Education: Graduation Requirements

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Graduation Requirements

Florida students entering grade nine may choose from one of four options to earn a standard diploma. They are:

  • 24-credit program
  • 18-credit, Academically Challenging Curriculum to Enhance Learning (ACCEL) option
  • An International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum
  • An Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) curriculum

In addition to the four options available for students to earn a standard diploma listed above there are two additional options students with disabilities may complete within the 24-credit program. The first is modifying the curriculum through access points. The second is showing successful completion of high school requirements through academic and employment skills.

For students with significant disabilities, who are unable to meet the rigorous standards of the general curriculum, the IEP team can determine if it is most appropriate for the student to participate in access point instruction modifications and the Florida Alternate Assessment. Access courses are designed to provide students with a significant cognitive disability access to the general curriculum. Access point instruction modifies the general education curriculum to the essential understandings of the standards in the subject area. These access points allow teachers to begin instruction where the student is able to interact with the grade level content. For example, in Geometry one of the standards is to “use coordinates to prove simple geometric theorems with the use of algebra.” For students with significant disabilities the access point standard is modified to “when presented with points, identify the shape.” Project 10’s Secondary Transition Roadmap for Families describes access point instruction as, “Access points are taught within access courses, but this does not necessarily mean that students taking these courses must be in a separate classroom. Access courses can be taught in a general education classroom with the support of an ESE teacher, allowing students to spend time with nondisabled peers.”

How does the IEP team determine if a student should be taking courses using the access points?

The IEP team should discuss how the student’s cognitive disability affects all aspects of the student’s academic, independent functioning, community living, and leisure/vocational activities. Students must be eligible for ESE services in one of the following categories: Intellectual Disabilities (IND), Other Health Impaired (OHI) or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Students with Specific Learning Disabilities cannot be on Access Points. At the end of the course, the students have their skills measured through the Florida Standards Alternate Assessment.

The other graduation option for students with disabilities is mastery of both academic and employment competencies. Students with disabilities who are having a difficult time mastering the graduation requirements but not eligible for access point instruction do have an alternative route to graduation. The IEP team may meet to develop an Employment Transition Plan. This route towards graduation allows the student to take the core academic courses and have employment count as some of the required core academic and elective credits.

Both of these options, Access Point instruction and Academic and Employment diploma options, require 24 credits and both allow students to substitute a career technical education course with related content for one credit in English/Language Arts (ELA) IV, mathematics, science and social studies (excluding Algebra I, Geometry, Biology I and U.S. History). Students who choose the academic and employment option must earn at least .5 credit through paid employment.

All students are required to pass their course work with a 2.0 GPA and a passing score on end of course exams. There are two student exemption options related to statewide, standardized assessments as follows:

A student with a disability for whom the IEP team determines is prevented by a circumstance or condition from physically demonstrating the mastery of skills that have been acquired and are measured by the statewide, standardized assessment, a statewide, standardized EOC assessment, or an alternate assessment shall be granted an extraordinary exemption from the administration of the assessment

A child with a medical complexity may be exempt from participating in statewide, standardized assessments, including the Florida Standards Alternate Assessment.

There is a process that a district must follow to request a review by the Commissioner of Education for both of the exemption options. This process must be completed months in advance of state assessment administration.

Assessment Waivers:

If the student does not meet the passing score, but can show mastery of the skills through other means, then the assessment can be waived. A waiver can be applied to both the end of course exams under the Florida Standards Assessment and the Florida Standards Alternate Assessment. The IEP team would meet to determine if the student’s disability interfered with the passing of the exam and if the student has met the course requirements through demonstration on class assignments and tests.

How can a parent/caregiver gain access to this service?

As a parent, it is important to actively participate in IEP meetings. If you see that your child is having a difficult time with course work, consider meeting with the IEP team to discuss options.

Questions or observations recommended to parents to investigate when determining the right diploma option?

  • As a parent it is important to stay involved in your child’s education. Set aside a study time each day for the child to practice the skills learned in school. This may be homework time, story time, or a time to practice independent living skills.
  • Observe your child’s ability to complete homework. How long does it take to complete the assignments? Is the child exhibiting frustration?
  • Attend IEP meetings. If your child is showing frustration or grades are failing, discuss the possibility of the alternative ways of getting a diploma through access points or employment at the IEP meeting.
  • Discuss what options after high school graduation your child would have to attend college, technical schools, enlist in the military, or other training programs Do these options fit the goals of your child? Is this the best path to reaching my child’s personal goals after high school?

Recommended websites, YouTube videos, books on this topic For the Family Guide to Secondary Transition Planning for Students with Disabilities, 2018 Click Here For the Project 10 Transition Roadmap for Families Click Here For the Inclusion and the Florida Access Points presentation Click Here


Florida department of education. Graduation requirements.

Florida department of education. Technical assistance paper: waiver of statewide, standardized assessment results for students with disabilities. January 15, 2016

Secondary student progression frequently asked questions. 2017-18

The family guide to secondary transition planning for students with disabilities, 2018

Inclusion and the florida access points presentation

Project 10 transition. Roadmap for families.

Written by: Iris Neil

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