Colorado High School Graduation Requirements

Find out what the state of Colorado requires to graduate from high school. Learn about the ten content areas, the four categories of essential skills, and the options available to demonstrate competence.

What Does Colorado Require of Students to Graduate from High School?

Colorado has instituted a policy, beginning with the graduating class of 2021, that radically changes the requirements to graduate from high school. Unlike most states, Colorado will not be using a system of credits or required classes, but rather has what they call a menu of options, which includes a number of tests, credentials, and other means of proving that a student has achieved the necessary level of competence in English and math to graduate from high school. Local school districts can and are encouraged to set their own course and credit requirements. There are, however, some guidelines and requirements as to specific material or skills that should be taught during high school.

Colorado High School Diploma Students are educated according to academic standards set by local districts and must meet one of the competency metrics
Required Material Courses that meet content requirements in the academic standards for 10 subject areas
Essential Skills Learn skills in 4 categories, including personal skills, entrepreneurial skills, civic and interpersonal skills, and professional skills
Menu of Options Meet testing criteria in English and math on select exams, complete AP, IB, or college-level courses, earn industry credentials, or complete local district capstone requirements

What Material is Required Teaching for High School Students in Colorado?

The only specific course required in the state of Colorado is civics. Civics must include teaching of Colorado and US history, as well as the basics of US government and the state government. Colorado additionally has academic standards which must be met in 10 categories, including core subjects such as science, math, social studies, and reading and writing, as well as other topics deemed critically important, such as the arts, world languages, and financial literacy. Health education, physical education, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) also have defined standards. Local school districts are free to meet or exceed these standards in any number of ways.

What are the Essential Skills Colorado Requires Students to Learn in High School?

Colorado also requires that students learn what is called the 21st Century Essential Skills, broken down into 4 categories. The first category is personal skills, such as self-awareness, initiative, adaptability, resilience, and personal responsibility. The second is entrepreneurial skills, such as critical thinking, inquiry and analysis, creativity, and taking informed risks. The third category is civic and interpersonal skills, including communication, collaboration, character, civic engagement, and global awareness. The final category, professional skills, includes time management, information literacy, self-advocacy, leadership, career awareness, and the use of information technologies.

How Does the Menu of Options Relate to High School Graduation in Colorado?

The menu of options is a list of possible ways for students to demonstrate their capabilities in life after high school. While not all options are necessarily available in all school districts, there are a wide variety of options to cover all student needs. A number of tests are available, such as the SAT, ACT, ACT WorkKeys, both classic and next generation Accuplacer, and the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). Scoring at or above the minimum on any of these tests will serve to prove a student is ready for graduation, and scores can be mixed and matched between different options. Other options include taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses in English and math, completing the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, or passing college-level courses through concurrent enrollment. An industry credential can also meet this requirement, and there are no statewide limitations as to what credentials qualify. Finally, completing a capstone project or other district requirement may fulfill this criteria, and a statewide assessment option is in development.

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