Standard High School Graduation Requirements

Standard High School Graduation Requirements

The information below describes state high school graduation requirements as defined by state statutes and regulations. These requirements should be understood to show minimum course requirements, in that local boards may adopt graduation requirements above and beyond those mandated by the state. Policies reflect courses to be completed and do not include exit exam requirements. This database indicates where state policy specifies courses that may or must be completed to earn subject area credit.

With the exception of Nebraska and New Jersey, required coursework is expressed in Carnegie units, with one unit reflecting one year of coursework. Units defined in Idaho and Indiana policy have been translated from half-year to full-year units to maintain consistency. Exceptions and other circumstances related to completing high school graduation course requirements are included in the "Technical Notes and Citations" field at the end of each state's report. Subject area fields with a --- indicate that the state does not set course requirements for that subject. Where the number of state-mandated units in specific subjects falls below the total number of state-mandated units, this difference is indicated in the "total units" field rather than the "electives" field to reflect local districts' option to increase unit requirements in subject areas.

This information was gathered in January to August 2005 and is updated as new policies are enacted.

Last update: March 23, 2007

This database was compiled by Jennifer Dounay Zinth, project manager, ECS High School Policy Center. For questions, additions or corrections: 303.299.3689 or


Standard Diploma
English units (Std.) 3
Math units (Std.) 2 (incl. Algebra I)
Notes/Citation: At least one course or a combination of the two courses must "meet or exceed the rigor of the content standards for Algebra I[.]" A student who took Algebra I or its equivalent before grade 9 must not take it again in high school but must still complete 2 units of math while in grades 9-12.
Social studies units (Std.) 3

Notes/Citation: Must include U.S. "history and geography; world history, culture and geography;" .5 unit in U.S. government and civics; .5 unit economics.

Science units (Std.) 2

Notes/Citation: Must include "biological and physical sciences."

P.E./Health units (Std.) 2
Notes/Citation: All students must complete at least 400 minutes of p.e. each 10 schooldays, unless exempted. Students in grades 10-12 may be exempted for up to 24 clock hours to take driver's training, but must attend at least 7,000 minutes of p.e. during that school year. A district may exempt a student from p.e. if the student "is engaged in a regular school-sponsored interscholastic athletic program carried on wholly or partially after regular school hours" and may grant a student temporary or permanent exemption from p.e. under other specified circumstances. A local board may exempt from p.e. any student in the last semester or quarter of grade 12 who "is permitted to attend school less than 240 or 180 minutes per day" ... "provided, however, that such pupil may not be exempted pursuant to this section from attending courses of physical education if such pupil would, after such exemption, attend school for 240 minutes or more per day."
Arts (Std.) See notes

Notes/Citation: 1 unit performing arts or foreign language.

Foreign language (Std.) See notes
Notes/Citation: 1 unit performing arts or foreign language. Course in American Sign Language fulfills this requirement. A public school student who has completed foreign language courses in private schools may receive credit for such coursework provided it is "at least equivalent to" work at the same grade level in the public schools. Statute specifies foreign languages for which such coursework may be applicable.
Electives units (Std.) 0
Other units (Std.) 0
TOTAL # units (Std.) 13
Other diploma options State offers honors/college prep curriculum options and proficiency-based credit option. State does not offer technical diploma option but does provide a certificate of completion for students who finish a technical program.
Technical notes and citations (Std.) CAL. EDUC. CODE § 51225.3, 51224.5, 51222, 51241, 51242, 51243, 51244, 51245, 51246
Planning and Counseling Requirement
State requires student to adopt learning plan (not including career pathway requirements) No
Additional Coursework Options and Requirements
State has policy on early graduation No
State has policy allowing students to meet coursework requirements through proficiency Yes. Local boards, with input from parents, administrators, teachers and students must "adopt alternative means for pupils to complete the prescribed course of study which may include practical demonstration of skills and competencies, supervised experience or other outside school experience, career technical education classes offered in high schools, courses offered by regional occupational centers or programs, interdisciplinary study, independent study, and credit earned at a postsecondary institution. Requirements for graduation and specified alternative modes for completing the prescribed course of study shall be made available to pupils, parents, and the public."

Students may also earn credit for "work experience education."
Required coursework aligned with college entrance requirements Only college-prep diploma

Notes/Citation: A-G curriculum aligned with UC and CSU entrance requirements; Golden State Seal Merit Diploma requirements are not.

All high school students are required to declare a major/career pathway/career focus No
Sources Proficiency-based credit: CAL. EDUC. CODE § 51225.3; Cal. Admin. Code tit. 5, § 1635
Alignment: High school graduation requirements: CAL. EDUC. CODE § 51225.3, 51224.5; College admissions requirements: Cal. Admin. Code tit. 5, § 40601, 40753, CSU admissions Web page, UC admissions Web page

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