504 Plan vs. IEP


  • Granted to students who need assistance gaining access to classroom materials.
  • Typically, no additional staffing is required to fulfill a 504.
  • Has no impact on content that is taught.
  • Oversight includes student, parents, teacher(s) and administration.


Individualized Educational Plan (IEP)

  • Granted to students who have been assessed for a disability, and have qualified for special education services.
  • May include services that have a financial obligation for the school.
  • Has the power to raise or lower the educational "bar".
  • Oversight team includes AEA representatives.

The 504 plan

Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act specifies that no one with a disability can be excluded from federally funded programs or activities, including education, hence the name "504 plan". Under this law, a disability is defined as “a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities.”  Specific Learning Disabilities are listed as an example of such an impairment, and learning is listed as an example of a major life activity. In education, a 504 plan is a written document that states the specific accommodations that will be given to a student.

Accommodations are changes and adjustments made to give students with disabilities the chance to perform at the same level as their peers.

A school district will receive no state or federal funding for a 504 plan;  keep this in mind when requesting 504 services.  Typical accommodations include changes to how classroom content is delivered.  For example; audio books, oral exams, and untimed tests are some of the most appropriate accommodations for a student with dyslexia.  These accommodation do not alter what is being taught/learned, rather it changes the delivery format so a student with a language-based learning disability can be successful in the classroom.

IEP - individualized education program

If a parent requests that the school assess their child for the presence of disability, or for special ed services, a formal evaluation process will take place.  Following that evaluation, the school will either grant or deny an IEP.

An IEP team consists of school personnel, the child’s parent/s or guardians, the student if age appropriate, and an AEA representative. The IEP team will meet to review the needs of the student and develop a plan of action to address these needs.

An IEP will outline goals, services, modifications and accommodations that will be provided for the student. Writing appropriate IEP goals is a significant part of the IEP process. Goals are important because they have the power to override state and federal guidelines and outline academic expectations for the student. Once goals are established, the team should created the services, modifications and accommodation to ensure that the student reaches the goals. 

IEP Goals Should Be "SMART"






Advocacy services

It is important to know your rights when navigating the special education system. Wrightslaw provides access to accurate, reliable information about your rights under the law.