{504 Plan vs. IEP} 6 Important Differences between the two.

Difference Between 504 and IEP

Here are some of the key differences between an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and a 504 Plan.

IEP vs 504

for the student.
IEP 504 Plan
Is an individualized education plan
Is a list of items that the child needs to “access” their education.
Has Procedural Safeguards in case parents do not agree with school.No procedural safeguards for parents.
Per IDEA, requires that the parent be an active member of IEP team.No parental input required. School can develop 504 without parents.
Per IDEA, requires that the child be re-evaluated every 2-3 years.No evaluations from school required.
Has a component of progress monitoring of the student.No progress monitoring.
Is centered around functional and academic goals.No goals.

Those are the basics. But if you need more to consider, or you’ve been offered one instead of the other, please read on.

504 Plan vs. IEP

Tell me if you’ve heard this one from your IEP team: “We have to move him to a 504.”

Most importantly, there are no “have-tos.” What I mean by that, is that quite often, I hear that parents were told, “We have to move him to a 504.”

The reasons for this vary. I’ve heard everything from losing funding to having passing grades to not being able to get into college. Yes, if your child has either a 504/IEP now, they may very well need a 504 in college. That is something that happens in transition, and should have no bearing on what the child receives now.

What affects what your child receives now, is what they need right now. If they need special education services, then they need an IEP. Sometimes until the day they graduate. They can then still get a 504 after graduation.

What is an IEP Plan vs a 504 Plan?

A 504 Education Plan was never intended to be an “IEP Lite.” Yet this is a trend that’s been going on for a while. IEPs and 504s are very different documents. And 504s were never intended to be an “IEP Lite.” They also were never intended to be a “pre IEP” or a “Let’s try a 504 first.” Separate. Documents.

But that’s what is happening. If you feel you are being talked into this and your gut is telling you otherwise, push back. Request the IEP evaluations.

Avoiding the evaluations, supports and related services that come with an IEP is a cost-cutting measure.

There is already quite a bit out there on the internet about the differences between IEPs and 504s. No need to reinvent the wheel. So I am going to share with you some of the best resources, and highlight their explanations.

504 Plan vs IEP

  • Key Differences Between Section 504 and IDEA– from Wrightslaw. This one is one of my favorites. Read number 4: Section 504 has fewer procedural safeguards to protect the parent and child. That is essential. Especially with our current political climate and talk of major cuts to the Office of Civil Rights, you want to have as many protections as your child needs.
  • Here is another brief article from Metro Kids. Very simple, very high level. But, the take away here, is the sentence talking about the ability to learn.
  •  I like this back and forth explanation from Family Connect. It shows you the specific differences in the IEP process and the 504 process. Much less parent participation (and rights thereto) with a 504.
  •  504 vs IEP booklet: This printable booklet is from Disability Rights New Hampshire, and has some great things in it. You’ll also see some of the common statements that parents are told regarding 504s. (those have-tos that I mentioned earlier!)
  •  ADDitude also has a free booklet about this that you can download.


Can you have both an IEP and a 504?

Technically, yes. But there’s no reason for it. The New Hampshire Dept of Education states on their website that you cannot have both a 504 and an IEP. I have seen both, and you can also find more information about it on Wrightslaw, who also advises against it.

It just doesn’t make sense to have both–to have some protections and some parent participation rights for parts of your child’s accommodations, but not all the parts? Make sense? If your child has or needs an IEP, you get an IEP. And, if for some of their disabilities, they only need accommodations, you just list those on the IEP.

Lastly, here is an infographic from a group in New England to check out. Pin it if you’d like! Thanks!

difference IEP 504

What to do if the school is pushing for 504.

Your choices remain the same. You can ask for another meeting, mediation or due process. Make sure you read your Procedural Safeguards.

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