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It’s unclear how many students with learning and attention issues leave high school with a diploma that does not represent their true level of preparation for life beyond high school. Lower standards to receive diplomas may help explain why one major study found that, within eight years of leaving high school, one-third (32.7%) of young adults with learning disabilities were not employed and only 41% had graduated from college, compared to 52% of all students.12

Certificates of Completion

Many states offer certificates of completion to students with disabilities who don’t meet the academic requirements for a regular diploma. These are sometimes called certificates of attendance or special education diplomas.

Students who leave school with a certificate rather than a regular diploma are not counted in their state’s graduation rate. Because these certificates are not as rigorous as standard diplomas, they may negatively impact a student’s ability to:

  • Apply for financial aid in college or vocational school
  • Enlist in the military
  • Get hired for jobs that require a diploma