Are High School Diplomas Really a Ticket to College and Work? An Audit of High School Graduation Requirements

Graduation requirements ensure that students possess the knowledge and skills necessary to pursue their postsecondary pathway of choice. However, countless students do well in their courses and graduate high school without meeting the requirements to enroll in college because of misalignment of high school graduation requirements with postsecondary entry expectations.

This report from the Center for American Progress analyzes state high school graduation requirements for a basic, nonadvanced high school diploma across all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to understand the extent to which diploma requirements denote eligibility for a student's chosen postsecondary pathway of choice. The report finds that most high school coursework requirements fail to meet the admissions criteria for states’ respective public university systems. Additionally, the report finds that high school graduation requirements fail to meet quality standards, including college readiness, career readiness and a well-rounded education, leading to a "preparation gap." The report outlines policy recommendations to address this preparation gap.

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April 2018