Certificate Instead of a HS Diploma? No Way!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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. I would like to know what policies I can look at about my son. My son attended a public school and was denied an IEP. The school would not complete one, so I had my own done by a doctor. The diagnosis came back he would need services. The school is in Florida. The school only wants to give him a certicate of completion stating he did not meet the requirements for a particular state test. Based on his diagnosis, he may never be able to attain a certain score. What policies for Florida can I look at based on medical diagnosis and the school refused an IEP. I’m just trying to get my son diploma and keep getting denied

  2. I am a High School Math Teacher in Columbia, SC. I teach 10th grade Geometry and 11th grade Algebra 2. I have a total of 114 students. 22 of those students are Special Education with IEP’s. 8 of the 22students are passing and 14 are failing Math. Some of the 14 students came from a self-contained classroom setting in middle school. One young man can hardly write and form letters in order to take notes. Therefore, I print out notes. When the 14 students obtain the notes, they still can not follow the notes. These students have been placed on a Diploma track, when, not one, can perform the requirements as outlined by the South Carolina Department of Education.
    My Principal and SPED coordinator called me into a meeting yesterday to state that some of the 14 students are achieving well in English, so there is no reason why they should not also be passing Math. They would like for me to give the students work from last 9-weeks, that they can do with the SPED coordinator and insert the new grades into the gradebook so that all of the SPED students can pass. I informed the Principal that the work coming from the SPED coordinator is Googled. The SPED coordinator said, “Well, when the regular ed students turn in homework, you don’t know where their answers are coming from.” I informed her that when I give an assessment all students have to know how to perform the required State Standards in front of me. None of the 14 SPED students can perform those tasks in front of me, yet they come from the SPED room with elaborate work.
    My question is, is it against the law or unethical or both, if I go along with my Principal, accept Googled Math work, and change the SPED kids to passing so that they can achieve a High School Diploma? If I do this, then what type of trouble can I get into? Why would it matter if all of the SPED children received a High School Diploma? If I do not go along with this, then my Principal is going to start retaliating against me and writing me up for every little thing that she can think of.

    • Honestly, it sounds like your principal is wanting inflated graduation rate which equates to more revenue for the district/school. So, the sped teacher/coordinator may literally taking students step by step through the assignments and since you already stated they have poor fine motor skills, the teacher may be writing it down as the problem is worked through with the student…I have done this with my kids because I understand the chaos that goes on in my own ADHD brain. Not to mention, this could be a result of auditory processing disorder…delayed understanding of what is said and then not being able to translate what’s in their brain to paper. It’s hard for the kids, I’m sure. I wasn’t diagnosed with my LD issues until college…so, I can relate to the struggle these kids may have.

      I had a hard time with geometry—why do I need to give five points on a proof for a triangle? I look at it and see three sides…my teacher never understood my argument and I never understood the process. I’m pretty good with figuring math in my head, but proving on paper is a bit harder.

    • I think you’re amazing for questioning the principal and SPED teacher and sticking to your morals. My son had a science teacher that always gave him high grades and even said in an IEP meeting that he didn’t feel right grading him the same as the other kids because he was so far behind. I think this is a disservice to these kids and only sets them up for failure.

      I am going through the same thing right now trying to advocate my daughter needs more support and life skill goals in school but they will always say how great she’s doing based on her grades. I think a lot of kids receiving special education grades are inflated to appear they are passing and it’s sad because these kids deserve better and deserve to be functioning members of society.

  3. I have a student that was life skills for several years. He is now a senior and taking all gen ed classes. He has worked very hard. The school guidance counselor refuses to let him get a diploma because his earlier credits were listed as life skills Math, life skills English, Etc. He has taken several gen ed classes but won’t have the required 4 since they won’t accept the classes as he worked his way out of life skills. We are in Illinois.

    • What you are being told may or may not be correct under your state rules. It is important for parents to ask for the rule or policy that addresses what you are being told. If this is true, he might be able to remain in school long enough to get a diploma. Your state parent training and information project can tell you your state rules. http://www.parentcenterhub.org/find-your-center

  4. Hi my name is Brandi and I live in Atlanta. I have a son that was Dx with Autism at the age of 3 and is currently in the 8th grade. I recently had his IEP meeting with a group of his teachers. As a parent, I am not afraid of voicing my opinion. I am my son’s Advocate. They would so call “pace” your child or keep them back a grade if you let them. If my child is doing well in class and making excellent grades then I felt like he deserved to be promoted. My voice was heard and that was when we were transitioning over to middle school. Now, in my son’s 8 th grade IEP meeting, I was asked the following question, “ What do I see my son doing after leaving Highschool? My answer was for him to continue his education, to college or even a technical school , somewhere he could take up a trade when he graduate after getting his diploma and that’s when my son’s teacher hit me with the most devastating news. I was told that the State of Georgia passed of a law stating that kids with a special education would only get a certificate! After hearing that tears came to my eyes. I raised my head up and then said to that group of teachers, My son has came along way from when he was first diagnosed and whose to say how much further he can go! I have sent emails to superintendents and counselors and I will continue.

    • Brandi,

      I am surprised (and doubtful) that the State of Georgia passed a law that children who receive special ed services can’t graduate with a high school diploma.

      You need to do three things:
      1. Ask the team leader (or the teacher) for a copy of this law.
      2. Contact Parent to Parent of Georgia and ask them about this law – you can call them at 770-451-5484 or Toll-free: 800-229-2038 (GA only) or contract by email info@p2pga.org
      3. Come back here and let us know what you found out.

  5. 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 ♥️

  6. 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?

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

    • I am having the same issue in Southern California. There is an excellent “Transition” program available to Special Needs Kids from age 18-22. The issue is that they can’t attend there if they have a diploma! All service for him will cease at age 18. No transition into life skills, no Social security benefits from my husband, no medical dental, No adoption assistance, Because we adopted a special needs child these service would continue until he is 22 if he got a certificate.
      I know that a diploma is held up as a big deal but for these special needs kids, the extra time for the frontal lobe to mature seems like the better choice. No wonder there are so many homeless kids living on the streets with disabilities! I am fighting the IEP teams diploma decision and would appreciate any advice.

      • The reason to fight for a diploma is, it will make it possible for your student to secure a better paying job or attend college. If in fact your student can complete the general education requirements for a diploma and hold down a job. If due to disability they cannot I would suggest staying in program until aging out.

  10. 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!

  11. 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

  12. 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?

  13. 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Please help us defeat spam. Thank you. *