programs for exceptional children (you can find their names on the OUSD website). I'd request the following testing: academic including more extensive writing and reading tests, and psychological (it is usually done by an MA, and is more academically targeted than a neuropsych eval). What I don't understand from your story is how your son is qualifying for services without a qualifying disability. It doesn't sound like he has technically qualified for IEP or 504 services, and I am unaware (but may simply be ignorant!) of any service requirements that are legal obligations when there has only been an SST. My concern is that they could fall down on their promises and you won't have legal recourse. I am not an expert, but someone who  is Theresa Lozach at Beyond Quality Education Consultants She is super friendly and full invaluable information.

Best of luck!

We are an OUSD family and have been through the process, although it has been several years now. We got the same recommendation--to start with an SST first. No, I don't think this was a stall tactic. It was actually a great way to get a group of people together who care about my daughter's education and are responsible for it. (In our case it was parents, classroom teacher, and asst principal.) An SST seemed to follow some of the same format as an IEP--determining things to work on and setting goals/timelines. It was a great way for me and my husband to learn how to discuss the issues we were concerned about and what the school could do for our child. We did end up proceeding with an IEP, but I don't consider it a delay--it was just a step on the way to assessing what my daughter needed. I know it can be hard not to go into mama bear mode and want to fight for your child, but this process could address your child's needs without a lot of the bureaucracy of an IEP. If I were you, I would have an open-minded talk with your school administrator and trust them if their plan sounds reasonable.

You are absolutely right -- SSTs are a stall tactic by the school district.  You have the right to have your son assessed through the IEP process in a timely manner.  Please, check the DREDF website for what you actually need to do, such as WRITE a letter asking for the IEP assessment, bring it in to the office and get it stamped "received," and have them make you a copy of it.  That starts a legal timeline for assessment.  They have to provide you with an Assessment Plan within 15 calendars days.  Call DREDF now (it takes a week or two) and get assigned a resource person who can help you check over the Assessment Plan that the district gives you -- many school districts are known for not including areas that a child may need on the Assessment Plan.  

Turn in the signed Assessment Plan.  The district then has 60 days to complete the assessment and meet with you (IEP meeting) to discuss results and services.  You know your child best -- do not let them say they cannot help you.  

Do not fall for the SST ploy -- they rarely help and unnecessarily delay getting needed services for your child.  Also don't fall for the 504 suggestion -- it has no legal teeth.

We've had a lot of success with SST meetings. Our school has given our son services even though he didn't technically qualify for them in his IEP.  Think about it as a way to get all of the players at the school on the same page and go in with an attitude that they want to help. Have an idea what accommodations you want them to make before you walk in. 

Keep in mind that it's really hard to qualify for services through an IEP and the only way to get what you want might be to convince the school that it is in their best interests to help him out so that he's not so disruptive. 

What you might ultimately need is a 504 instead of an IEP. 504 plans deal with behavioral issues instead of learning disabilities. Sounds bad but the inability to sit still due to ADHD is a behavioral problem that makes it hard to learn. You may be able to get what you want that way. 

Our school also has special pull out reading groups that have really helped. The school decides which kids need the extra help and qualifying for IEP services isn't required. 

Good luck to you. It's a constant battle. You have to schedule an SST meeting at the beginning of every year to make sure that the new teacher knows the best techniques for helping him. Hopefully you won't get a teacher like we did last year who always had an excuse to skip the meeting but thought she knew more than anyone else bc she had low functioning kids. She did a lot of damage and I wish that I had been more firm about her attendance. 

I'm almost positive you can request an IEP without having to wait through all the steps the district is suggesting. It's a state or Federal law. Make your request in writing to the resources teacher at your school & the principal. Include a little bit about why you think testing is appropriate now & the results of the private testing. You could even say how your child is struggling or behind or working extra hard now.  The district has to respond within 14 days of receiving your letter. The district needs to complete the testing & have an IEP meeting within 60 days of responding. School being on vacation for 5 or more days does not count in the  60 days.  You can also go to for more information about your rights.