Ensuring All Students with Disabilities have a Pathway to a High School Diploma in California
View this email in your browser
October 2022
Tip: Request an IEP meeting as students begin high school to discuss what help is needed to keep them on track for graduation and a diploma.

Ensuring All Students with Disabilities have a Pathway to a High School Diploma in California

A high school diploma is a passport to future opportunities and should be the goal for all students. Unfortunately, in California, students with disabilities graduate with a high school diploma at the lowest rate of any other student group.

When students receiving special education struggle to meet diploma requirements it is often because they are not receiving the support, services, and accommodations they need. Anytime a student is struggling, the IEP team should consider what additional help the student needs, but sometimes, instead of providing support, academic expectations are lowered and the student is moved to a “certificate of completion” track. This means that they are no longer working toward a diploma. A certificate of completion can create barriers for disabled people who want to attend college or find a job, because it may not be recognized by employers, colleges, or training programs.

Students Can Continue on the Path to a Diploma!

There is a common misunderstanding that if a student does not graduate in four years and needs services after that time, their only alternative is to move to a certificate track where the focus is often on functional living skills. The fact is, that up until they turn 22, students with an IEP can receive services to help them graduate with a regular high school diploma.

California's Alternative Pathways to a High School Diploma Workgroup

To make sure that schools provide the supports and services that disabled students need to graduate with a high school diploma, California created the Alternative Pathways to a High School Diploma Workgroup (Alt Pathways Workgroup) to make recommendations to ensure that students with disabilities can access the regular curriculum and satisfy the requirements for a high school diploma.

One of the most important findings of the Alt Pathways Workgroup is that creating separate graduation pathways for students with disabilities could result in more exclusion of students with disabilities from rigorous high school coursework and limit future opportunities. To their credit the Workgroup made recommendations for training, resources, and support focused on keeping most students with disabilities on a regular high school diploma track and eliminating the certificate of completion.

The Workgroup recognized that there is a very small number of students with cognitive disabilities who may not be able to meet the requirements for a regular high school diploma and recommended an alternative diploma for only these students. These youth make up about 10% of all of the students who receive special education. This new pathway would allow an eligible student to continue receiving special education services but also meet diploma requirements based on an alternative set of standards and a more individualized approach to graduation and a diploma. This would reward these students for working hard and meeting their IEP goals (which must always be meaningfully ambitious and ensure that students are making progress and learning) and ensure equality of opportunity for all students with disabilities.

The California Department of Education will be releasing information and guidance and will be providing training and consultation to schools and families as the certificate of completion is eliminated and the new alternative diploma pathway replaces it for a limited group of students. The Workgroup report and recommendations: Pathways to a High School Diploma - Legislative Report

For more information about how to support students in earning a high school diploma, transition planning, or special education in general, contact your Parent Training and Information Center.

Special Education Resources

Upcoming Online Training (Using Zoom)

Special Education: IEP Basics & Beyond

Date: Monday, November 7, 2022
Time: 10:00 am – 11:30 am (Note: special morning time)

Registration is required ↓
Registration Link
Mental Health, Behavior, and Discipline: Connecting the Dots

Date: Monday, November 14, 2022
Time: 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Registration is required ↓
Registration Link

Interpretation/Accommodations: If you need accommodations to participate in any of our training or presentations, please contact or call 510 644-2555 as soon as possible. We generally need 10 days to arrange these, and we want to make sure you are included!

Note: We offer all our DREDF Special Education training in Spanish and post other training that may be of interest where we are participating but not hosting on our website as well. Visit DREDF's Special Education Trainings page for more information.

Need to talk with an Education Advocate? To contact the PTI, call 510-644-2555, ext. 5227, or email us at The education advocates at DREDF's Parent Training & Information Center (PTI) are available to answer calls and emails though there may be delays due to the needs of staff working from home. Thank you for your understanding!

Dark sky with an orange moon. Ghosts flying. Have you been boosted?

Parents! Children 6 months and older are eligible for a COVID-19 Vaccine, and children 5 years and older are eligible for the new COVID19 Vaccine Boosters.

  • Getting vaccinated is the safest way to protect against the worst outcomes of COVID-19, including hospitalization, long COVID, and death.
  • The known risks of COVID-19 infection far outweigh the potential risk of rare adverse reactions after vaccination.
  • Getting vaccinated helps reduce the spread of COVID-19 and its variants to our loved ones and in our communities.
  • Find a vaccine near you at or by calling (833) 422-4255.


ADR — Alternative Dispute Resolution. An informal way of settling disagreements directly with the school or district.

FAPE — Free Appropriate Public Education.

IDEA — Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The federal law that creates special education rights for students and youth with disabilities 0-22.

IEP Individualized Educational Program. A legal document that explains how a school will meet the disability-related needs of a student eligible for special education.

LEA — Local Education Agency.  Public Schools including Charter Schools, County Schools

LRE — Least Restrictive Environment. The requirement in federal law that students with disabilities receive their education, to the maximum extent appropriate, with non-disabled students and that special education students are not removed from regular classes unless, even with special education support, education in regular classes doesn't meet their needs.

NOTICE OF PARENT RIGHTS/PROCEDURAL SAFEGUARDS  Important safeguards that protect the rights of parents and disabled students. Also, give families and school systems several mechanisms through which to resolve their disputes. Parental Rights under IDEA summarizes these safeguards.

PTI Parent Training and Information Centers are places families can get free help to understand their student with a disability's education rights and learn to use them effectively.

SELPA Special Education Local Plan Area (CA only)

3075 Adeline Street, Suite 210
Berkeley, CA 94703
510.644.2555 v
510-841-8645 fax
    Donate to DREDF    
Support DREDF when you shop.
Changing the Present
Amazon Smile
Share Share
Tweet Tweet
Forward Forward
Copyright © 2022 Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, All rights reserved.

unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences