Graduation Requirements for NYS High School Students

New state requirements for earning a high school diploma have been phased in since 1996, with the shift causing some confusion. In 2005, the New York State Board of Regents approved a score of 65 percent as the passing score on the State Regents exams required for graduation. However, that too, is being phased in gradually and the year your child enters 9th grade will determine how many exams he needs to pass with a score of 65 percent and how many at 55 percent (see chart below). Students in New York City need to earn 44 course credits in addition to the Regents exams to graduate.

 There are five types of diplomas: Local diploma; Regents diploma; Advanced Regents diploma; an IEP, or special education diploma; and the General Educational Development (GED) diploma.

Local diploma

When more rigorous graduation requirements were established a decade ago, New York State gave localities the choice of issuing a local diploma that phases in the 65 percent minimum passing score. In New York City, students may earn a local diploma only if they entered 9th grade before September 2008. Students must earn the same 44 credits as Regents diploma graduates and have a 90 percent attendance rate but one or more of their scores on the Regents exam may be as low as 55 percent, depending on the year the student entered.

See the chart below for score requirements. Some students who entered before 1996 can get a RCT, or Regents Competency Diploma, by passing an easier set of tests called Regents Competency Tests (RCTs) or can substitute one or more RCTs for Regents exams and still receive a local diploma. In addition, students with an IEP are allowed certain accommodations to receive a local diploma (see special education below).

Regents passing scores for local diploma
Year student entered 9th grade English Math Global History U.S. History Science
1999-2004 Regents - 55 Regents - 55 Regents - 55 Regents - 55 Regents - 55
2005 65 in two exams, 55 in the other three
2006 65 in three exams, 55 in the other two
2007 65 in four exams, 55 in the other
2008 65 in all exams


Regents diploma

Of the 44 credits needed for graduation for a Regents Diploma, a total of 40 credits must be earned in academic subjects including the arts; 4 credits are earned for a required 7 semesters of gym plus 1 semester of health education. In addition, students must pass five Regents exams: math, global history, U.S. History, and science, with a score of 65 percent or more. Graduates are also required to have at least a 90 percent attendance record.

Advanced Regents diploma

To earn an Advanced Regents diploma, students must score 65 percent or more on all their Regents exams, take additional credits in a language other than English and pass a Regents Comprehensive Assessment in that language, pass an additional Regents exam in science (at least one course should be in life science and one in physical sciences), take an additional set of math courses and pass the associated Regents exam. An advanced Regents Diploma with Honors may be issued to students who take the additional credits for an advanced diploma and achieve an average of 90 percent or more on all Regents Exams. Adjustments are made for students taking a sequence in career and technical education or the arts. More information on the career and technical education sequence can be found on the New York State Department of Education website.

Graduation credit requirements

Below is a chart of basic credit requirements for a high school diploma. All students are required to earn at least 44 credits to graduate regardless of the type of diploma they are pursuing. For detailed requirements according to the year your student enrolled high school, please see the Department of Education website.

Regents diploma Advanced Regents diploma
8 English (R) 8 English (R) (R) = Regents exam required

(2R) = Two Regents exams required

* = Student can substitute a senior level course in technology education for a third year of science or math.

** = Students may complete 5 credits of Career and Technical Education (CTE) or 5 credits of math, in place of instead of additional language studies.

8 Social Studies (R)* 8 Social Studies (R)*
6 Science (R)* 6 Science (2R)*
6 Math (R)* 6 Math (2R)*
2 Language 6 Language (R)**
1 Health Education 1 Health Education
4 Physical Education 4 Physical Education
1 Art 1 Art
1 Music 1 Music
7 elective courses 3 elective courses


How to appeal a failing Regents score

Students who fail to pass a Regents exam may appeal if they score within three percentage points of 65 percent and have met the following criteria:

English Language Learners

All students designated as English Language Learners by the Department of Education must pass the Regents English Language Arts Exam to receive a regular high school diploma. However, those students who enter the U.S. in 9th grade or later may take other required Regents examinations in their native languages if the translated exam is available and if the test is taken within three years of when they entered the U.S. The other required Regents examinations are available in Spanish, Chinese, and Russian. Oral translation is provided for students if a version of the test is not available in their language.

Students in special education

Students who receive special education services and are unable to pass the Regents examination may take the Regents Competency Tests, known as the RCT (this is referred to as the "Safety Net") if they enter 9th grade in or after September 2001 and prior to September 2010. In addition, for students who enter 9th grade in or after September 2005, a grade of 55-64 may be considered as a passing score on any Regents exam required for graduation. However, in both of these cases, students will only earn a Local, and not a Regent's, diploma. This policy applies both to students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and students who were, but are no longer, in high school special education.

The law states that the majority of students who receive special education services should be prepared to earn regular high school diplomas. However, for a small minority of students, an IEP diploma option is also available. An IEP diploma is not as useful as a regular diploma; for example, you cannot try to enlist in the military services or attend even a two-year college with an IEP diploma. An IEP diploma certifies merely that a student attended school and completed IEP goals. An IEP diploma should not be a goal for students with the potential to meet graduation standards. Students who get IEP diplomas are entitled to stay in school to work toward a regular diploma or GED until the age of 21. Students with disabilities can also be prepared for the GED but cannot be forced to pursue that degree instead of a regular diploma.

If you are not sure whether your child is being prepared for a local, Regents, IEP, or GED diploma, look on page 9 of his IEP. If the IEP says he is tracked for a local or Regent's diploma, talk to the supervisor or assistant principal of special education to make sure he is earning the credits he needs and being prepared for the graduation exams. If the IEP says he is tracked for an IEP diploma, but you think your child should be able to earn a regular diploma, you can request a review meeting and/or use your due process rights. It might help to seek the advice of an advocate or attorney.

You should be focusing on the type of diploma your child is to earn way before he arrives at high school; as soon as your child is enrolled in school, you should be ensuring that he gets access to the regular curriculum and assistance necessary to meet the standards applicable to all children in his age group, unless his cognitive ability will not allow him to do so. Children who miss out on important instruction in the early grades may not be able to catch up later. Please see our page for more information about special education services.

General Education Development diploma (GED)

The decision to leave high school and aim for a GED instead should be taken very seriously. Students pursuing this diploma are required to complete a less extensive academic program than those pursuing a conventional diploma. Therefore, employers and colleges sometimes look down on the GED. Four-year colleges, for example, will generally not accept students with GEDs, unless they get a superior test score. GED students typically attend two-year community colleges until they have enough credits to transfer into a four-year college.

Students have a right to remain in high school until they are 21 or until they earn a high school diploma, whichever comes first. They should not be pushed into seeking a GED. Too often, schools tell older students with few credits that they cannot remain in high school. This is not true. Only a student 18 or over or the a parent can voluntarily discharge the student from school.

The GED also has ceased to be an easy way out for students not doing well in traditional high school. The test covers the core academic areas of a regular high school curriculum, measuring knowledge of subjects normally taught over the course of four years. Before deciding to pursue GEDs, students should consider alternative academic programs so that they are not set up to fail. At a minimum, they should start with a pre-GED program. For more information, see our pages on high school transfers and transfer schools and alternative programs.

Who may take the GED exam?

According to state regulations, the following students are all eligible to take the GED exam:

  1. Anyone who is 19 or older on the testing day, has completed an application, and can present a photo identification showing his birth date and signature;

  2. Students who are 17 or 18 and meet one of the following requirements:

For more information about high school graduation requirements, see Chancellor's Regulation A-501 which governs promotion and graduation requirements.

Last updated on 08/19/2008


Learning Disability Association of NYS Position Statement Regarding the Issuance of IEP Diplomas in NYS

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