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Diploma track vs. certificate track--Which seems best for your student?



Even though the needs of each student differ from child to child, all of these decisions tend to lead up to one goal: seeing the child finish high school.


There are usually two ways a student can finish high school in most states. The child will most likely walk away with either a high school diploma or a certificate. Which path the student will be on is determined by his or her IEP team.


When a student has an IEP in place, the school district is responsible for the student’s education until they either earn a high school diploma or reach 22 years of age.


So what are the key differences between a high school diploma and a certificate?

Keep in mind that while the requirements to earn a high school diploma seem more rigorous than those to earn a certificate, this does not mean that your child must meet them alone and with no help. Students who employ and utilize the accommodations in an IEP remain eligible for the diploma track. Having an IEP does not remove the opportunity to obtain a high school diploma.


While it is very possible to earn a certificate by completing a modified curriculum, you must be wary about modifications while trying to stay on the diploma track. By modifying the child’s curriculum, there may be no guarantee that these changes will align with the grade-level requirements needed to graduate. It is important to bring this up during a student’s IEP meeting to ensure that the proposed modifications will not shift the student’s course.


It is important for parent’s to ask if their child is on a diploma or certificate track at IEP meetings. The school must tell you which track your student is on and cannot change the track without notifying the members of the IEP team.


Regardless of the track an IEP team deems to be the most fitting for a particular student, it is important to note that completing high school is a major accomplishment either way. It shows that a student worked hard and grasped enough to finish primary education and make it to the end. Some colleges will still accept students with a certificate, so please do not view obtaining a certificate to be a dead end for your child.


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