(2015, July; Updated June 2023) | Useful to Parent Centers in their SSIP work and systems change activities.

Graduation requirements and diploma options for students with disabilities who participate in the general assessment have been a topic of interest for many years. The recent push for all students, including those with disabilities, to leave school ready for college and career has heightened the importance of understanding what states are requiring of students with disabilities to earn a regular diploma.

In 2015, The National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) published a report on this topic, Graduation Policies for Students with Disabilities who Participate in States’ General Assessments. NCEO’s investigation explored states’ 2014-15 requirements for those students with disabilities who participate in the general assessment to earn a regular diploma, and compared the requirements held for them to the requirements held for their peers. Findings include that:

Only 14 states held the same graduation requirements for their students with disabilities and their peers.Nine of these states had only course requirements for graduation with a regular diploma, and five of them had both course requirements and exit assessment requirements. 

When looking at course requirements only, 30 of the 51 states had requirements for their students with disabilities that were not the same as those for their peers.

When looking at exit assessment requirements only, 19 of the 27 states held less rigorous requirements for their students with disabilities compared to their peers.

Continued attention needs to be given to the graduation requirements for all students, but particularly those students with disabilities who participate in states’ general assessments. This attention also must address meeting their instructional needs, and providing appropriate access and accommodations.

Read NCEO’s report (PDF, 1.3 MB) at:


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