General Diploma (Indiana)

Indiana's General Diploma option is an opt-out of the Core 40 diploma, but still requires 40 semester credits. It is a less rigorous diploma option than the Core 40.  The completion of Core 40 is an Indiana graduation requirement.


Indiana’s General Diploma option is an opt-out of the Core 40 diploma, but still requires 40 semester credits. It is a less rigorous diploma option than the Core 40.  The completion of Core 40 is an Indiana graduation requirement. To graduate with less than Core 40 (one option is the Indiana General Diploma), a formal opt-out process must be completed.  This is due to the fact that Indiana’s Core 40 curriculum is considered to provide the academic foundation all students need to succeed in college and the workforce.


  • Parents and educators have pushed back for years against attempts to eliminate Indiana’s general high-school diploma, arguing it’s an important option for students who would struggle to earn the more rigorous Core 40 or academic honors diplomas.
  • About 30 percent of students who earn a general diploma are special-needs students.
  • Indiana’s general diploma also requires 40 semester credits, just not as much math, science and social studies as Core 40.  It also requires less testing.
  • Under guidance from the U.S. Department of Education, Indiana state officials announced that the general diploma will no longer be considered when calculating school and district graduation rates (in July of 2017). In a memo to principals and superintendents, the state said it will also no longer count students who earn general diplomas in the state’s A-F rating system.
  • Indiana schools will still offer the general diploma, and students who earn it can count themselves as high-school graduates.
  • The formal opt-out (of the Core 40 Diploma) process is as follows:
    • The student, the student’s parent/guardian, and the student’s counselor (or another staff member who assists
      students in course selection) must meet to discuss the student’s progress.
    • The student’s Graduation Plan (including four year course plan) is reviewed.
    • The student’s parent/guardian determines whether the student will achieve greater educational benefits by
      completing the general curriculum or the Core 40 curriculum.
    • If the decision is made to opt-out of Core 40, the student is required to complete the course and credit
      requirements for a general diploma and the career/academic sequence the student will pursue is determined.



  • Q: Do schools get “dinged” for having students who earn the General Diploma?
    • A:
      • Indiana Diploma with General designation is recognized by both the state and federal governments as graduates.
      • The diploma designation does not factor into the state accountability calculation as currently written.
      • See HEA 1426-2018 ( see section 4.
      • Several years ago, the feds came out and said that a minimum level diploma that would count toward grad rates, was the diploma awarded to the preponderance of the graduates in the state. At the time in Indiana, it was the Core 40, so that meant that the General Diploma would not count.  So, for 1 year the General diploma did not count toward the federal graduation rate.  In response, the General Assembly, eliminated the different types of diplomas, and replaced them with The Indiana Diploma with various designations.  In other words, we don’t have a General Diploma anymore, we have the Indiana Diploma with General designation.  The result of this is the minimum level diploma is now the Indiana Diploma, so they all count toward the federal graduation rate. (Shared by Michelle Clarke, IDOE)
  • General Diploma Waiver: A waiver was created for the general diploma to be included in the federal graduation rate calculation. The public comment period closes December 2. Please review the waiver and encourage your staff to submit a comment. (From the Superintendent’s Message 11/3/17)
  • The federal calculation (mentioned below) won’t include General Diplomas.  From the (Indiana) Superintendent’s mail October 2017:
    Last week the Department shared information about future accountability considerations and timelines. Over the past week we’ve received some additional questions about calculating an ESSA score. Here are a few points of clarification:

    • When school accountability grades come out in the fall of 2018 (using 2017-18 data), the grades will be calculated the same as they are being calculated this year unless state policy changes. Rule-making regarding state accountability grades is currently in progress. These grades are based on state laws and rules.
    • During the fall of 2018 accountability season, a second calculation based on a federal formula will be shared with schools. This score will take into account federal requirements and will be dependent on the approval of Indiana’s ESSA plan which was submitted to the federal government earlier in September.
    • The 2017-18 accountability scores are part of a transition year approach to accountability. With the anticipated changes around assessments, graduation pathways, and federal accountability, a transition year will give schools time to ramp up to the accountability model that should be in place for the 2018-19 school year (released in Fall 2019), when we anticipate the state and federal calculations will yield the same grade.
    • The Department has not calculated the (ESSA) federal scores for the 2016-17 or 2017-18 school years. Schools interested in understanding what the federal score might look like for 2017-18 accountability could use their data from this year’s accountability calculations, adjust their graduation rate to factor out general diplomas, and estimate the points earned for attendance (K-8) and ELL performance based on local data. Again, we would stress the federal calculation will depend on the approval of Indiana’s ESSA plan, so any calculation of a federal accountability score for 2017-18 school year would be highly speculative.
  • “The General Diploma is no longer allowed to be considered when calculating the federal graduation rate,” said Jennifer McCormick, Indiana superintendent of public instruction. “The General Diploma can still be used and is still considered an official diploma.”
  • In March of 2018, the General Assembly passed legislation to create a single high school diploma structure in Indiana. It still allows for students to add distinctions for academic or technical honors to their diplomas. It also creates an alternate diploma for students with severe cognitive disabilities. The bill now heads to the governor.
  • Q: If a student does not meet the Core 40 requirements but has enough credits for gen diploma, is there a point where we, as a school, can graduate the student because they met General diploma requirements? Or do we have to allow them the opportunity to finish the C40?
    • A: If the student can earn the General now (at the end of her senior year), it’s up to your school if you want to allow her to stay into a 5th year. You aren’t required to allow her to do so since she has met requirements for a diploma. Typically schools will present the student with the summer option (meeting requirements by the last day of September), as you have done. (Amanda Culhan, IDOE)
  • Q: Students do not have to agree to an opt out?
    • A: No, if it’s beyond the 4 years and they’ve met requirements for the General Diploma, they wouldn’t have to agree to the opt-out. I think a good alternative would be to allow them the option to continue to work towards meeting requirements before the end of September. (Amanda Culhan, IDOE)


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