All parents want to know how their child is doing in school. For typical students, this feedback is received periodically in the form of tests or project grades and at the conclusion of school quarters or trimesters when final grades are released. These final grades are paired with face to face parent-teacher conferences when teachers share their observations with parents and address achievement concerns. In many cases, you will also hear about the strengths your child exhibits in the classroom. For most children this is sufficient to ensure they have a successful scholastic experience, but for parents of children with special needs it is not enough.

While progress reporting varies from district to district, and from state to state, a parent has the right to meet on request to learn about the child's progress. A plan is only as strong as the methods by which it is measured. If there is an agreed upon communication strategy documented in your child's plan, then there is clarity on everyone's part from the outset. Again, the team benefits from agreeing on and documenting how frequently and in what manner information sharing will occur. While this is not foolproof, as a parent you now have established that you are an active and engaged member who expects to be informed of your child's progress. Parents who follow up by reaching out to the team, should this information not be shared in the agreed upon fashion or timeframe reinforce their requirement that the plan be followed.

This is where the IEP and 504 provide an additional layer regarding your child's learning. Children with special education needs are provided more frequent and more detailed information regarding progress, effectiveness of adaptation strategies, and feedback from individuals beyond just the teacher. The IEP includes guidelines on frequency of monitoring and feedback, and access to instructional modifications to provide a child with an appropriate education. A 504 plan does not provide formal guidelines for progress reporting or skill improvement, but focuses on empowering a student with a handicapping condition to receive an equal opportunity in the classroom and outlines how it will be provided. Therefore, for example, a student who has a diagnosed hearing impairment could be provided assistive technology to allow him to receive the same access to instruction that his non hearing impaired classmates experience.

In contrast, an IEP is a plan tailored to the individual learning needs of a student with a diagnosed learning disability, or physical or mental health impairment. Since this document is created for the purpose of improving the child's areas of weakness, there are formal goals and progress monitoring listed, thus requiring the school to consistently measure and report on your child's progress in order to determine if the goals are being met with success. Both the IEP and 504 ensure your child receives the best possible learning environment for their unique needs. I will be posting an article with more detailed information on the difference between the IEP and 504 plans in a future post so please check back soon if you're interested!


For each area your child receives services on an IEP, there must be at least one (and often there may be multiple) goal(s) to remediate the deficit in that area as well as strategies on how to meet that goal. The school service providers, such as speech and language pathologists, occupational and physical therapists and social worker/counselor are responsible for implementing the goals, tracking data on your child's rate of learning. They also report that information to the team as well as document the data within the notes section of the IEP. Progress is measured over the course of several weeks in order to capture a child's rate of learning over time and account for variances in performance and situations. Teacher/therapist can clarify how to access the information and provide further details on how the data is collected.

It is common for IEP progress to be formally documented every five weeks, unless a parent conference takes place, in which case results will be reported verbally during the meeting. If your school district does not proactively provide this information, it should be made available to you if you request it.

Pro-tip: When in doubt, call the school directly. E-mail is not the best form of

communication when you have a question that you would llike answered in a

timely fashion. Since school professionals are with students for the majority of

work day, responding to email efficiently is not always possible. However, phone

calls beget a greater sense of urgency, so may be responded to in a more timely


IEP progress reports provide an opportunity to learn more about your child and adaptations at school that are successful and how you can practice the skills at home to accelerate your child's progress even more. It also provides an opportunity to identify adaptations that are not working in the classroom and make adjustments quickly to ensure the best possible outcome for your child. If you feel progress has not been shared in a timely fashion, have questions or feedback is unclear to you, your first step should be to reach out to your child's teachers. They should be willing to hear and answer your questions or provide you guidance with who may be better able to address your concerns. If further questions remain or you are unable to access someone on your child's team, a call to the principal is another option.

Pro-tip: You may be tempted to involve other individuals while seeking

answers to your questions. While this may at times work to your benefit, it may

cause unintended consternation. It is best to go directly to the Principal in order

receive accurate information, given s/he is in a position to have either the

information you are seeking or the authority to help you effectively find it.

504 Monitoring

As stated earlier, the 504 plan is intended to help students with a handicapping condition access the same curriculum as their non handicapped peers. Therefore, this plan does not include goals or formal monitoring because a child who receives this gets as close to the same curriculum as possible as the other children in his classroom. There is no aspect of the 504 that requires it to be reviewed, though best practice is that it get reviewed at least annually or when a child moves to the next grade level. Finally, in contrast to the IEP, a 504 is not a customized plan, aimed at improving a skill within which the child has a deficit. So a child with a learning disabilty such as a low reading comprehension will have an IEP and goals to target improving his comprehension; where a 504 plan addresses a handicapping condition that cannot be changed, but rather accomodations provide the child with equal access to classroom curriculum in order foro her to receive a free and appropriate education. Thus, so long as the child with a 504 has an accomodation in place to "equal the playing field" with regard to the school environment, changes to the plan are not expected. However, as a parent, if you feel the accomodations are not effective, you can request a meeting to review and update the plan at any time by reaching out to your school principal for assistance in setting up a meeting.

Open and respectful communication is the most efficient means to gather informaiton about your child and it is vital to the success your child meets with at school. Beginning all conversations with the assumption of good intent on both sides can prevent defensive behaviors and ultimately lead to more productive and solution based resolutions with your child's best interests at the center of the conversation.

Let me know in the comment section below if you have had success or issues receiving feedback about your child's progress. I love to learn what others' experiences have been so that other readers can receive help too! Thanks for stopping by! Should you have more questions about this or any other topic related to the needs of a child with special needs, please email me at:

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