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Comparison of IEPs & 504 Plans

IEP 504 Plans
What It Does Provides individualized special education and related services to meet the unique needs of the child. These services are provided at no cost to parents. Provides accommodations to the learning environment to meet the needs of the child as adequately as other students. As with IEPs, a 504 plan is provided at no cost to parents.
What Law Applies The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) - a federal special education law for children with disabilities. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 - a federal civil rights law to stop discrimination against people with disabilities.
Who Is Eligible To be eligible there are two requirements:
  1. A child has one or more of the 13 specific disabilities listed in IDEA. Learning and attention issues usually qualify under OHI or Specific Learning Disability.
  2. The disability must affect the child’s educational performance and/or ability to learn and benefit from the general education curriculum.
The individual must:
  1. have a physical or mental impairment or have a record of such an impairment; or be regarded as having such an impairment.
  2. that substantially limits one or more major life activities including, but not limited to, learning, thinking and concentrating.
Who Creates the Program/Plan There are strict legal requirements about who participates in an ARD meeting to create/update an IEP. Members must include:

  • The child’s parent
  • At least one of the child’s general education teachers
  • At least one of the child’s general education teachers
  • At least one special education teacher
  • School psychologist or other specialist who can interpret evaluation results
  • A district representative with authority over special education services

With a few exceptions, the entire team must be present for IEP meetings.
The rules about who’s on the 504 team are less specific than they are for an IEP. A 504 plan is created by a team of people who are familiar with the child and who understand the evaluation data and special services options. This might include:

  • The child’s parent
  • General and special education teachers
  • The school principal
What’s in the Program/Plan The IEP sets learning goals for a child and describes the services the school will give her. It’s a written document.

Here are some of the most important things the IEP must include:

  • The child’s present levels of academic and functional performance—how she is currently doing in school
  • Annual education goals for the child and how the school will track her progress
  • The services the child will get—this may include special education, related, supplementary and extended school year services
  • The timing of services—when they start, how often they occur and how long they last
  • Any accommodations—changes to the child’s learning environment
  • Any modifications—changes to what the child is expected to learn or know
  • How the child will participate in standardized tests
  • How the child will be included in general education classes and school activities
There is no standard 504 plan. Unlike an IEP, a 504 plan doesn’t have to be a written document.

A 504 plan generally includes the following:

  • Specific accommodations, supports or services for the child
  • Names of staff will provide each service
  • Name of the person responsible for ensuring the plan is implemented
Parent Notice When the school wants to change a child’s services or placement, it has to tell parents in writing before the change. This is called prior written notice. Notice is also required for any IEP meetings and evaluations. The school must notify parents about evaluations or a “significant change” in placement. Notice doesn’t have to be in writing.
How Often It’s Reviewed and Revised The IEP team must review the IEP at least once a year.
The student must be reevaluated every three years to determine whether services are still needed and to measure progress.
The rules vary by state. Generally, a 504 plan is reviewed each year and a reevaluation is done every three years, or when needed.
How to Resolve Disputes IDEA gives parents several specific ways to resolve disputes:

  • Mediation
  • Due process complaint
  • Resolution session
  • State complaint
  • Lawsuit
Section 504 gives parents several options for resolving disagreements with the school:

  • Mediation
  • Alternative dispute resolution
  • Impartial hearing
  • Complaint to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR)
  • Lawsuit

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