New diploma options begin in 2018-19 for 9th graders

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The State Board of Education on Thursday approved a new set of graduation options beginning with 9th graders in the 2018-2019 school year.

When those students graduate as high school seniors it will be with a new traditional diploma with new course requirements.

The Mississippi Department of Education also will offer diploma endorsements in academic, distinguished academic and career and technical categories.

Students with significant cognitive disabilities who are unable to earn a traditional diploma will have the option of an alternate diploma, officials said.

The board did not vote on a certificate of attendance option. Jean Massey, the MDE executive director of secondary education, said more work must be done on determining what that will look like before bringing it before the board.

The state currently has five diploma options for students. Those include career pathway, district option, early exit exam, traditional pathway and the Mississippi Occupation Diploma option, only available for students with special needs.

“The majority of our kids in special ed can earn a traditional diploma,” State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright said. “Students with significant cognitive disabilities, that’s another population. All these other special ed kids, with the right instruction starting in elementary school — these children can earn a traditional diploma.”

A Senate bill passed during the 2017 legislative session did away with both the career pathway and occupational diploma options, beginning in the upcoming school year.