Are you concerned your child’s 504 plan isn’t working? Sometimes 504 plans need to be adjusted to better serve your child and help her make progress. Here are steps you can take if you think your child’s 504 plan isn’t working.
1. Define what “not working” means to you.
The first step is to identify why you think the 504 plan isn’t working. Maybe you expected your child to improve in certain areas or have higher grades because of the 504 plan. Maybe you’re concerned that there’s a snag or mix-up with your child’s services and supports. You might think she needs different accommodations or more help than the school currently provides.
2. Consider how long your child’s 504 plan has been in place.
Think about how long your child has had her 504 plan. If it was just put in place, it may take time for your child to see the benefits. In the meantime, you can observe your child and note any concerns. On the other hand, if your child’s 504 plan hasn’t been updated recently, it may be time to do so. Experts suggest that 504 plans be reviewed at least once a year.
3. Confirm that the 504 plan is being followed.
It’s important to check that your child’s plan is being followed. Look at your child’s assignments for signs that she’s using the accommodations in the 504 plan. Ask her about how the accommodations are working in a specific class, to get a sense of whether she’s using them. If you’re concerned about a particular accommodation, you can email the teacher to ask about it. (Here are more tips on how to make sure a 504 plan is being followed.)
4. Track your child’s progress.
Next, it may help to look at your child’s progress in school. There’s no requirement for a 504 plan to track progress. However, most schools monitor how kids are doing academically through report cards, test scores and other assessments. You have a right to see these educational records. Find out how to request them. It may also help to keep track of any communications you have with the school about progress.
Under federal education law, schools must aim to get all kids to meet state academic standards. That includes kids with learning and attention issues. Check your child’s report cards and other records to see how well she’s meeting these standards.
5. Talk with your child’s teacher or 504 plan coordinator.
Schedule a time to talk about your concerns with the teacher. You can also reach out to the school’s 504 plan coordinator, whose contact information should be on your child’s plan or in the school directory.
Both the teacher and the coordinator may have information that answers your concerns. They may also suggest ways you can support the 504 plan at home. And your input can help them evaluate whether the plan is working as intended, or if it needs to be revisited.
6. Ask for a meeting with the school principal or 504 plan team.
If you still have concerns, you can take them to a higher level—the school principal or the 504 plan team. Unlike with an IEP, you don’t have a legal right to call (or even attend) 504 plan meetings. But you can always ask to talk, and often the school will agree.
Bring any notes or samples of your child’s schoolwork that support your concerns. Make a list of questions you want to ask.
7. Talk about adjusting the accommodations.
As you work with the school, review and talk about how well your child’s accommodations and services are working. Sometimes the accommodations in the plan don’t work as well in practice as everyone thought they would. Perhaps an accommodation is too hard for your child to use. Or maybe your child feels embarrassed about using it. Similarly, if your child’s 504 plan includes services, they might need to be adjusted.
You can suggest different accommodations that may better suit your child. Often these kinds of changes can be achieved through informal negotiation. If informal negotiation doesn’t work, though, learn about other options for resolving 504 plan disputes.
8. Consider an IEP.
If it doesn’t seem like any changes to the 504 plan will help, it may be time to consider special education through an IEP. You can ask for a free evaluation for special education at any time. Just keep in mind that not every child qualifies.
The article was written by Andrew M.I. Lee, an editor and former attorney who strives to help people understand complex legal, education and parenting issues.