Pennsylvania High School Diploma Requirements

Learn about the requirements needed to graduate from high school with a diploma in the state of Pennsylvania. Find out the credits needed and subjects that must be taken, as well as changes to testing requirements, by reading below.

What Requirements Must Be Met to Graduate High School in the State of Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania's graduation requirements began to be reshaped in 2018, so students who enter high school after that time will have different targets they must meet in order to receive a diploma. Much of the basis for the change is centered on a reduced reliance on standardized testing, so many of the overall goals remain similar. Under the new system, there are five pathways to graduation, offering several alternative ways to graduate without using the federally mandated standardized tests that follow certain courses. Course and credit requirements may still exist at schools at the local level, as local education agencies are allowed to add supplementary requirements and there may be certain goals that must be reached in order to move from grade to grade.

Pennsylvania Schools Graduation Requirements Must fulfill requirements in one of five pathways
Five Pathways Keystone Proficiency Pathway, Keystone Composite Pathway, Alternate Assessment Pathway, Evidence Based Pathway, CTE Pathway
Keystone Exams End of course exams must be taken. If not passed, other pathways to graduation must be pursued.
Local Requirements May have course requirements, graduation projects, and/or different scoring minimums

What Are the Five Paths to Graduation in Pennsylvania?

The five paths currently available to graduate are the Keystone Proficiency Pathway, the Keystone Composite Pathway, the Alternate Assessment Pathway, the Evidence Based Pathway, and the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Pathway. The Keystone Proficiency and Composite pathways still make use of standardized tests, referred to as keystone exams, required at the end of courses in algebra I, literature, and biology, and they are very similar to previous graduation requirements. The Alternate Assessment provides locally developed requirements that can be met as an alternative to proficiency scores on the keystone exams, which might include SAT/ACT/etc. scores, AP exam scores, or even acceptance to a university or apprenticeship program. Evidence Based pathway requirements are also locally developed and require three pieces of evidence that students are prepared to progress into their postsecondary plans. The CTE pathway requires that students meet other requirements in areas related to keystone exams in which they did not score adequately and work towards a certification in their chosen industry.

What Are Keystone Exams?

The keystone exams are Pennsylvania's end of course tests that were designed to prove proficiency in the subject matter. Passing scores on the keystone exams were required for graduation for several years, but will not be under the new system. All students must still take the keystone exams to meet federal guidelines, however; only students who failed to score at the minimum levels will need to look into alternative ways of meeting graduation requirements. While passing the keystone exams themselves is not required in three of the five pathways, students must still prove they understand and can apply the material covered in the courses.

What Local Requirements Might I Have to Meet to Graduate in Pennsylvania?

Local requirements for graduation can vary significantly, depending on where in the state you live and attend school. Some schools may still require graduation projects, which were formerly used as remediation for students who did not pass their keystone exams. Even what qualifies as passing can differ from school system to school system. Schools may also have certain course requirements that must be met, in a few cases leaving little room for electives. Course requirements can also exist to move from grade to grade, with grade 12 only becoming available to students who can meet their requirements in under a year and graduate on time. As the changes to statewide graduation requirements progress, more alterations to local requirements can be expected in response, so be sure to check with your high school to learn what applies to you.

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