Kindergarten - 12th Grade
There are several high school completion options available to public school students in Florida. Students and parents should carefully consider individual talents, skills, abilities and future goals when determining which option is best. Students with disabilities may choose one of the options available to all students or one of the options available only to students with disabilities, whichever is most appropriate. Choosing one is an important decision. Opportunities for employment and further education and training can depend on the option chosen. Employers, adult education programs, career centers, the military, colleges, and universities all accept a standard diploma. However, the military, and colleges and universities (except for special programs) do not usually accept a special diploma. This discussion is part of the transition planning process which must begin before the student with a disability reaches the age of 14.
The options in Florida include:
24 Credit Standard Diploma
There are three 24 credit high school diploma options, two of which are available only to students with disabilities. The majority of students with disabilities will complete the option available to all students. The second option has both academic and employment requirements, and the third option is available only to students with significant cognitive disabilities who take access courses (modified courses) and are assessed on the Florida Standards Alternate Assessment (FSAA). Placing a student in the access curriculum requires parental consent. The student must obtain a grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 and obtain passing scores on required statewide assessments. Students can have accommodations for the tests and the scores may be waived for some students with disabilities.
18 Credit ACCEL Option
Students in the 18-credit ACCEL option must meet all the graduation requirements for a 24-credit standard diploma, except they need to complete only 3 elective credits instead of 8 and they do not need to complete a physical education course or an online course. You can view the details of the legislative requirements for the 18-credit ACCEL option.
Special Diploma (This option is not available to students who began 9th grade in 2014-15 or later)
Students with disabilities who entered 9th grade in 2014-15 or after must work toward a standard diploma. In the 2014 legislative session the special diploma statute was repealed. Students who were already in high school and whose IEP stated that they were working toward a special diploma may continue to do so, or they can switch to a standard diploma. Switching may mean they will need to spend extra time in high school.
Performance-Based Exit Option/GED Exit Option
The Performance-Based Exit Option is an alternate route to a diploma for students who are at least 16 years of age, do not have enough credits, have a low grade point average, or are overage for their current grade level. This option is NOT designed to be a preferred or accelerated program for early exit. The Performance-Based Exit Option is also known as the “GED® Exit Option.”
International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program
The IB Diploma Program is designed for highly-motivated students aged 16 – 19. It is based on a rigorous two-year pre-university course of study with international examinations and university credit.
Deferring Receipt of the Standard Diploma
Once a student receives a standard high school diploma they are no longer eligible for a free appropriate public education (FAPE), so they cannot stay in high school. The 2014 legislation that allows all students the opportunity to work toward a standard diploma also allows certain students with disabilities to defer receipt of the standard diploma and continue to receive educational services from the school district. Students with disabilities who earn a standard diploma and do not defer are NOT eligible for any further services, so it is very important that students with significant cognitive disabilities defer receipt of their standard diploma. Students who earn a special diploma may return to the district and request educational services at any time before they turn 22 years of age.