The Difference Between 504 Plans and IEP’s

The Difference Between 504 Plans and IEP’s
Title 1, 504’s and IEP’s are distinct academic tools administered under different laws and mandated by separate government offices. It is important for you to understand the difference in order to advocate effectively for your child.

Title I is part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. These are federal laws that are intended to improve achievement of students receiving public education. Under these programs, schools can receive additional funding for Title I programs, and in turn are held accountable for showing marked improvement in those areas.

The plans that we commonly refer to as 504’s and IEP’s are not part of the controversial “No Child Left Behind” Laws. These are, instead, the result of congressional acts that have been in place since the 1970’s.

When we talk about 504’s we are referring to section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act passed by congress in 1973. This act protects the civil rights of individuals with disabilities. It says that people with disabilities must have equal access to participation in programs that receive federal funding. Because of this, public schools are obligated to make necessary accommodations to ensure equal access.

One significant limitation of 504 plans is that they merely require equal access. It does not require that academic progress be made. Generally speaking, 504 plans provide accommodation’s that allow children with disabilities the same access as those without.

The department of general education, not special education, administers both Title I and 504 programs.

IEP’s or Individual Education Plans are covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975 (IDEA). These are federal laws that require states to ensure a free appropriate public education (FAPE), to all eligible students, in spite of their disabilities. It says that districts must provide a proper education, designed specifically for them, by all necessary means: Not just access. It also says that the amount of funding or lack of cannot be a determining factor in what types of services a disabled child will receive.

The requirements of an IEP go a step further in that they call for not only access, but also delivery of a proper education. As a result, IEP’s include not only a plan of action but specific reports to show the amount of progress. Therefore IEP’s provide not only accommodations but also modifications, if needed, to allow the student success.

IEP’s are governed and implemented by the Office of Special Education.

One plan is not necessarily better than the other, but it is important to understand what rights each provide and their differences so that you can determine which will be most effective for your child’s particular needs, and where to turn if you do experience any problems.

If your child can be successful by using some carefully placed accommodations, then a 504 plan is perfect for you. These plans take less time to create and are usually less expensive for the school district. Less time and money for the district means less disruption in your child’s curriculum and more money that can be utilized elsewhere, so if this plan gives you results, there is no need to change it. However, if you feel that your child may require additional services, you may want to suggest an IEP.

Keep in mind that either will fail if they are not properly put into action. If you feel this is the case, work on that issue first. Switching from one plan to another does nothing to insure more effective implementation, and meanwhile, your child is losing ground. Go to the person responsible for heading up your child’s program. If your child is currently on a 504 plan, this may be the district's 504 Coordinator. If he is on an IEP go to the head of Special Education for your district. Explain that you feel your child’s current plan is unsuccessful due to a lack of compliance and request a meeting immediately. Be prepared to give specific examples, including items such as teacher reports, the amount of time spent at home on school work, as well as any types of emotional or behavioral issues that you feel may be connected.

I highly recommend one book for every parent involved in special education.

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