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Question: My fifth grader is having trouble following directions and finishing his work, especially in math. The teacher mentioned having him evaluated for either an IEP or a 504 plan. Are the evaluations different for IEPs and 504 plans?
Technically speaking, yes. The evaluations are different because
Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and
504 plans are covered by different laws. They also serve different purposes. But sometimes, an IEP evaluation can also serve as a 504 plan evaluation.
Broadly speaking, an IEP provides special education
supports and services. That includes specially designed instruction. The purpose of a 504 plan is to provide supports so a student has access to learning. That typically means accommodations and perhaps some
related services. Occasionally special instruction can be included, but not often.
An IEP is covered under
, which entitles students with disabilities to a
. The law covers
13 categories of disability. To get an IEP, a student must qualify under one of those categories. A student with a learning or thinking difference may fall into one of them.
504 plans work differently. They’re covered by
, a civil rights law. Their purpose is to give students with physical or mental “impairments” access to education.
In order to be eligible for a 504 plan, a student must show that he has a condition that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Learning is one of those life activities.
For a 504 plan, the student doesn’t need to have the full evaluation that’s required for an IEP, however. He only has to show that he has a disability that qualifies under Section 504. So the evaluation might include:
A review of his work
A review of his medical records and evaluation reports
Interview with the student, parent, and school personnel
If that’s all the 504 team needs to determine if the student is eligible, then that’s all the evaluation will include. But sometimes the team wants more information. It might ask for other testing. Or it might request a full evaluation like the one required for an IEP.