NCEO Synthesis Reports: Earning a High School Diploma through Alternative Routes (#76)


A report based on a study examining the alternative routes to passing the high school exit exam that were available during the school year 2008-09 to students to earn a standard high school diploma. It examines alternative routes in the 26 states with active or soon-to-be active exit exams, and documents the alternative routes available for all students and those specifically for students with disabilities. Earning a standard diploma has increased in importance during the past several years. Not only is it a document that improves postschool outcomes, but it also has become a part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) accountability system at the high school level--with the required graduation rate including only those students who have earned a regular/standard high school diploma or higher. Complicating matters in several states is the addition of an exit exam requirement to the traditional coursework requirements. The addition of a testing requirement to other requirements for earning a standard diploma is a challenge for students who do not perform well on assessments. Many, but not all, of these students have disabilities.


June 2010 
Number 76
National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO)


  • Specific life stage
    • Children
    • Adolescents and young adults
  • Educational accountability and assessment
    • Diplomas and Graduation Requirements
    • Assessment Participation
    • Students with Disabilities