Education Commission of the States • 700 Broadway, Suite 810 • Denver, CO 80203-3442 • 303.299.3600 • Fax: 303.296.8332 • www.ecs.org
Special Populations: Inclusion of Students with Disabilities in Exit Exams

Why does it matter? Students with disabilities need to attain skills and knowledge at a level that confirms their ability to benefit from postsecondary education and/or to participate fully in the workplace. 

Highlights:
  • Nineteen states require students with disabilities to pass an exit exam in order to receive a high school diploma (students do not receive a diploma unless they pass), while eleven of those states allow such students to pass an alternate exit exam or evaluation to achieve a diploma.
  • Seven states offer an exit exam waiver to students with disabilities if it is part of the student's Individualized Education Program/Plan (IEP); Indiana makes waiver options available for all students, not just those with disabilities. 
  • Arizona and Minnesota have both an alternate exit exam and waiver option for students with disabilities that is dependent on the content and requirements of the student's IEP.
  • Utah requires that all students attempt the exit exam at least three times, but students do not have to actually pass it to obtain a diploma (the diploma will note if the exam was passed or not).
  • Although California and Washington allow exemptions from state assessments if requested in writing by the student's parent(s) or guardian(s), the requirement that a student with an IEP pass the state exit exam or an alternate exam/evaluation for a diploma still applies.
Note:
  • IEP= Individual Education Plan
This information was collected from state statutes, rules and regulations, and state education agency Web sites, and will be updated as new policies and programs are enacted.

Sources for all data points are accessible through this link

Last update: June 4, 2007

Research was conducted by Timothy Taylor and Michael Colasanti.  Please contact Jennifer Dounay Zinth at 303.299.3689 or jdounay@ecs.org with comments or questions about this database.

How are students with disabilities addressed in exit exams?
Alabama
  • Students with IEP must pass exit exam or alternative test or other measure to receive high school diploma
    Notes/Citation: The IEP Team decides if a student will take the Alabama High School Graduation Exam or the Alabama Alternate Assessment.
  • Alaska
  • Students with IEP must pass exit exam or alternative test or other measure to receive high school diploma
    Notes/Citation: Offered appropriate accommodations when taking the regular assessment. If a student is not proficient on one or more subtests of the regular assessment, the student is eligible for an alternative assessment program in the subtest(s) in which proficiency was not achieved. If a student does not achieve a proficient score on either the reguar or alternative assessments, the student is eligible to receive a certificate of achievement if all other state and local requirements for graduation have been met.
  • American Samoa
  • State does not have exit exam
  • Arizona
  • Students with IEP may be waived from passing exit exam to receive regular high school diploma
    Notes/Citation: Waiver applies unless the student is learning at a level appropriate for the student's grade level in a specific academic area and unless a passing score on a competency test is specifically required in a specific academic area by the student's IEP. Additionally, any student who fails to achieve a passing score on a competency test required for graduation during the 2006-2007 school year may graduate if the student meets the alternative graduation requirements outlined under law.
  • Arkansas
  • Students with IEP must pass exit exam or alternative test or other measure to receive high school diploma
  • California
  • Students with IEP may be waived from passing exit exam to receive regular high school diploma
    Notes/Citation: Students with an IEP in the class of 2006-2007 who have completed all graduation requirements can receive a diploma without passing the exit exam. Additionally, a local school board may allow a student with a disability who takes the exit exam using modifications that alter what the test measures and receives the equivalent of a passing score to obtain a diploma. Other exit exam waivers may also be granted if certain conditions are met.
  • Colorado
  • State does not have exit exam
  • Connecticut
  • State does not have exit exam
  • Delaware
  • State does not have exit exam
  • District of Columbia
  • Students with IEP must pass exit exam to receive regular high school diploma
  • Florida
  • Students with IEP may be waived from passing exit exam to receive regular high school diploma
    Notes/Citation: If a senior with an IEP has previously taken the exit exam at least two times with allowable accommodations and has been unable to pass it, the student may be eligible for an exit exam waiver for graduation if all other graduation requirements are met and the student has participated in intensive remediation. The student must also participate in the March administration of the exit exam during his/her senior year. Furthermore, the IEP team must determine that the exit exam does not accurately measure the student's ability and must document that the student has mastered the Sunshine State Standards. Exit exam waivers are only available to students in the 24-credit graduation program. Additionally, a student with an IEP may request a separate exemption from the exit exam requirement for graduation if the student’s exit exam scores reflect the student’s disability in sensory, manual, or speaking skills rather than the student’s academic achievement, and there is documentation that the student has mastered the Sunshine State Standards. If a student with an IEP has not passed the exit exam and is not granted either waiver option, the student will receive a certificate of completion.
  • Georgia
  • Students with IEP may be waived from passing exit exam to receive regular high school diploma
    Notes/Citation: A waiver may be granted to a student who, due to a disability, is rendered incapable of passing a section of the Georgia High School Graduation Tests (GHSGT) or the Georgia High School Writing Test (GHSWT) as documented in the student’s individualized education plan (IEP). Participation by a student in the Georgia Alternate Assessment (GAA) will not satisfy the graduation requirements for a diploma with a college preparatory or career technology preparatory seal. Students taking the GAA may be eligible to receive a special education diploma or a certificate.
  • Hawaii
  • State does not have exit exam
  • Idaho
  • Students with IEP must pass exit exam or alternative test or other measure to receive high school diploma
    Notes/Citation: A student with an Individual Education Plan (IEP) who does not attain at least a proficient score may appeal to the local school board, and, at the discretion of the local school board, may be given an opportunity to demonstrate proficiency through some other locally established mechanism. All locally established mechanisms used to demonstrate proficiency must be forwarded to the Idaho State Board of Education for review and information. The measure must be aligned at a minimum to tenth grade state content standards.
  • Illinois
  • State does not have exit exam
  • Indiana
  • Students with IEP may be waived from passing exit exam to receive regular high school diploma
    Notes/Citation: A student with a disability may be waived if certain requirements are met as determined by the student's case conference committee.
  • Iowa
  • State does not have exit exam
  • Kansas
  • State does not have exit exam
  • Kentucky
  • State does not have exit exam
  • Louisiana
  • Students with IEP must pass exit exam to receive regular high school diploma
    Notes/Citation: Accommodations addressed in a student’s IEP and used in classroom instruction and assessment may be allowed. Students with an IEP who are unable to pass the GEE 21, even with accommodation(s), receive a certificate of completion.
  • Maine
  • State does not have exit exam
  • Maryland
  • Students with IEP must pass exit exam to receive regular high school diploma
    Notes/Citation: A student with an IEP who cannot meet the requirements for a diploma may be eligible for a Maryland High School Certificate of Program Completion if certain criteria are met. Maryland is also in the process of developing a modified exit exam for students with disabilities that may be offered in 2007 and could be used to fulfill graduation requirements.
  • Massachusetts
  • Students with IEP must pass exit exam or alternative test or other measure to receive high school diploma
    Notes/Citation: A score on alternate test must be equivalent to that of a student who passes the standard grade 10 MCAS tests.
  • Michigan
  • State does not have exit exam
  • Minnesota
  • Students with IEP may be waived from passing exit exam to receive regular high school diploma
    Notes/Citation: Waivers allowed if the student cannot demonstrate the required degree of learning with appropriate accommodations or modifications, and: (a) the student's IEP or section 504 accommodation plan does not and never has included the requirements on which the tests are based; or (b) the student is enrolled in special education classes for the subject matter included in the test, but the student's IEP or section 504 accommodation plan does not include a majority of concepts tested.
  • Other
    Notes/Citation: A student with an IEP may receive a high school diploma by demonstrating an appropriate passing standard through the alternate assessment and a formal review by the student’s IEP team.
  • Mississippi
  • Students with IEP must pass exit exam to receive regular high school diploma
    Notes/Citation: Although accommodation(s) are allowed on the exit exams for a student with a disability, some accommodations that may be used routinely in the classroom might not be allowable for the exit exams. If the student's IEP Committee has determined that student will receive a special education certificate or special diploma instead of a regular high school diploma, the student is not required to take the exit exam assessments. This decision must be documented on the student's IEP or in the student's education record. Signature of the parent or guardian must be maintained on file in the district.
  • Missouri
  • State does not have exit exam
  • Montana
  • State does not have exit exam
  • Nebraska
  • State does not have exit exam
  • Nevada
  • Students with IEP must pass exit exam or alternative test or other measure to receive high school diploma
    Notes/Citation: All students are required to participate in the exit exams beginning in the 10th grade. The only exception is for students with significant cognitive disabilities participating in the state’s alternate assessment, the Nevada Alternate Scales of Academic Achievement (NASAA). Students with IEPs (including students assessed with the NASAA) may attain an adjusted diploma, subject to meeting the criteria identified in the student’s IEP.
  • New Hampshire
  • State does not have exit exam
  • New Jersey
  • Students with IEP may be waived from passing exit exam to receive regular high school diploma
    Notes/Citation: If the student does take the HSPA, the IEP team determines if the student will be required to pass each content area in order to graduate. If a student’s IEP states that the student must pass the HSPA in one or more content areas in order to graduate, and the student does not pass the specified content areas in 11th grade (or age 18 if ungraded), the student will participate in the SRA (alternate assessment). The IEP team determines whether the student does not have to take the HSPA a second or third time while he or she is participating in the SRA if taking the HSPA again would be detrimental. Members of the class of 2010 are the last students eligible to take the SRA language arts literacy assessment, while members of the class of 2012 are the last students eligible to take the SRA mathematics assessment.
  • New Mexico
  • Students with IEP may be waived from passing exit exam to receive regular high school diploma
    Notes/Citation: A student with an IEP may be exempt from taking the high school exit exam. The IEPs for students who will not participate the high school exit exam shall explain why that assessment is not appropriate for that student and how the student will be assessed using current state-approved criteria, methods and instruments.
  • New York
  • Students with IEP must pass exit exam or alternative test or other measure to receive high school diploma
    Notes/Citation: Accommodations are allowed. For students with disabilities who first enter grade nine prior to September 2010 and who fail any of the required Regents subject examinations (high school exit exams), the requirements for a local diploma may be met by passing the Regents competency tests in those subject area(s). For students with disabilities who first enter grade nine in September 2005 and thereafter, the requirements for a local diploma may also be met by passing the Regents examination in the respective subject areas with a score of 55-64.
  • North Carolina
  • Students with IEP must pass exit exam to receive regular high school diploma
    Notes/Citation: Although the IEP Team or Section 504 Committee has the authority to determine that a student with a disability will not participate in the administration(s) of the competency tests and/or computer skills tests, the decision does not excuse the student from the state graduation requirements. In the event that the IEP Team or Section 504 Committee determines that a student will not participate, the parent(s)/guardian(s) must be notified that the student must pass the competency standard and meet the computer proficiency standard in order to receive a North Carolina high school diploma. Students not meeting these standards will be eligible to receive a certificate of achievement or graduation certificate provided they satisfy all other state and local graduation requirements.
  • North Dakota
  • State does not have exit exam
  • Ohio
  • Students with IEP may be waived from passing exit exam to receive regular high school diploma
    Notes/Citation: A student with an IEP may be awarded a diploma without attaining the applicable scores on the Ohio Graduation Tests provided the student's IEP specifically exempts the student from attaining such scores. However, this exemption does not negate the requirement for such a student to take all required tests or alternate assessments. The student is eligible for accommodations on such tests or assessments, however.
  • Oklahoma
  • Students with IEP may be waived from passing exit exam to receive regular high school diploma
    Notes/Citation: A student with an IEP is exempt from attaining a passing score unless provided for in the student’s IEP. Students with an IEP are still required to participate but can do so with or without accommodations or through an alternate assessment. Only students with the most significant disabilities participate in the Oklahoma Alternate Assessment Program (OAAP).
  • Oregon
  • State does not have exit exam
  • Pennsylvania
  • Students with IEP may be waived from passing exit exam to receive regular high school diploma
  • Rhode Island
  • State does not have exit exam
  • South Carolina
  • Students with IEP must pass exit exam or alternative test or other measure to receive high school diploma
    Notes/Citation: Students with disabilities who meet the participation guidelines for alternate assessment will not take the High School Assessment Program or HSAP tests (exit exams), but will take the alternate assessment as appropriate to their age. Students with disabilities taking the HSAP tests may do so with accommodations and/or modifications if specified on the students's Individualized Educational Program (IEP) or 504 plan.
  • South Dakota
  • State does not have exit exam
  • Tennessee
  • Students with IEP must pass exit exam or alternative test or other measure to receive high school diploma
    Notes/Citation: Content area requirements for the alternate portfolio assessment at the high school level are limited to areas measured by the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) Gateway tests, TCAP writing assessment, and exit exams. A special education diploma will be awarded to students who have satisfactorily completed an Individualized Education Program (IEP), and who have satisfactory records of attendance and conduct, but who have not met Gateway Examination (exit exam) standards required for a regular diploma.
  • Texas
  • Students with IEP may be waived from passing exit exam to receive regular high school diploma
    Notes/Citation: Exemptions may be given if the student’s IEP does not include instruction in the essential knowledge and skills at any grade level, or the assessment instrument, even with allowable modifications, would not provide an appropriate measure of the student’s achievement as determined by the student’s admission, review, and dismissal committee.
  • Utah
  • Students with IEP must pass exit exam to receive regular high school diploma
    Notes/Citation: A student who attempts the exit exams three times, but does not pass is still eligible for a modified diploma that notes the student did not pass the exit exams (if all other graduation requirements are met.) A student who does not make at least three attempts to pass the exit exams is only eligible for a certificate of completion.
  • Vermont
  • State does not have exit exam
  • Virginia
  • Students with IEP must pass exit exam to receive regular high school diploma
    Notes/Citation: Students with disabilities must take all applicable end-of-course Standards of Learning assessments if the student is enrolled in the course and not auditing it or being instructed in only part of the content. A Modified Standard Diploma program is available for certain students who have a disability and are unlikely to meet the credit requirements for a Standard Diploma. Eligibility and participation in the Modified Standard Diploma program are determined by the student's IEP team and the student, where appropriate, at any point after the student's 8th grade year. The school must secure the informed written consent of the parent/guardian and the student to choose this diploma program after review of the student's academic history and the full disclosure of the student's options. The student who has chosen to pursue a Modified Standard Diploma shall also be allowed to pursue the Standard or Advanced Studies Diploma at any time throughout that student's high school career, and the student must not be excluded from courses and tests required to earn a Standard or Advanced Studies Diploma. Additionally, there is a Special Diploma option for students with disabilities who complete the requirements of their IEP and do not meet the requirements for other diplomas, and a Certificate of Program Completion for students who complete prescribed programs of studies defined by the local school board but do not qualify for any other diplomas.
  • Other
    Notes/Citation: There may be a small number of students with IEPs in grades 9-11 who will not be enrolled in any courses for which there is an end-of-course Standards of Learning assessment, will not be working towards an Advanced Studies Diploma, Standard Diploma, or Modified Standard Diploma, and will not meet the criteria of the alternate assessment. For these students, the IEP team must document this on the IEP. This documentation must include a statement of why the alternate assessment is not appropriate for the student; how the student will be assessed; indicate that the consequences have been fully explained so that the student’s parent(s) or the student understand the consequences; and indicate that parent’s and student’s due process rights have been explained. Additionally, a parent, guardian, surrogate parent, or student may request non-participation of the student in a particular Standards of Learning assessment. This request must be reviewed by the student's IEP team or 504 committee, and the deliberation and decision on the matter must be documented in the student’s IEP or 504 plan.
  • Washington
  • Students with IEP must pass exit exam or alternative test or other measure to receive high school diploma
    Notes/Citation: Students with an IEP who meet modified grade level standards or alternate achievement standards in each required content area can receive a Certificate of Individual Achievement (CIA), which is an approved pathway to a regular high school diploma. There are also three other options for obtaining a high school diploma if a student does not pass the required state assessments after two tries and has met attendance and remediation requirements in his or her Student Learning Plan (created for any student who does not pass the assessments). These include WASL (state assessments)/Grades Comparison; a Collection of Evidence (structured portfolio); and an equivalent score on the PSAT, ACT or SAT. The state will also develop an option for students in industry certificate programs.
  • Other
    Notes/Citation: Parents may request in writing to exempt their child from state assessments. The request for exemption will not avoid any consequence for not testing, such as failure to graduate.
  • West Virginia
  • State does not have exit exam
  • Wisconsin
  • State does not have exit exam
  • Wyoming
  • State does not have exit exam


  • © 2013 by the Education Commission of the States (ECS). All rights reserved. ECS is the only nationwide, nonpartisan interstate compact devoted to education.
    To request permission to excerpt part of this publication, either in print or electronically, please fax a request to the attention of the ECS Communications Department, 303.296.8332 or e-mail ecs@ecs.org.
    Helping State Leaders Shape Education Policy