Virginia – High School to College & Careers

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High School Graduation Requirements for Current Seniors

Course and Diploma Requirements

Students must earn at least 22 standard units to earn a high school diploma. Students seeking a standard diploma also must pass six end-of-course Standards of Learning (SOL) assessments. Students who pass corresponding SOL assessments receive “verified credit” for those courses. To receive an advanced diploma, students must earn four additional standard units and pass three additional SOL assessments. In addition to the verified credits for the four core subjects, students may also select an SOL assessment or alternate tests in computer science, career and technical education (CTE), or other areas approved by the state board of education.

Credits Required for Graduation with a Standard Diploma

Discipline Standard Credits Required Verified Credits Required
English 4 2
Mathematics 3 1
Laboratory Science 3 1
History and Social Sciences 3 1
Health and Physical Education 1  
Foreign Language, Fine Arts, or Career and Technical Education 1  
Economics and Personal Finance 1  
Electives 4  
Student Selected Test*   1
TOTAL 22 6

Credits Required for Graduation with an Advanced Diploma

Discipline Standard Credits Required Verified Credits Required
English 4 2
Mathematics 4 2
Laboratory Science 4 2
History and Social Sciences 4 2
Foreign Language 3  
Health and Physical Education 2  
Fine Arts or Career and Technical Education 1  
Economics and Personal Finance 1  
Electives 3  
Student Selected Test*   1
TOTAL 26 9

*NOTE: A student may utilize additional tests for earning verified credit in computer science, technology, career or technical education, economics or other areas as prescribed by the board in 8VAC20-131-110.

Subjects Standard Diploma Advanced Studies Diploma
Math Choose Two:
• Algebra I
• Geometry
• Algebra, Functions and Data Analysis
• Algebra II or similar rigorous course
• Computer Math (career concentration only)
Choose Three:
• Algebra I
• Geometry
• Algebra II
• Higher-level Course
Science Choose Two:
• Biology
• Chemistry
• Physics
• Earth Science
Choose Three:
• Biology
• Chemistry
• Physics
• Earth Science
Social Science • American History
• American Government
• World History and/or Geography
• American History
• American Government
• World History
• Geography
Computer Science May substitute computer science units for math, science, or career and technical education credits, pursuant to House Bill 2054 (2014). May substitute computer science units for math, science, or career and technical education credits, pursuant to House Bill 2054 (2014).

Assessment Requirements

The Virginia State Board of Education requires districts to administer end-of-course exams through the state’s Standards of Learning (SOL) assessment program. Virginia has developed a battery of 12 exams in 11 subject areas: Algebra I and II, biology, chemistry, earth science, English (reading and writing), geometry, World History I and II, world geography, and Virginia and U.S. history.

Students pursuing the Standard Diploma must earn at least six verified units of credit by passing corresponding SOL exams. Students pursuing the Advanced Diploma must earn at least nine verified units of credit by passing corresponding SOL exams.

Graduation Requirements for Current Freshmen and Sophomores

  • Virtual course: Beginning with the class entering ninth-grade in 2013-2014, students must complete at least one virtual course, which may be non-credit-bearing.
  • Certification: Beginning with the class entering ninth-grade in 2013-2014, students must earn a career and technical education credential that has been approved by the Virginia Board of Education. Examples include, but are not limited to, the successful completion of an industry certification or the passing of a state licensure exam, national occupational competency assessment, or the Virginia Workplace Readiness Skills test.

College and Career Readiness

The Standards of Learning (SOL) establish college- and career-readiness expectations in the four core subjects, as well as for technology, fine arts, and foreign language. The Virginia Board of Education adopted revised SOLs  in math and English in 2009 and 2010, respectively. The College and Career Mathematics and English Performance Expectations build on the SOL by identifying the college readiness indicators that predict postsecondary success.

Indicators include (1) enrollment in Algebra II and chemistry courses; (2) exceeding the “advanced proficient” threshold on the math, reading, and writing SOL assessments; (3) completing an Advanced Diploma; and (4) earning college credit while enrolled in high school.

Virginia administers the SOL assessments. High school students must pass at least six SOL assessments to receive a standard diploma. These assessments provide students with an accurate measure of whether they are on track to graduate high school ready for college and careers. The state will continue to administer the SOL assessments in 2015.

The state department of education, in consultation with higher education faculty, has developed English and Math Capstone Courses, for students who have completed required courses, earned at least two “verified” credits, but are not fully college ready. The Virginia General Assembly funds academies for students at risk of not meeting college- and career-readiness benchmarks through a program called Project Graduation.

The department of education produces school and district report cards, which include the (1) numbers and percentages of students participating in Advanced Placement (AP) and dual credit programs; (2) SOL test results; and, (3) the number of students who receive a career and technical education credential.

College and Career Planning

Seventh and eighth-graders develop academic and career plans and receive counseling about opportunities for obtaining industry certifications prior to high school graduation, as well as learning about Advanced Placement and dual enrollment options. Students receive their academic and career plans before they enter the ninth-grade and 11th grade. The plan includes a high school program of study that is aligned with a postsecondary career path and/or college entrance.

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) administers a statewide, federally funded GEAR UP program to help low-income students prepare for college. The program delivers early college activities through summer school on college campuses, neighborhood academies and parental-involvement initiatives, and scholarships for eligible participants.

Virginia offers online resources through two Web portals: I-am-the-one.com and the Virginia Education Wizard (http://VAwizard.org). Both sites help students learn more about college and work-based learning opportunities.

Accelerated Learning Options

Dual and Concurrent Enrollment

Virginia high school students have the opportunity to earn dual high school and postsecondary credit. Generally, these courses are offered through community colleges and taught on both community college and high school campuses. Some four-year institutions allow high school students to enroll in classes. Students must obtain approval from high school administrators and meet institutional admission and placement testing requirements.

The state encourages districts and community colleges to provide access to dual credit options at no cost by funding the student’s attendance both at the high school and at the postsecondary institution.

All dual enrollment courses may be counted toward the 15 college credits required for a student to become an Early College Scholar. Certain dual enrollment courses may also qualify as part of the Commonwealth College Course Collaborative. This collaborative, involving all Virginia two- and four-year colleges and universities except for the Virginia Military Institute, provides a set of academic courses that fully transfer as core requirements and degree credits.

Advanced Placement

The Virginia State Board of Education requires districts to provide at least three AP courses to high school students. Virginia participates in the federal Title I, Part G grant that reduces testing costs for low-income students taking AP exams.

Early College Admission

The Early College Scholars program encourages 11th- and 12th-graders to earn at least 15 transferrable college credits. To qualify for the program, students must be Advanced Studies diploma candidates, have at least a B average, and have the approval of their parents/guardians, high school principals and counselors.

Dual Admissions

Virginia Senate Bill 449 (2014) requires the governing board of each four-year college and university to develop dual admissions and guaranteed admissions agreements with two-year institutions within the Virginia Community College System.

Career and Technical Education

Virginia has adopted the National Career Clusters Model. The state provides Career Technology Education (CTE) courses in 16 career clusters.

Postsecondary Admissions and Placement

University Admissions and Placement

Admission requirements vary by institution. Colleges and universities consider high school students’ curricula, GPA, SAT scores, and class rank. Students must take the SAT and/or ACT. Institutions set the threshold scores for admission. Students who graduate from a Virginia Community College System institution with an associate degree are eligible for guaranteed admission to more than 20 public and private four-year institutions, provided they meet minimum GPA criteria.

Institutional boards develop assessment and placement policies and set scoring thresholds.

Virginia Community College System

Students may enroll at community colleges if they have a high school diploma or equivalent and pass an institutionally determined test to demonstrate their ability to benefit from instruction.

Exemption Thresholds SAT ACT*
English 500 21
Math 520 22

*The State Board of Community College is considering changes to this policy, which may affect ACT cut scores.

Students who do not have qualifying SAT or ACT scores must take the Virginia Placement Test, consisting of two sections: English and math. If students do not achieve scoring benchmarks on the test, they must complete developmental education before enrolling in corresponding college-level courses.

Feedback Reports

The Virginia Department of Education publishes annual postsecondary enrollment reports by school and district.  The data tables break down enrollment by institutional sector and demographic subgroup.

House Bill 886 (2014) requires the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia to share remedial enrollment, credit accumulation, and degree and certificate completion, and graduates’ employment rates with districts. The bill requires districts to share these data with students and families on an annual basis. School divisions can do so by linking to the SCHEV Research website. The law further requires that all public and private institutions receiving any general fund support (including the Tuition Assistance Grant) provide the same information to students and prospective students.

 All required institutions link to the SCHEV Research website, usually to their specific institutional profile. The HB886 Compliance Report demonstrates institutional compliance.

State Financial Aid

The majority of the state’s financial aid is provided through non-grant based aid such as loans, work-study and tuition waivers.

The Virginia General Assembly awards financial aid funds in two ways: through the postsecondary institution and to the student.

The Virginia Commonwealth Award is a need-based, institutional grant funded with state dollars. Colleges and universities choose how to award aid. The law, however, requires that institutions award aid in such a way that the students with the greatest need receive the largest awards.

The Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Program is a mixed aid (merit and need) program that provides state grants to eligible, full-time students enrolled in a Virginia public two- or four-year colleges or universities who have demonstrated financial need and who graduate from high school with GPAs of at least 2.5. In order to renew aid, students must maintain a 2.0 GPA and demonstrate continued financial need.

The Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant Program provides financial aid for students attending in-state, nonpublic institutions. The maximum 2014-2015 award is $3,100.

The Two-Year College Transfer Grant provides $1,000 per year to students who have earned associate degrees at a Virginia two-year college with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, enroll full time at an in-state, four-year institution, and have an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of $12,000 or less. Students who enter baccalaureate programs in science, teaching, engineering, math, or nursing fields are eligible to reach an additional $1,000 per year.

Smaller merit scholarship and loan programs provide aid to aspiring teachers, nurses, shipyard workers, and aerospace and civil engineers.

Special Thanks

We would like to thank the staff at the following agencies for their assistance in carefully reviewing and confirming the accuracy of the policies and programs described in this document:

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia

Virginia Department of Education

Sources

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia
SREB Fact Book on Higher Education, 2011
Virginia Department of Education
Virginia Education Wizard
Virginia General Assembly—Legislative Information System