Individualized Education Plans vs. 504 Plans
Many different students have IEPs, and others have 504 Plans. It is important to know what each of those are and when it is necessary to set up an IEP versus setting up a 504 Plan. There are many similarities and differences to IEP’s and 504 Plans. Each of them has multiple different components that complete them.
First of all, IEP stands for an Individualized Education Program. An IEP is written for students with a physical, mental, emotional, or specific learning disability. It is a written statement for a child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in a meeting in keeping with certain requirements of law and regulations. An IEP acts like a blueprint for how related services will play out under IDEA. It is developed by a team of school personnel, the student’s parents, and of course, the students themselves.
There are many components to an IEP. It is made up of the following: a statement of the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, annual goals (sometimes including short term goals if the student is taking alternative standardized testing), the child’s progress, the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services that the child will be provided, program modifications or supports for the school personnel, a statement of the extent (if any) to which that child will not participate in the regular classroom, a statement of any individual accommodations, the projected date of when the services will be implemented, and the frequency of those services being used as well as the location and the duration of that particular service.
The statement of the student’s present level of academic achievement will talk about how well that particular student is currently doing in their classes. It also explains how that student’s disability affects his or her performance in the classroom.
The annual goals will develop appropriate goals that the child will have in place. It describes what is expected of the child to do or learn within a twelve-month period.
After this, short-term goals will be listed. This is only necessary to come up with if that student is part of the few that are selected to take an alternative standardized test. If that student is going to take the normal standardized test, then it is not needed to formulate short-term goals for the student to complete.
The related services portion of an IEP talks about how the child will be given special education services in order to help them. This extra help might come in certain areas and not in others. There are services to help children if they have a hard time with speech or movement, or the service could be that the student gets pulled out of the normal class and put into a special education classroom for part of the school day.
Beginning no later than the student’s sixteenth birthday (in Pennsylvania it is by the age of 14), the team has to devise a transitioning plan. This plan talks about the necessary steps that the student will need to take to prepare for life after they graduate from high school. Some students with IEP’s are college bound and go on to a four-year university; others go to Tech schools or even straight to the workforce.
The accommodations portion discusses if the student needs accommodations in testing. The student can have an accommodation that will allow them to take tests in a different room, allow the test questions and answers to be read out loud to them, allow scribes for any written portion of the test, and much more.
The report on progress will talk about how the student’s goals will be measured and when that information will be reported to the parents. For example, it could say, “The student will read a story and answer comprehension questions in writing. She will answer the comprehension questions with a 96% accuracy.”
The participation levels in a general education classroom sections reviews to what extent the student will or will not be expected to participate like the others in the general education classroom. The student might not be expected to read a passage out loud in class without the teacher warning them about it beforehand. This could even be to the extent that this child needs a warning of this a whole day before they will have to do it. This is what the components of an IEP look like.
A 504 Plan is a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that prohibits discrimination based upon disability; it is civil rights legislation. 504 Plans are for students who have physical or mental impairments that affect or limit their ability to walk, breathe, eat, sleep, communicate, see, hear, speak, read, concentrate, think, learn, stand, bend, lift or work. Some accommodations might include preferential seating, extended time on tests and assignments, reduced homework or classwork, verbal or visual or technology aids, pre-approved nurse’s office visits and accompaniment to visits, occupational or physical theory and much more. These students are to be educated in the regular education classrooms along with the services, accommodations, or educational aide that they might need. Although, if the student with these plans cannot achieve satisfactory academic success, as is determined by the school, then alternative settings within the school or private or residential programs can be considered.
The different components of a 504 Plan are as follows: The qualifying disability, teacher education and support, and the accommodations and/or services. The qualifying disability is what the student was diagnosed with that makes them eligible for the 504 Plan. The teacher education and support section give instructions for what the teacher or other support people have to do before working with that student. The accommodations section talks about the area of need, like organization or distractibility. Then it moves on talking about what services that child will receive for that area of need. It then gives who is responsible for carrying out that service and how frequent that service will be provided for that child.
IEP’s and 504 Plans have a lot of things in common. They both serve students with disabilities. Both of them have the goal of making sure each student is receiving the right kind/amount of services that they need in order to succeed in school. Both require a team of school personnel working together to create a plan of action for the student. The accommodations for both a 504 Plan and an IEP can be very similar if not include some of the exact same services. For example, under 504, a student can have extended time on tests and assignments; this is also one of the services someone can have under an IEP. Some technology used for a child with an IEP might also be used for a child with only a 504 Plan. The technology might include a microphone that is hooked up to the teacher and the student, or it could be a speech-to-text technology to help with writing. Or they could both use this pen that writes notes and records what the teacher is saying at that particular time so that the student does not miss anything. These are all examples of technology that both student’s with an IEP or a 504 Plan can use.
Even though IEP’s and 504 Plans have a lot in common, they have even more things that are different between the two. First of all, 504 Plans modify a student’s regular education program in a regular setting versus in a special educational setting. With an IEP, the modification will most likely occur in the special education setting to some extent (Note: this is just in most cases. There are some instances where a student with an IEP does not need a special educational setting at any point during the school day). Teachers are the ones responsible for monitoring a student with a 504 Plan. This is not true for a student with an IEP. Additional school staff are the ones responsible for monitoring a student with an IEP.
Another difference is that parent approval and involvement is required for an IEP, but not for a 504 Plan. It does help if the parent is involved for the 504 Plans, but it is not necessary for them to be involved in order for it to be implemented. With an IEP, the parents must be present at any meetings discussing their child’s plan of action. The government requires that the parents must have the documents that are going to be reviewed a couple of weeks before the meeting occurs so that they have a sufficient amount of time to look over what is going to be discussed. If the parents do not come to so many meetings, the school can decide to move on without them, but it has to be multiple meetings with multiple times that they were contacted to get involved and still nothing. Normally, a student who has an IEP can also have a 504 Plan (they do not have to though), but a student with a 504 Plan typically will not have an IEP unless the IEP and the 504 plans are providing different services for two different problems.
504 Plans go on for the rest of that individual’s life. IEP’s are only made up through that student’s senior year of high school. After that, an IEP is no longer made for that student, unlike for the 504 Plans. If that student wanted to go to college, it is possible to get services, but the IEP is technically not in effect once that student graduates from high school. The reason behind that is because 504 is not an educational legislation, it is a civil rights legislation. IEPs are a part of the educational legislation called IDEA.
As far as the documents themselves, an IEP is usually more thorough with its wording ,making the document many pages long, averaging at around 10-15 pages per IEP. The reasoning behind this is simply because the government requires such precise wordings and requires all the different sections to the IEP. 504 Plans are a lot less wordy. They are normally the front and back of one page.
As previously mentioned, the teachers are responsible for carrying out the 504 Plans, but with an IEP, it is the responsibility of the school personnel. Again, with 504 Plans, it is not necessary to let the parents know what is going on in the plan, but with an IEP, it is a must for the parent to be there. This has been what IEP is all about and what a 504 Plan is about and the differences as well as the similarities between the two.