The Language of IEPs and 504s: The Importance of “All” and “Before”

Today we’re covering the use of all and before in IEPs and 504s, and how all doesn’t always mean all, and how before needs its own timeline.


Imagine your child has the following on his IEP:

The IEP Team to share reading data with parents on a monthly basis.

Although the school is providing you monthly data, your gut is turning—something isn’t sitting right.

You decide to submit a FERPA request, and you request all reading data related to your child.

In the response to the FERPA request, you receive negative reading data—data you’ve never seen before, even though you’ve attended monthly meetings at the school all year and thought you were being provided all data at those meetings, and that all data was being discussed at those meetings.

You complain to the school and or submit a complaint to the state.

Well . . . The school did provide you data, so it followed the IEP.

There wasn’t anything in the IEP that stated all data had to be provided, or more specifically, all positive and all negative reading data.

In addition, your child has the following accommodation:

Extended time: 50% for all assignments

You start to see a grade drop in one of your child’s classes, so you ask questions.

The teacher says that assignments are defined as homework, not as classwork.

Now, you know that this is not what was discussed with the IEP team. Maybe the procedural support liaison even said, “all means all”, after you asked for clarity. You go back to the IEP team and discuss this and have someone talk with the teacher. In addition, you change the accommodation, so it states all assignments, to include classwork, homework, and all other forms of assignments. In addition, you make it clear that, because your child has extended time on classwork, that classwork will go home for completion.

The same holds true for tests. Your daughter might have testing to completion on her IEP, but her teacher doesn’t consider quizzes or informal assessments to be tests, so she doesn’t provide your daughter the accommodation.

Lesson learned:

  • Ensure the word all appears as often as possible.
  • Ask what all incorporates. If it is all tests, does that mean all quizzes and any other forms of assessments, whether formal or informal? If it is all assignments, does that mean both homework and classwork?


Imagine your son has “copies of teacher’s notes to be provided” as an accommodation.

Perhaps your child has processing struggles, Dysgraphia, Dyslexia or any of the number of hurdles kids face when it comes to listening and taking notes at the same time.

You find out that your son’s Geometry teacher isn’t posting her notes until after the class. You say something and are told that the accommodation only states that they be provided, not when they be provided.

Yet, your son needs them before class. He needs them to 1) preview them, to familiarize himself with the vocabulary and content; and 2) because he is a slow writer and struggles with auditory processing, it is important for him to have the notes, so his full attention is on the teacher, rather than stressing about not writing all the notes before the teacher moves to the next slide, and/or not processing everything the teacher is saying due to the same stress of capturing all of the notes.

So, you ask for the word before to be inserted into the accommodation.

Good, you think to yourself. All sorted out.

And then you find out your son is being provided the notes as he walks into class, before the lesson, but not long enough in advance for him to review them before the lesson is taught.

Lesson learned:

  • Ensure the word before is front and center.
  • Define before. Is before one day, two days, a week? And, how will they be provided before? Print hand-out, digital file? Another format?

Go into your IEP or 504 meetings ready to collaborate, but understand that clear language, with as much as possible defined in advance, helps everyone. Your child’s teachers don’t attend every IEP meeting. They don’t know what was discussed, which leaves the IEP or 504 language up to interpretation.

Keep it simple and clear—and ensure there’s no room for misinterpretation.

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