Having an IEP vs. Having a 504 Plan

IEP = An Individualized Education Plan documents a child's disability and includes a plan of action as to how the school will provide education as required by IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Right.) IDEA covers kids with very specific conditions including mental impairment, emotional disturbances, hearing impairments, and speech and language difficulties. Typically the school provides Special Education services such as aides and tutoring.

504 Plan = Per SECTION 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, this is for kids who don't qualify for an IEP but who have a physical or mental impairment and require some accommodations, to satisy Section 504's right to equal access to education. Typically, it is a plan that lists accommodations such as extended test-taking time, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Archived Q&A and Reviews


School wants to move 7th grade son from IEP to 504

April 2008

Our 7th grade son has had an IEP for dyslexia and dysgraphia since first grade. Ths school evaluated him for an upcoming IEP and they are recommending that he be ''graduated'' to a 504 plan. This is since our son, who is smart and a superhard worker, has done well in school- gotten good grades, good STAR testing. Of course, he has had tons of turoring and help from us in order to do well. And since resource in the school was lacking and not a good fit, our son did not get direct services this year. I feel like it would be a loss to be moved to 504 from IEP. Like he is being penalized for all his hard work and sacrifice.Any one else have experience with this? What can I do if the school refuses to keep him on an IEP- ask for independant assessment at district's expense?

I would double-check your son's IEP, but if he has dyslexia he probably falls under the category of ''specific learning disability.'' This is one of the qualifying conditions to receive special education services and as such cannot be taken away unless the school can prove that your son's diagnosis is no longer valid. One problem with a 504 is that there is no funding attached. It is also a different law (ADA) which provides fewer safeguards than does IDEA. Good sources of info are wrightslaw.com and also dredf.org. Good luck.

Basically, the 504 gives him all the accommodations he may have had (reduced penalty for spelling mistakes, extra time on tests, etc), without the help of a Resource or Special Ed aide or teacher. My son did not use his Resource help for the last few years of his IEP, so he was graduated to a 504, and he is very happy about that. He can still take advantage of those accommodations if he wants to, or not. As he's in High School, we're letting him make that choice. However, if you feel your son would benefit from additional help from the school, fight to keep that IEP. It's more cost- effective for them to have your son on a 504 plan, but if you feel he needs more time, say so. Been There

For information and to discuss options, call the Parent Training & Information Center at Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) in Berkeley (510-644-2555 / www.dredf.org). Ask to speak with an Education Advocate. You will be put on a first-come/first-served list for a call back. -- The DREDF PTI serves Alameda, Contra Costa and Yolo counties, part of a network funded in part by a grant from the US Department of Education (DOE) Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to assist families of school-age children with disabilities, and professionals who work with students with disabilities, to answer these kinds of questions and offer training. DREDF also provides educational advocacy to foster families and foster youth with disabilities under their Foster Youth Resources for Education (FYRE) program. DREDF holds 30-minute IEP Clinics the 1st Tuesday of every month between 10-2. You must call to schedule an appointment. -- If you disagree with the school district evaluation(s), you do have the right to ask for ''an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) at public expense.'' Your request must be in writing. The school district must respond in writing to either grant you the independent evaluation(s), or file for a Due Process Hearing to prove to a state administrative law judge that the district's evaluation was appropriate. Understand also that any independent evaluations/reports you have paid for on your own must be considered by your child's IEP team if you bring them into the discussion. Bring with you anyone you need to assist you in your advocacy efforts (tutors, etc.) to speak to your son's needs so the IEP team has all the information you feel they need to consider. Request that the district's ''504 Coordinator'' attend your IEP meeting so you can understand the ramifications and the type of support and accommodations your son will need formalized in a ''504 Plan'' if you agree with an ''exit'' from special education. IDEA law is more protective than Section 504, but having a disability alone does not qualify a child for specialized instruction under an IEP - eligibility is based upon an evaluation process. Do not consent to an IEP you are not in agreement with. It is a legally-binding document. The current IEP in force allows your child to ''stay put'' until you and the district can resolve differences. Alternatively, you can sign to parts of the IEP you agree with and write a note on the IEP stating what parts you object to and your expectation the discussion will continue over those matters with which you do not agree. All IEP decisions are made by team consensus and you are a full member of the IEP team. Ann

To the parent wondering about 504 vs. IEP, this is something that is based on identified needs, arrived at by testing and data, not a choice that one makes in the abstract. It sounds like the school is trying to ''wean'' your son off services, maintaining that he doesn't really need them anymore. If this is true, it must show in the actual data. Have they retested him? His scores must show that his disability is no longer aversely affecting his academic progress. If he is doing so well acdemically, because, as you claim, of all the additional services you have provided him, then you need to make the case, that without such support, he would be doing much worse. He should not be penalized for working so hard. But realize that he would receive accommodations with a 504. Just not services. Outside assessments may not turn up what you are seeking. But you should bring proof of all the support he has been receiving. Share this with the school psychologist. She/He needs to make the case that your son needs the services in order to continue doing well. Without the necessary services he will just slip back down academically. That's your best bet. Resource Specialist

My daughter, who is dyslexic, had a 504 starting her freshman year at Berkeley High. She worked very hard to get good grades and received a lot of tutoring. A year went by and a different high school counselor decided that she didn't need the 504 any longer and would not inform her teachers that she needed more time to complete assignments, even after I provided eigh years of supporting documentation, showing a long history of intervention. Although it wasn't stated clearly, I understood the reason the school didn't want her to get help was because her grades were good. I found out that a 504, unlike an IEP, is based on the discretion of the school and can be taken away without testing. I contacted the counselor, several vice principals, etc and wrote many emails, with very few responses. I offered to have her re-evaluated but was told the school would do that by getting a counselor and VP together, and talking to one or several of her teachers. I cannot understand how dylexia can be evaluated in that way. She took the PSAT without extra testing time. The SAT testing board, once they looked over her documentation, gave her extra testing time (which is not easy to get) and her score was much higher for that test. Her teachers have been very accomodating, otherwise it would have been a very difficult year. I understand from the school's perspective that they are careful that IEPs and 504s not be abused. But is their method fair? It sounds like circular thinking--if the learning disability is being helped, and the student is doing well, take the help away and let the student do badly so that there is proof that they still have the disability so they can get help and do better so it can be taken away... This kind of treatment can be a real setback for someone who is already struggling with a learning disability, especially one like dyslexia which cannot be cured. --Enough struggling

It is really hard to give advice here. But I will share with you a couple of things I learned this year. We transferred into Berkeley High and were denied an IEP (funtioning too well in previous, albeit very small schools with much support for every student, unlike what we knew BHS would be like). We were given a 504 plan instead. We were able to negotiate very generous accommodations, but without a staff advocate for my child (the general academic counselor, who is the one who supervises the 504 plan, was over-worked and not trained in any LD issues), getting teachers to comply was not so easy. What we learned was that the school is restricted to giving IEPs to only 10% of the entire student population without incurring penalties from the state, which is of course unreasonable. Those who need should get, numbers should not be the deciding factor. However, what it would seem to mean is that once you get rejected for an IEP designation or give it up, it will be next to impossible to get it back even if the kid is failing because the school will have granted their 10% without your child. Just thought you should know. I had no idea the school's hands were so tied. think carefully

There is no 10% ''quota'' of students who may be served under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) per school, or per school district. In fact, the U.S. average of children served by IEPs runs about 13-14%, not by any set quota, but based upon the average number of children in the U.S. with such specialized needs. Determination of a child's eligibility and provision of specialized instruction and related services under an IEP is based upon disability and comprehensive evaluation and multiple assessment measures. There is no blanket percentage ''cut-off'' quota, after which even students who would qualify for special education services will be turned away, which is what the poster seems to have been told. This is not consistent with IDEA and civil rights anti-discrimination laws. Anyone hearing such a statement might request, in writing, that the person saying it put it in writing, and/or provide this particular district or school ''policy.'' Civil rights concerns such as this should certainly be brought to the attention of the district administrative powers-that-be and oversight bodies (hopefully this assertion did not originate there), and if needed, the CA Department of Education (CDE) Office of Procedural Safeguards and Referral Services (PSRS), CDE Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) and Office for Civil Rights (OCR). everlearn