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Considerations for 2020 Colorado High School Graduates as a Result of COVID-19

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High school graduation is an important milestone in the lives of our Colorado youth. As local education providers (LEPs) consider graduation for the class of 2020 in these exceptional times, the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) provides these considerations to support the local decision-making process for graduation. In alignment with Governor Polis' Executive Order, CDE is working to help ensure alternative learning opportunities for students for Spring 2020. For our students working to graduate this spring, we want to support you in finding ways to ensure that students graduate ready for postsecondary education and the workforce.

Graduation requirements across Colorado are locally determined by LEPs, which means that there is flexibility to adjust local graduation requirements by school districts and charter schools.

Governor Polis has asked schools to not hold graduation ceremonies and to find other ways to celebrate this important milestone.

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What should LEPs consider when implementing local graduation requirements for the class of 2020?

  • Consider alternative learning opportunities that your district can use to ensure students complete the needed coursework and experiences to graduate ready for postsecondary and workforce. If you have additional questions or would like to share your policies and/or practices, please reach out to the staff listed below.
  • Educational services should strive to include equitable access to instruction for all students.
  • Consider the flexibility in your local policy for graduation.
    • Are there local graduation requirements that students must meet to demonstrate their readiness to graduate? Are there ways for students to show these demonstrations via remote learning?
    • Would your local school board consider adding flexibility to locally- determined graduation requirements in light of the unanticipated situation created by COVID-19?
  • The only course required in state law for graduation is Civics, and local education providers have the ability to determine how this course requirement is met. LEPs also have the authority and flexibility to decide the number of courses required for graduation, and the method by which these courses are taught/delivered.
  • Consider giving credit to students for internships, work, and other extra-curricular experiences that they may have already completed, or that they may complete in the coming months. Pending safety needs and guidelines, at this time students may or may not have access to work or volunteer opportunities.
  • Consider waiving some or all work-based hour requirements for students who have lost their jobs and who were relying on work-based credits to fulfill graduation requirements.
  • Consider using alternative learning opportunities, such as demonstration of knowledge through capstone projects that are shared electronically, for course credit for any of these options.
  • Consider using next year's Graduation Guidelines Menu of Options as an option for students who have not yet met all graduation requirements to demonstrate readiness. There is nothing in the state graduation guidelines legislation that would prevent utilization before 2021.
  • The Graduation Guidelines Menu of Options is intended to allow students to demonstrate their readiness for career and college after high school in math and English through one (1) of the eleven (11) demonstrations.
  • Local school boards have the authority to use this as a graduation criteria now, in place of course completion.
  • The Menu of Options is aligned with higher education policies for admissions and a signal to Colorado universities and colleges that the student is not in need of remediation.
  • In order to count as a graduate in the class of 2020, students must meet local graduation requirements before August 31, 2020. Students may complete graduation requirements over the summer, if necessary. Consider counting summer courses, online courses, jobs, internships, apprenticeships, earned industry certificates, or other assessments/opportunities.
  • If students are not yet ready for graduation in 4 years as determined at the local level, they may return for a 5th year.

In addition to working through these considerations with school and school district leaders, CDE is collaborating with higher education and business to identify flexible options so that students are able to successfully pursue pathways into higher education and work. CDE staff are available to support schools and districts in making these important decisions to ensure students are ready for their next steps in life.

Graduation considerations for students with disabilities and English learners is pending due to information needed from the U.S. Department of Education.

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What should LEPs consider when planning for graduation ceremonies for the class of 2020?

Please see Graduation Ceremony Guidance that includes guidance for ceremonies, public gathering restrictions, ceremony alternatives, celebrating seniors, and variance opportunities.

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Graduation Policy Checklist

  1. Determine what challenges students may have in meeting existing graduation requirements in your district or school as a result of the suspension of in-person instruction.
  2. Discuss with your leadership team what flexibilities exist in your current policies that may help in addressing these challenges.
  3. Determine if there is a need to adjust existing policies or add policies to provide flexibility.
  4. If adjustments are identified, work with your local school board to update policies for 2020 graduates.

Examples of flexibility may include:

  • Providing online and blended classroom experiences
  • Counting previous volunteering, work and jobs for course credit
  • Credit for small group tutoring
  • Providing course credit for portfolio or capstone projects
  • Using the Graduation Guidelines Menu of Options for the class of 2020
  • Allowing for additional time to complete requirements for students to be counted as an on-time graduate
  • Adjusting the criteria for completion of the civics course requirement

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