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  • PALS

PALS April 2017 - Graduation Requirements

PALS Meeting Minutes

April 26, 2017 9:30 a.m.

Brother Tom's Bakery

808 Main Street Pittsburgh, PA 15211

This was an Open Forum meeting.

Participants discussed the social media posts of several recent Fox Chapel Area School District's graduates who discussed their frustrations with life after high school. The primary concern of these students is the feeling that they are academically unprepared for life after graduation. Students who received As in academic subjects during high school are now struggling NOT to fail courses at CCAC. Their frustration is leaving them feeling inadequate and leading some to anxiety and depression.

This information led us back to previous conversations regarding the difference in high school academic courses, student graduation, testing requirements, and what specifically a transcript says. Ultimately, parents are also left feeling confused on the subject of what exactly a student with an IEP must do to meet graduation requirements in receiving a "regular" high school diploma. With some states having both "regular" and "special education" diplomas (not to be confused with certificates of completion or other diploma options offered to students with significant cognitive disabilities who take the state's alternate assessment) the thought was that parents and students were missing something in the transition and regular IEP meetings held in regard to courses. In some states some students with IEPs may take an ESE or Exceptional Student Education course load which everyone involved in the student's education can clearly see and know the student will receive a special education diploma when they graduate.

That is not the case in Pennsylvania. While trying to find information on the different types of high school diplomas in Pennsylvania and the courses required, we stumbled upon an interesting research study published in November 2016 that opened our eyes on the subject and helped shed light on what those recent graduates are experiencing. The study was conducted by Achieve and National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO).

Here's the lowdown:

- Pennsylvania only offers a "regular" high school diploma, therefore does not have a special education diploma.

- "In states where the only diploma option is a regular diploma, the course requirements for students with disabilities are likely to be less rigorous than the requirements for students without disabilities."

- "Both regular diplomas and multiple diplomas can mask what individual students know and can do and what it took to earn the credential - potentially leaving students underprepared for their next steps and parents, employers, and postsecondary institutions without sufficient clarity and information about graduates."

- "Nearly half of the states allow local IEP Teams to determine with little oversight course requirements for students with disabilities." Pennsylvania is one of those states.

- "The IEP teams determine what courses a student with disabilities must complete to graduate with a regular diploma; consequently, the state does not necessarily know whether students with disabilities are meeting the same expectations as their peers."

- For example: "An IEP team may allow a student to take Intermediate Math instead of Algebra I to meet the Algebra I course requirement for graduating with a regular diploma. Therefore, students with disabilities may complete less rigorous course requirements and have lower expectations set for them while still earning the regular diploma."

Click on the image below to read the full report:

Achieve & NCEO Graduation Requirement Report

Prior to finding the Achieve and NCEO report we found the following information from the Bureau of Special Education, Education Law Center, and the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Ultimately this information along with the experience of recent FCASD graduates is very concerning and will require more conversations between all stakeholders. PALS will be planning a meeting on this subject for the fall of 2017.

Next Meeting: May 17, 2017, 6:30 p.m. Lauri Ann West Library 1212 Main Street Pittsburgh, PA 15215

Topic: Medical Assistance

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