Policy on High School Diploma, High School Equivalency, and Ability to Benefit

Date Issued: 

Education Law § 5002 provides that

“…criteria for admission, which shall provide that students at least possess a high school diploma or its equivalent or demonstrate the ability to benefit from the instruction, except that in the case of students who do not possess a high school diploma or its equivalent, certification of the students' ability to benefit from instruction…for any program of less than forty hours designed exclusively for non-occupational, personal enrichment purposes”

For entry into a BPSS licensed private career school, the following criteria apply.

It is important to note that acceptability for NYS Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) funds may be different, as that topic is covered under § 661 of the Education Law.

High School Diploma:

A high school diploma is the academic school completion qualification awarded upon high school graduation. The high school diploma is typically studied for over the course of four years, from Grade 9 to Grade 12. In the United States, there is no national high school jurisdiction, nor is there any kind of multi-state or national accreditation of a high school diploma. High school is solely under the jurisdiction of the state government (or the Department of Defense Education Activity for military dependents overseas), and the New York State Board of Regents has state jurisdiction over secondary education.

In New York, the high school diploma awarded is known as the Regents Diploma, which is earned upon successful completion of the Regents Exams in the required subjects. Two levels are offered: the standard Regents Diploma and the Regents Diploma with Advanced Designation.

IB World Schools may offer the IB Diploma (International Baccalaureate Diploma) in lieu of or alongside a traditional high school diploma. In New York, those schools providing the IB Diploma Program, offer the IB Diploma in addition to the NYS Regent’s Diploma. Therefore, IB Diploma recipients from NYS high schools will also have a Regent’s Diploma for documenting high school graduation.

It is possible to obtain a Local Diploma in New York State. However, the issuance of such a diploma is controlled by specific sections of the Commissioner’s regulations and such diplomas must have been earned and awarded under the provisions of those regulations. The local diploma meets the requirement for a certificate of graduation from high school. For issuing a local diploma based upon appeal, the provisions of 8 NYCRR § 100.5(d)(7)(v) must be followed. For the issuance of a local diploma for students with disabilities, the provisions of 8 NYCRR § 100.5(c) apply.

In addition, under § 305 of the Education Law, those veterans of World War II, Korea, or Vietnam who left high school before graduation for military service may receive a high school diploma under Operation Recognition. Qualifying Veterans must provide evidence of the military service, including dates of service and discharge status. Acceptable verifying documents include a DD Form 214 (the Department of Defense discharge form), a WD AGO Form 53-55 form (Enlisted Record and Report of Separation), an Honorable Discharge Certificate, or a Special Discharge form from the Coast Guard or Merchant Marines.

Other U.S. states have their own standards under which their diplomas for high school are granted. A student who was a resident of another state and received a high school diploma from that state for completing high school will be deemed to have met the requirement for a high school diploma. New York recognizes high school diplomas and high school equivalency diplomas issued by other states to residents of their states, if the student seeks to undertake post-secondary study in New York.

A student who, as a resident of New York, attended a residential boarding school in another state and received a high school diploma recognized by the state where the student physically attended school shall be deemed to have met the requirement for a high school diploma.

The DoDEA (Department of Defense Education Activity) is responsible for planning, directing, coordinating, and managing prekindergarten through 12th grade educational programs on behalf of the Department of Defense (DoD). DoDEA operates 172 accredited schools in 14 districts located in 11 foreign countries, 7 states, Guam, and Puerto Rico. A student who received a high school diploma from an authorized DoDEA high school will be deemed to have met the requirement for a high school diploma.

Currently, the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Education oversees a total of 183 elementary, secondary, residential and peripheral dormitories across 23 states. 129 schools are tribally controlled under P.L. 93-638 Indian Self Determination Contracts or P.L. 100-297 Tribally Controlled Grant Schools Act. 54 schools are operated by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE).  A student who received a high school diploma from an authorized BIE or Tribally Controlled School high school will be deemed to have met the requirement for a high school diploma.

A student who receives a certificate of graduation from American Samoa, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, the United States Virgin Islands, or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, as territories of the United States, or from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau under individual Compacts of Free Association with the United States, are deemed to have met the requirement for a high school diploma. This diploma is also accepted as meeting United States educational standards.

Finally, a student from any nation where it can be reasonably documented that the person completed the accepted secondary school requirement for that nation, as defined by the chief educational entity of that nation, will be deemed as having met the high school diploma requirement.

High School equivalency:

A New York resident student without a valid high school diploma must hold a high school equivalency diploma as identified in 8 NYCRR § 100.7 or § 100.8. There are three pathways to a NYS High School Equivalency Diploma under § 100.7:

[1] passing the general comprehensive examination;

[2] providing satisfactory evidence that the student has successfully completed 24 semester hours or the equivalent as a recognized candidate for a college-level degree or certificate at an approved institution;

[3] completion of the National External Diploma Program (NEDP).

A local High School Equivalency Diploma awarded under 8 NYCRR § 100.8 meets the “recognized equivalent” requirement.

Ability to Benefit Test (ATB):

The third method for establishing eligibility is through passing a federally approved ATB test identified by the Board of Regents.

Not Acceptable as a High School Diploma or Recognized Equivalent:

The Board of Regents does not approve correspondence study, including on-line, as equivalent to a high school diploma for New York residents. Therefore, the acquisition of an on-line high school diploma is only an option for those students who are residents of the state where such on-line high school is recognized by that state as a valid high school certificate of graduation at the time that they received the diploma. One cannot establish ‘virtual residency’ via the internet for securing a high school diploma through an on-line or correspondence study program.

A superintendent’s letter of substantial equivalency is not a certificate of graduation or a diploma. It attests to the instruction that a student received and not to any level of achievement or mastery of standards or content. The letter merely identifies that the student has met the compulsory education requirement for the state. It is a letter that, at the very least, is a statement that the requirements outlined in Part 100.10 related to the Individual Home Instruction Plan were adhered to. A letter of substantial equivalency written by a District Superintendent for ending the compulsory education requirement for a home school student does not meet the requirement for a high school diploma or recognized equivalent of a graduation certificate. A superintendent is not empowered to issue a letter of substantial equivalency for a student completing an on-line or correspondence study program as the Board of Regents has specifically identified on-line and correspondence study as not meeting the requirements for high school for NYS residents.

It is important to note that the formerly offered IEP Diploma has been replaced by the Skills and Achievement Commencement Credential and the Career Development and Occupational Studies Commencement Credential (CDOS). These credentials are not diplomas but are rather an exit credential that does not carry with it the status of a Local Diploma. The possession of a high school exiting credential (Skills and Achievement Commencement Credential and the Career Development and Occupational Studies Commencement Credential (CDOS)) for students with disabilities does not meet the criteria for a recognized equivalent of a high school graduation certificate.

Possession of a certificate of graduation from a secondary school that is not authorized, recognized, or approved by the state in which it operates will not meet the requirements for a high school diploma.