Certificate Instead of a HS Diploma? No Way!

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My son is in his senior year and has ADHD. He has an IEP. If he can’t  pass the competency test, the school will give him a certificate, not a diploma. He will continue to take the tests, but time is running out.  Is there anything I can do to help him?

If your son has an IEP, he is eligible for special education until he graduates from high school with a *regular high school diploma* or ages out at age 22.

Do not accept a certificate. The certificate is meaningless and will not help him get a job, get further education or be self sufficient and independent.

You need to write a letter to the school to request an IEP meeting.  In your letter, describe the problem as you did to me.  Ask the school to provide more intensive services so he has the knowledge and skills needed to pass the competency tests.

Be polite but firm.

The emphasis on effective transition was new in IDEA 2004. Congress made significant changes in the legal definition of “transition services”. Section 1400(c)(14) describes the need to provide “effective transition services to promote successful post-school employment and/or education.”

Has the school provided a good transition plan? What are the goals? What services and supports is the school providing to ensure that your child attains these goals?

I suggest that you request that the team include test preparation for the competency test in his IEP.  This is an important time for your son. The school is required to help him make a successful transition from high school to life after school.

You’ll find more transition information, articles, and resources here: Transition, Transition Services, and Transition Planning at https://www.wrightslaw.com/info/trans.index.htm

  1. We live in NH and our high school decided our son should get a certificate after only two months into the 9th grade. He is still only doing double digit addition and struggles with multiplication and failed his Foundations in Literacy class (a non-credit prerequisite for English). They only do worksheets with him and refuse to think outside the box for other ways of learning. They let him go to his Flex Time with no work and he just sits there…then, I am told I have to do homework with him. I want to get him into a charter school but it doesn’t sound like they’re willing to have that discussion yet. Rather, they want to make adjustments to his school day first. He has no behavioral challenges at school which makes me think they would deny it. Not sure if I’m ready for a fight!

    • Hi as a mother I have the same problem when my daughter first year if high school 9 grade…I have a meeting with IEP team …they told me my daughter can’t not attend college or community college because when she finish high school she only can get IEP certificate…make me so sad because my daughter really have problems with development delay it not mean she don’t do her school work…she was so upset when she heard she cat go to college because she don’t have diploma….in fours years at she do every test in school requires and work study and volunteer….she just gratuation in June this year’s with 44 credits to earn her diploma now she in first year of college….so don’t be scary and afraid don’t fight….talk your son take every test and do all the work to earn credits in 4 years he will be fine….good luck to your sons ♥️

  2. On an application for employment, you may be asked, “when did you graduate from high school?”
    Students who earned a certificate or diploma have graduated.
    One graduated with a diploma the other with a cert. of completion.
    If the question is – did you graduate high school, the answer is yes, no matter which piece of paper you earned.

    • Robert, I disagree. There is a big difference between graduating with a high school diploma and getting a certificate of attendance. An employer will assume that the person who graduated with a diploma has basic skills in reading, writing, and math. What will happen to the student who decides to pursue further education, but who only has a certificate of completion?

  3. My daughter has delay problems what i was told by one of the special ed teachers at her school she doesnt get were she suppose too be with the 3rd grade she would only get a certificate which i plan too make sure my daughter gets a diploma its not right they work as hard rest kids do..

    • Holy, your daughter to young to know yet …my daughter the same problem like your when she was second grade…the special education team told me she can’t attend college because finish high school she just earn certificate…I was so worried and care about her future after high school what scan do with certificate…but thing Change during high school in 4 years s take all the school test and volunteer work study joint a lot of activities at school…she just graduated three months ago with diploma and now she in college….hard to say but special education they do that because their job …my daughter finish 44 credits to earn diploma…don’t worry…but help your daughter much you can I always have tutor for her even she in IEP …it help a lot

  4. Can a student with IEP study toward diploma until close to 22 to determine if he/she will get a diploma or a certificate? Yes, some of the students with IEP may be really behind by 18, but after another 4 years, they may catch up a lot.

  5. My 15 year old son (Autism Spectrum) goes to a non-public school in Northern CA. In our situation, we would prefer a certificate, because then the school district will cover his post-High School program. They are insisting he is diploma track without regard to his academic abilities. It’s my understanding this is a cost-saving measure to end services at age 18 instead of 22.

    • Doing the EXACT same thing with our youngest student in Illinois HS! Same EXACT same insistence from staff! Older student was savant/twice exceptional & our youngest is in similar place you describe! Years behind peers & they just keep giving her A grades and socially promoting! Told us verbally “she will have ENOUGH credits to graduate”! I almost freaked out at the meeting table! Student reads 5 grades below peers, can NOT write a paragraph with ANY consistency or on topic or passing grade, and needs 1-1 support! But, they have JUMP out of school at 18 & the coop has work at fast food as the IL DHS support they link to (gonna send another paper pusher to flip PW & IEP like they did our SON)! He got zilch! Said he was miraculously healed of AUTISM & 100% self sufficient! RUN!

  6. Hi my name is Liz and I live in Florida. My daughter has Down’s syndrome. I have no idea what to do I do not know where I can find the information to know what I can ask for at an IEP meeting. Any help?

    • First YOU are the best person to understand & advocate for her! You & she WILL learn as you go forward! Believe this! You are momma bear! Best wishes! 🙂
      PS. Get EVERYTHING in writing, keep everything, document all phone & email conversations, & you write down ALL HALLWAY conversations with ALL STAFF!
      Take a buddy, anyone who can take notes, while you work the IEP table and DEMAND all documents in paper form prior to meeting for you to read thru, organize, highlight, and prepare a PLAN! USE this website daily! And your state/federal ones and find other parents & advocates!
      stay safe & take momma/family breaks… gonna need them!

  7. The certificate is indeed meaningless you are better off with real life experience, if you are interested in getting a fake diploma as a gag gift or joke novelty item, get more details from our website

  8. We are in WA state and I’m being told that my son with special needs will get a diploma in high school but the wording on the diploma will vary based on which assessment they take. A student in self-contained or any special education program can get a diploma just like all other students. Their transcript will denote they meet standard for graduation through a CIA (Certificate of Individual Achievement) if they participate in the Wa-Aim assessment. If they take the Smarter Balanced assessment their transcript will state that they met their standards through a CAA (Certificate of Academic Achievement). Does anyone know if one diploma/certificate is better than the other?

  9. Is an IEP high school diploma that says “course of study” versus a high school diploma that says graduated with “four year course” real or just a certificate?

    (How do you tell the difference between the IEP and regular?)
    Also, how do you receive a high school diploma after receiving it. if any

    I was unaware of the difference.

    • Agree with Chuck. States have different diplomas with different criteria for each. As a general rule, you want the child on track for a regular diploma. I think the proliferation of diplomas simply muddies the water and confuses most parents and potential employers.

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