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College and Career Readiness

At Denver Public Schools, our vision is that Every Child Succeeds. That starts with the belief that all students will achieve at the highest levels, and proudly cross the graduation stage ready for college, careers and life. Life beyond high school is different than what it used to be. Most jobs in Colorado now and in the future require training or education beyond high school.

One of our five goals in the district’s strategic plan — the Denver Plan 2020 — is to ensure our students graduate college- and career-ready. Our DPS graduates will take many paths to pursue their dreams, and our schools must prepare them for their future.

We inspire, challenge and empower our students to embrace education as an adventure to explore a variety of paths to exciting destinations, and to forge their own futures.

Denver Plan 2020 »

Graduation Requirements

Life beyond high school is different than what it used to be. Most jobs in Colorado now and in the future require training or education beyond high school. When students graduate from a DPS high school, their diploma must be a diploma of possibility that opens the door of opportunity for their success.

Beginning with the Class of 2021 (ninth graders in fall 2017), DPS has redefined our expectations for earning a DPS diploma so that our graduates will be successful in any path they choose.

The change in graduation requirements means students must demonstrate their competency (or what they know how to do) in courses that reflect Colorado academic standards and 21st century skills in order to graduate from high school. This new approach is less about the time spent in a classroom, and more about students demonstrating they are truly prepared for the world after high school.

By completing these important components to earn their DPS diploma of possibility, our students will be empowered for success to make their plan for the future a reality!

Learn more about current graduation requirements and the new requirements below. For more information about graduation requirements, please contact your school counselor or the DPS School Counseling Department at 720-423-6810.

Current Graduation Requirements

Below is a summary of courses all students need to complete with a passing grade to graduate with a DPS diploma before 2021:

  • 40 credits of language arts courses, including Introduction to Literature and Composition, American Literature, World Literature and Upper Division Writing;
  • 30 credits of social studies courses, including U.S. History and Civics;
  • 40 credits of math courses, including Algebra, Geometry, Algebra 2 and Upper Level Math;
  • 30 credits of lab science courses, including at least two of the following: Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science or Physics;
  • 10 credits of physical education, such as Dance, Citywide Marching Band, ROTC or DPS Athletics;
  • 40 credits of academic elective courses, including, but not limited to, Fine Arts, Career and Technical Education, English/Social Studies electives, World Languages, AVID, Gear-Up and AP/IB courses;
  • 50 credits of elective courses from either academic courses or other electives, including, but not limited to, Art, Business/Marketing, Foreign Language, Industrial Technology, Music or Physical Education.

It is also recommended that each student takes two to four years of world language courses.

Graduation Requirements for the Class of 2021 and Beyond

Starting with the Class of 2021, students will need to complete three key requirements to earn a diploma:

  • Planning for the future through the Individual Career and Academic Plan (ICAP)
  • 24 units of course credit in required areas, including a minimum of:
    • English 4 units
    • Math 4 units
    • Science 3 units
    • Social Studies 3 units (to include .5 unit of Civics)
    • Physical Education 1 unit
    • Arts or eligible CTE 1 unit
    • Approved Electives 8 units
  • Competency demonstrations in English and math through college and career assessments, a capstone to show mastery of the standards, or by attaining an approved career certification

This new approach is less about the time spent in a classroom, and more about students demonstrating they are truly prepared for the world after high school.

You can read the full Board of Education policy on the new graduation requirements with additional details here.

Individual Career and Academic Plan (ICAP)

Starting with the Class of 2021, students must complete an Individual Career and Academic Plan (ICAP) in order to fulfill their graduation requirements.

School counselors help students develop these plans to ensure they know what courses are required not just for graduation, but also to prepare them for specific careers and to attend the college of their choice.

While students will have consistent requirements at each school, the ICAPs they develop and revisit throughout high school give them the opportunity to identify and explore their passions through various courses.

For more information about creating or monitoring your ICAP, contact your school counselor or the DPS School Counseling Department at 720-423-6810.

Additional Programs

DPS provides Advanced Placement (AP) classes to help high school students prepare for postsecondary education in a rigorous, college-like experience. The AP program is a curriculum created by the College Board that offers standardized courses recognized as equivalent to undergraduate college courses. AP students build confidence and learn the essential time management and study skills needed for college and career success. Students who obtain qualifying national AP exam scores of 3, 4, or 5 may be able to receive credit or advanced placement or both at participating colleges and universities. When students earn college credit while in high school, they get a head start and save money on college courses. We recommend that all students take multiple AP courses to ensure college readiness before graduation.

Students should talk with their school counselor to find out if there are appropriate AP courses to enroll in. For more information about AP classes, please check with your child’s school or visit apstudent.collegeboard.org.

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Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) is a College Readiness System introduced to DPS in 2003 that is designed to enhance teaching strategies and schoolwide learning, as well as prepare students for college and beyond. AVID strategies and the AVID Elective Class are implemented in more than 25 DPS elementary, middle and high schools.

Concurrent enrollment allows students to take courses at local colleges and universities while they are enrolled in high school. This enables students to get a head start on college credits before graduating. Students gain exposure to the academic challenges of college while in their supportive high school environment or on a college campus, earning college and high school credits simultaneously. Students must obtain an A, B or C to earn college credit. We offer concurrent enrollment at almost all DPS high schools based on a student’s learning plan. The student’s learning plan is developed collaboratively by the student, school counselor or school administrator. For more information about concurrent enrollment, please check with your child’s school counselor.

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Intensive Pathways engage students who are off-track to graduate, or at high risk of becoming off-track, into an educational setting that leads to graduation or a GED. Students must apply to attend an Intensive Pathway school. Listed below are the Intensive Pathway school options and information about credit recovery.

Credit Recovery

  • Credit recovery offers students the option to earn credit for classes they did not successfully complete. DPS offers credit recovery in all DPS-managed high schools as an online program.

Intensive Pathway Schools (IPS)

  • Intensive Pathway Schools offer credit recovery, wrap-around services, community services, college and career counseling, and internship opportunities. IPS focuses on a specific population of students that includes pregnant students, teen parents, students with significant behavior needs, and students with significant social-emotional needs.

Multiple Pathway Center (MPC)

  • The Multiple Pathway Center serves students in grades 6-12 who are off-track to graduate and are up to two years behind on credits. The MPC grants diplomas and offers intensive academic, affective and behavioral supports to students. The MPC also offers credit recovery, wrap-around services, community services, college and career counseling, and internship opportunities.

Engagement Center (EC)

  • The Engagement Center identifies students who have dropped out or are off-track to graduate and engages these students in the program through a comprehensive intake process, providing an accelerated course of study. This program is best for students who are ages 16, 17, 18, 19 or 20 and are within 100 credits of graduating. The EC offers credit recovery, wrap-around services, community services, college and career counseling, and internship opportunities.

Intensive Pathway Charters

  • Intensive Pathway Charters offer a wide range of academic and affective supports for students who are at high risk of dropping out of school. Each charter has its own mission, specialty services and programming for students. All Intensive Pathway Charters engage students in a post-secondary readiness educational pathway that leads to graduation.

For more information about Intensive Pathways or to apply for an Intensive Pathway school, please contact the Transitions Manager at 720-556-5228.

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The International Baccalaureate Program (IB) offers a challenging curriculum in more than 11 DPS schools that is consistent and highly regarded around the world. IB schools focus on international perspectives of learning and teaching, while supporting students in fully exploring their home culture and language. IB instruction at the Primary Years, Middle Years and Diploma Programme level helps to develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills that prepare students for success in a rapidly globalizing world. Please check with your child’s school to see if they have an IB program.

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