IEP Plans vs 504 Plans

Individualized Education Plans and 504 Plans are both accommodation plans to help students who have disabilities succeed, but parents are often confused by the differences between them and which one is right for their child.

  IEP Plans 504 Plans
  • Outlines an educational pathway for students
  • Includes measurable goals and an annual review to determine if those goals are met
  • Specific definition of disability
  • Outlines specific services or accommodations to a learning environment that make education accessible
  • Much broader definition of "disability"
  • Students who have only a 504 Plan typically remain in the general education classroom
Legal Protections and Eligibility

Protected by the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), which stipulates:

  • The student must have one or more specific learning disabilities outlined in the law
  • That disability must affect the student's education to the extent that specialized instruction is needed

Protected by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which stipulates:

  • The student has any disability that impacts a major life activity
  • That disability must affect the student's ability to learn in the general education classroom

Created By

IEP Team members are outlined clearly by IDEA, and the entire team usually must be present for meetings. Team members must include:

  • At least one parent/guardian
  • At least one general education teacher
  • At least one special education teacher
  • School psychologist or similar professional
  • Another representative from the district

Team is made up of people who know the student, can interpret evaluation data and are familiar with special services options.
Team members may include:

  • A parent/guardian
  • General/special education teachers
  • The principal

Helps Students Through
  • Setting learning goals specific to the student, and outlines the services that will allow the student to meet those goals. Goals must be reviewed yearly.
  • The district must ensure that IEP goals are met.

Usually, although not necessarily, a written document that identifies specific services or accommodations, who provides them, and who ensures they are implemented.

Parental Notice, Consent and Rights
  • Parents must consent in writing before the school district can evaluate a student or provide services outlined by the IEP.
  • The school must provide written notice before any IEP meetings or evaluations or a student's services or placement are changed.
  • If parents don't agree with the change in services or placement, they also have stay put rights that can keep current services in place until resolution
  • Parents must consent in writing before the school district can evaluate a student.
  • Parents must receive notice regarding the student's identification, evaluation and placement.
  • Parents can examine relevant records.
  • Parents can request an impartial hearing regarding the district's actions
Dispute Resolution Typically goes in this order:
  1. Mediation
  2. Due Process complaint
  3. Resolution session
  4. Civil lawsuit
  5. State complaint
  6. Lawsuit

Options include:
  • Mediation
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Impartial hearing
  • Complaint to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR)
  • Lawsuit