Thursday, December 1, 2011

Diploma Track and a Certificate; What’s the difference and why does it matter?

“Even if Nicky is the best reader or mathematician in his grade, it won’t matter if he can’t get safely across the street, and right now he cannot. That said, my priority is not Nicky graduating with a diploma.”  mom

Diploma Track and a Certificate; What’s the difference and why does it matter?
I overheard two conversations; first was a family upset because they didn’t know there was more than one "track" and another was a family who pulled their son off the Diploma track in 10th grade when they learned the difference.  Seemed to me if people were this excited, it must be an important part of the conversation I needed to have before Nicky hit high school. I asked around, and here’s how it was explained to me. If anyone has any additional information..please email me or leave a comment.  The difference between certificate and a diploma when a student exits High School is:

Ø  Both a High School of Diploma and Certificate of Completion  allow students to participate in the high school graduation ceremony.
Ø  The Diploma track is the standard curriculum in general education. It has set courses (math, English, science, foreign language etc.) which all students are required to take.  
Ø  Graduation with Certificate is based upon the student opting out of the Diploma track for an “Alternative Curriculum”.  When a child in enrolled in “Alternative Curriculum”  the IEP team has flexibility to schedule  classes based on a student’s individual needs, which can include Community Based Instruction (CBI)
Ø  A Certificate of Completion – is not a document presented to get a job, or used to get into college.
Ø  Students on the diploma track will have a document to show potential employer’s colleges and universities that they completed the mandatory requirements of high school.
Ø  If a student is on the diploma track and pass’s (even with all D’s) Public school is no longer responsible for the students education beyond 12th grade. As soon as you get your diploma you are exited from the public school (that’s why the prom and activities are before the diploma).  The public school districts are no longer your resource for education. 
Ø  From age 18 diploma track students exited from high school  will be rely on other state resources, department of rehab, regional center for educational/vocational supports.
Ø  Individuals with an IEP, enrolled in an alternative curriculum can stay in public school system until age 22 or until they receive a diploma, whichever comes first.
Ø  18 year old students walk with their peers for graduation, moving forward they go into a post -secondary program, utilizing school district resources/funds.
Ø  Public schools tend to have the best resources when post-secondary students will still get 7.5 hours of instruction.  (Unless you go to a workshop or day center)

Conclusion for this family: Nicky is not on the “Diploma” track. My priority is not Nicky graduating with a diploma. Even if Nicky is the best reader or mathematician in his grade, it won’t matter if he can’t get safely across the street, and right now he cannot. For us, opting for the alternative curriculum lets us focus on life skills directly related to his independence while he is in high school.  I would like him to have the choice to remain with our school district until age 22, so he can move into LAUSD’s post-secondary programs and access educational programs designed to move him toward independent while meeting his individual needs.  The best way for us to do this it to jump off the Diploma track and create a curriculum where the priorities in his education are classes/programs/activities that directly impact independence. 


  1. Any diploma and certification should be immediate job fetching then only it is valued.

    Job requirements

  2. Did the certificate track really help your student get the services?

  3. This is excellent information for parents to know! Thanks for highlighting this.

  4. My son is now 19 years old (with cerebral palsy and brain damage), and completed his local high school curriculum under a Certificate of Completion. He completely participated in prom, Grad Nite, and all senior activities, and then "graduated" (walked the stage) with his peers. Because he has a Certificate of Completion, he can now stay in the public school system until he is 22 years old, taking complete advantage of the public school programs that are available. Currently he is enrolled in a special education career and transition school, and is excelling at obtaining life skills, independent living skills and job skills. Certificate of Completion track for my son was most definitely the best way to go!