An Individual Education Plan, or an IEP as it is frequently called, is something that is put in place by a team of individuals that includes parents, teachers, test evaluators, and other involved people who work with the student. It is part of a federal government program that helps students who have some sort of learning disability. The disability can be physical or emotional, or it can be something as specific as a reading problem. The IEP puts in writing what kind of plan will help the student. There are periodic evaluations and meetings to measure the success of the IEP. If the child changes schools, the IEP 'goes' with her. It is a government program and does involve a lot of paper work, but it has benefited many, many children and is well worth the time and effort involved.
If you think that your child has failed eigth grade but has studied hard, by all means contact the school. Ask for a meeting, and bring your son along to discuss what the problem may be. There may or may not be a reason to consider a learning disability. If there is, testing will be one of the first steps.
Good luck and stay involved. Your son needs your help.