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Will a 504 Plan Provide a Scribe & Reader for GQE Testing?
by Pat Howey

girl writing in schoolMy child has a 504 Plan. She is supposed to have a scribe and a reader for classroom assignments and tests. Can she also have a scribe and a reader when she takes the Graduation Qualifying Examination (GQE)?

Pat's Answer

Across the nation, parents are looking at IEPs and 504 Plans. Some are asking whether the plan meets their child’s needs. Parents often ask questions about accommodations.


Accommodations are services or items that schools provide to adjust for a child’s disability.

Accommodations do not take the place of special instruction.

Too often, that is exactly what happens. Children with disabilities have a right to special instruction. Schools must teach children with disabilities.

Schools often suggest readers and scribes for children who do not read or write well. This is appropriate as long as the school also provides reading and writing instruction. Too often, schools provide accommodations instead of special instruction.

Most children can learn to read and write. For these children, it is not appropriate for schools to provide readers and scribes in place of instruction. Schools should provide accommodations to a child with low reading and writing levels while she learns to read and write.

Accommodations supplement instruction.

Instruction and accommodations go hand in hand. They accompany each other.

When children learn to read and write, the need for readers and scribes goes away in the IEP or 504 Plan. When schools provide proper instruction they fulfill the mission of IDEA 2004. They are preparing the child for further education, employment, and independent living. 20 U.S.C. § 1400(d) (Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, page. 48)

Modifications and Adaptations

The same thing is true with modifications and adaptations. Modifications and adaptations change or adjust lessons and curriculum to meet the child’s unique needs. Modifications and adaptations do not replace instruction.

Examples of modifications and adaptations for a child with a visual impairment include

  • enlarging text
  • lessons
  • worksheets

The teacher modifies the curriculum to adjust for the child’s disability. Waiving worksheets is not an option. That lowers the bar for the child. Watering down the course work does not prepare the child for life in the adult world.

Modification, adaptations, and accommodations do not provide unfair advantages. They should not make things easier for the child. They should level the playing field for the child. They allow a child with a disability to learn the same things as his non-disabled peers. The child does the same work. He may do it in a different way.

The Real Battle

This child needs special instruction. That is the battle this parent must fight.

The parent’s concern is whether this child should have a reader and a scribe. This tells us this child cannot read or write well enough to take the GQE without accommodations.

The real question is whether the school should be teaching this child to read and write. With a reader and a scribe, she may pass the GQE. She may earn a high school diploma. But, will she read and write well enough to live on her own and earn a living.

Read what Pete Wright has to say about accommodations.

Read what Sue Whitney has to say about accommodations and high stakes testing.

Read what Pat Howey has to say about modifications.

Some children with disabilities need accommodations and modifications in their special education programs.

This 4 page printer-friendly PDF article defines accommodations and modifications and gives examples for books, curriculum, instruction, assignments, and behavior.

Remember that denying the accommodations and modifications that will allow the child equal access to an education is a denial of the child's right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Learn more here.

Meet Pat Howey

Pat HoweyPatricia Howey has supported families of children with disabilities since 1985. She has a specific learning disability and became involved in special education when her youngest child entered kindergarten. Pat has children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who have a variety of disabilities and she has used her experience to advocate for better special education services for several of them.

Pat is a charter member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), serving on its Board of Directors from 2000 through 2003. She has been a Commissioner on the Tippecanoe (County) Human Relations Committee, a graduate of Leadership Lafayette and Partners in Policymaking, and a member of the Wrightslaw Speakers Bureau. She has been on the faculty of the College of William and Mary Law School’s Institute of Special Education Advocacy since its inception in 2011.

Pat has an A.S. and a B.A. in Paralegal Studies from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, where she graduated magna cum laude. She is an Indiana Registered Paralegal and an affiliate member of the Indiana Bar and the American Bar Associations.

Pat began her advocacy career as a volunteer for the Task Force on Education for the Handicapped (now InSource), Indiana’s Parent Training and Information Center. In 1990, she opened her advocacy practice and served families throughout Indiana by representing them at IEP meetings, mediation, and due process hearings.

In 2017, Pat closed her advocacy practice and began working on a contract basis as a special education paralegal. Attorneys in Indiana, Texas, and California contracted with her to review documents, spot issues, draft due process complaints, prepare for hearings, and assist at hearings. In January 2019, she became an employee of the Connell Michael Kerr law firm, owned by Erin Connell, Catherine Michael, and Sonja Kerr. Her duties have now expanded to assisting with federal court cases.

"Changing the World -- One Child at at Time.

Contact Information

Patricia L. Howey, B.A., IRP
POB 117
West Point, Indiana 47992-0117
E-mail: specialedconsulting@gmail.com
Webpage: https://cmklawfirm.com/

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Created: 07/07/09
Revised: 06/28/19

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