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.) --
Eff. Class of 2011: 4
Math units (Std.) --
Eff. Class of 2011: 3
Social studies units (Std.) Pre-2011: See notes
Eff. Class of 2011: 3

Notes/Citation: Students must complete .5 unit of U.S. government and 1 unit of U.S. history "and receive instruction in the government of Iowa."

Science units (Std.) --
Eff. Class of 2011: 3
P.E./Health units (Std.) See notes

Notes/Citation: All physically able students shall be required to participate in the program for a minimum of one-eighth unit during each semester they are enrolled."

Arts (Std.) --
Foreign language (Std.) --
Electives units (Std.) --
Other units (Std.) --

Notes/Citation: Local boards are authorized to require a certain number of service learning units for graduation.

TOTAL # units (Std.) --
Eff. Class of 2011: 13
Other diploma options State does not offer differentiated diploma pathways. State does not have policy on awarding proficiency-based credit.
Technical notes and citations (Std.) Pre-Class of 2011: Except for p.e., requirement, .5 unit of U.S. government, 1 unit of U.S. history and instruction in Iowa government, all high school graduation requirements set by local board.
IOWA ADMIN. CODE 12.5(5); IOWA CODE ANN. § 256.7, 256.18A
Planning and Counseling Requirement
State requires student to adopt learning plan (not including career pathway requirements) Yes. Beginning with the 2006-2007 school year, each eighth grade student must develop “a core curriculum plan to guide the student toward the goal of successfully completing, at a minimum, the model core curriculum … by the time the student graduates from high school.” The plan must include career options and identify the coursework the student must take to support his/her postsecondary education and career options. If the student is under 18, the student's parent or guardian must sign the core curriculum plan developed with the student and the signed plan must be included in the student's records.
Additional Coursework Options and Requirements
State has policy on early graduation Yes. In setting graduation requirements, local boards must provide for early graduation.
State has policy allowing students to meet coursework requirements through proficiency No
Required coursework aligned with college entrance requirements
  • No
  • State does not have h.s. graduation requirements
  • State does not have statewide college entrance requirements
All high school students are required to declare a major/career pathway/career focus No
Sources Learning plan: IOWA CODE ANN. § 279.61
Early graduation: IOWA ADMIN. CODE r. 281-12.3
Alignment: High school graduation requirements: IOWA ADMIN. CODE r. 281-12.3(5), 12.5(5); College admissions requirements: Iowa Board of Regents Policy 6.01 and Iowa Board of Regents document "Building Your Future"

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