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Mississippi State Board of Education Approves New Diploma Options to Expand College and Career Opportunities for All Students

September 14, 2017

JACKSON, Miss – The Mississippi State Board of Education (SBE) voted today to approve new diploma options that will give students the opportunity to earn an endorsement with their high school diploma and will provide the majority of students with disabilities an opportunity to earn a traditional diploma.

The new options follow a statewide effort to increase college and career opportunities for all students and a new state law that eliminates the Mississippi Occupational Diploma (MOD) option for students with disabilities starting with freshmen entering high school in the 2017-18 school year.

The new diploma options include a traditional diploma for all students and an alternate diploma option for students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities. Students will also have the opportunity to earn additional requirements to qualify for a traditional diploma with a Career and Technical Education (CTE) endorsement, an academic endorsement or a distinguished academic endorsement. Students can earn more than one endorsement.

“The new diploma requirements will ensure that the vast majority of Mississippi students earn a traditional high school diploma that is recognized by postsecondary institutions, employers and the military,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “For students who want to go further, the endorsement options will allow them to earn credentials while in high school that will help them achieve their goals for college or career.”

The new diploma options will take effect for incoming ninth graders in the 2018-19 school year. Students in grades 10, 11 and 12 who are currently in a course of study that leads to the MOD option must get parental permission to remain on the MOD track. Otherwise, their Individualized Education Program (IEP) team will be encouraged to consider a course of study that leads to a traditional diploma.

The traditional diploma will require all students graduating from Mississippi high schools to have the same basic requirements and to earn 24 Carnegie Units. After meeting the traditional diploma requirements, students can take additional CTE coursework to meet the requirements for the CTE endorsement or advanced, college-preparation coursework to earn an academic or distinguished academic endorsement. The CTE and academic endorsements require students to earn 26 Carnegie Units. Students must earn 28 Carnegie Units to qualify for the distinguished academic endorsement. Also, the distinguished academic endorsement requires students to meet national college and career benchmarks above just earning credits.

The alternate diploma is designed for the approximately 1 percent of students who have met the criteria on their IEP for having a Significant Cognitive Disability. This diploma requires students earn 24 credits in an alternate course of study. The alternate diploma is not equivalent to the traditional high school diploma and is not recognized by postsecondary entities that require a high school diploma. However, the alternate diploma certifies that a student with a Significant Cognitive Disability has successfully completed a course of study aligned to academic standards.

The MDE is not moving forward at this time with the original proposal of requirements for a Certificate of Completion. The MDE will seek additional input this fall from school districts and stakeholders regarding the requirements for the Certificate of Completion, which has been an option for some students with disabilities who have not been able to meet the requirements for a traditional diploma. The Certificate of Attendance is not equivalent to a high school diploma. The MDE expects to bring its proposal regarding the Certificate of Completion to the SBE in early 2018.

Media Contact: 
Patrice Guilfoyle, APR
Director of Communications

Jean Cook, APR
Communications Specialist