The way in which a child will qualify for services is the main difference between the two plans. It is important to note that not every child with a disability will qualify for an IEP or 504 plan.
504 plans help children who do not qualify for special education services but still require accommodations such as special seating, extra time on tests or time to make-up work due to missing class for doctor appointments.
Under IDEA, an IEP requires that a student be fully evaluated in areas such as memory, cognitive functioning, executive functioning, reasoning, verbal and non-verbal communication, behavior, math, reading and/or writing skills. This evaluation paints a more precise picture the child’s strengths and challenges within the school environment. Once testing is completed, a team including the school psychologist and parents will devise special goals and outcomes in the areas a child needs extra help with. These goals are measurable and reviewed by the IEP team (including parents) annually. During this annual IEP meeting, goals will be adjusted and new measures put in place as the team recognizes areas of change.
An IEP places the child into the special education system based on their testing scores and requires that they receive specialized instruction to make progress in school. A 504 plan does not require the child to test into services, but rather provide accommodations your child needs to succeed in the classroom. Children with a 504 plan continue with mainstream education.