Diploma or Certificate Track: What Does “Graduating” Mean For a Student Living With a Disability? [IEP 014]
As a parent, you (sometimes along with your child) must decide whether a diploma or a certificate of completion is what’s best for your child. In this episode, we’re discussing the difference between the two, the requirements of each, and help shed light on how parents can make that decision.
Full transcript for this episode at the bottom of this post.
What We Discuss in This Episode:
- What does “graduating” mean for a student living with a disability?
- What are the diploma requirements in California specifically?
- Why a certificate of completion allows for more flexibility
- Can you still apply to college with a certificate of completion?
- What about financial aid: does a student need to have a diploma or a certificate?
- Graduating from high school doesn’t automatically mean the student is exiting from the IEP
- What impact the Senate Bill had on the elimination of the CA High School Exit Exam
- What are the pros of receiving a certificate of completion?
- Can a student switch from a certificate track to a diploma track?
- What questions should parents ask themselves to make the determination as to what track the student should be on?
- What can be included in a student’s IEP regarding the two tracks?
UCLA Pathway program
Costa Mesa ? College Living Experience
Email us: Info@iepcalifornia.org
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Full Show Transcript
Vickie Brett: Welcome to the Inclusive Education Project. I’m Vickie Brett.
Amanda Selogie: I’m Amanda Selogie.
Vickie Brett: We’re two civil rights lawyers on a mission to change the conversation about education, civil rights, and modern activism. Each week, we’re going to explore new topics, which are going to educate and empower others.
Amanda Selogie: And give them a platform to enact change in education and level the playing field. Hey everyone, welcome back, and welcome to 2018.
Vickie Brett: Well they’ve already listened to some of the podcast in 2018, but this is our first week back recording.
Amanda Selogie: Yes, first official pod of the year recorded in the New Year’s.
Vickie Brett: Right.
Amanda Selogie: So we hope you guys had a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year, and hopefully, you set some good resolutions for the new year whether it’s personal goals, or goals for what your kid’s going to achieve this year.
Vickie Brett: We’ll check in with you in a month and a half. I think that’s when they say people mostly drop off. It’s like into mid-February, early March, people-
Amanda Selogie: That makes sense.
Vickie Brett: Yeah, so we’ll check in to make sure-
Amanda Selogie: Did you set any goals? Resolutions?
Vickie Brett: Just general goals that I always try to work out more, like, try to … I actually started … This is stupid. Everybody decided to get me some type of planner or journal. I’m telling you, I got like six of them from six-
Amanda Selogie: And I was one of them.
Vickie Brett: I know. You were one of those. There’s like all … which is great, and so, I’m trying to find different uses for them. So one of them, I’m trying to, when I get home from work, to kind of disconnect from work, is to write down either like something I’m grateful for or like an achievement or something.
Amanda Selogie: Oh that’s good.
Vickie Brett: I’m grateful for this achievement, so I’ve been doing it thus far. So that’s one of the books.
Amanda Selogie: Five days in.
Vickie Brett: Yes. So, I mean, it’s going well, and it’s nice to kind of like … So, like, today will be like, “Oh let me look back on my week of when I was great before.”
Amanda Selogie: Oh that’s good.
Vickie Brett: I’ve heard that that’s good for like positive thinking, not that I’m not positive, but it’s just like another form of an outlet. I feel like I don’t write anymore. I just type all day and read online all day.
Amanda Selogie: That’s true.
Vickie Brett: It’s nice to have paper and pen.
Amanda Selogie: Yeah, well, I realize I need occupational therapy myself. My handwriting, I feel like, this last year, has gotten so bad.
Vickie Brett: So bad, right?
Amanda Selogie: I even look at something, and I’m like, “What?” I will start something, and I’ll be like, “I’m going to write so neat this time.”
Vickie Brett: But do you take your time to do it?
Amanda Selogie: I take my time.
Vickie Brett: Oh really?
Amanda Selogie: But then after a sentence, it starts to get sloppy. I know part of it is the rushing through, but then-
Vickie Brett: Right.
Amanda Selogie: I don’t know.
Vickie Brett: Well that’s why-
Amanda Selogie: We don’t write enough.
Vickie Brett: No, we don’t. I write my signature, I think, and that’s basically it.
Amanda Selogie: Yeah, I mean, I started taking notes on a laptop in college.
Vickie Brett: Right.
Amanda Selogie: So four years of college, and then law school, then everything since. I mean, I haven’t handwritten something since high school basically.
Vickie Brett: Yeah, and they say, actually, writing helps some people with remembering things.
Amanda Selogie: Oh yeah.
Vickie Brett: I think that’s the majority of people.
Amanda Selogie: It does for me, so I don’t know why I don’t … I mean I try to be [crosstalk 00:03:12] technology-
Vickie Brett: Totally, like, when you’re in an IEP meeting and there’s so many things. I’ve tried to … because I say, too, it’s like, oh when you’re like in class or at a presentation and you’re just transcribing basically. You’re not really retaining any of the information. So what I’ve been trying to do at IEP meetings is just type important things, right? because it’s just supposed to be a frame of reference, and we always [crosstalk 00:03:32]-
Amanda Selogie: Oh yeah.
Vickie Brett: So not typing like every little thing, even though you want to so bad like, “She just said this.” But it’s good to kind of get the … and that helps your brain because we have so much stuff in our heads.
Amanda Selogie: I know. I know.
Vickie Brett: It just gets pushed out anyway. You might remember it for a week, but then it’s going to get pushed out, so you might as well just get the highlight and that seems to work. I still have pages.
Amanda Selogie: There’s so many IEPs since I’ve been an attorney, but I think I started to do that a long time ago, because, yeah, I used to … Then it’s like they’re reading the report and you’re copying what they wrote in the report. It’s like, “Why? You don’t need to do that.” So, actually, my notes are a lot of times my feelings about things that are said, like, “This person said this.” That’s a bunch of crap. Sorry educators.
Vickie Brett: Nobody should read your stuff then. It’s like your diary. You’re like [crosstalk 00:04:21] diary.
Amanda Selogie: Sometimes someone will say something and in the moment you have a feeling about it, and you’re like, “That doesn’t sound right.” But if you read that statement later, you may not have that same feeling of like, “Oh I need to check that,” or, “That doesn’t sound right,” “That’s like a weird … ” just things like that. I’ll write the way I feel about it, because then, when I go back, I’m like, “Oh yeah. Now, I can look into it more because those are the things I think that sometimes you forget.”
Vickie Brett: Right.
Amanda Selogie: You remember that you were frustrated in the meeting. You were pissed off but you don’t necessarily remember why.
Vickie Brett: Why, yeah.
Amanda Selogie: So I think that that’s helpful, but yeah, it definitely should probably improve my handwriting. Maybe I should learn how to cursive again.
Vickie Brett: No, you should start taking your notes at IEP meetings by hand.
Amanda Selogie: I’m so much faster typing-
Vickie Brett: I know.
Amanda Selogie: … when I move my hands. I just … I know.
Vickie Brett: One’s not going to get better if you don’t do it.
Amanda Selogie: Look, eventually, we’re going to have technology where we’re just going to think something and it’s going to go on the paper.
Vickie Brett: Oh God. Please no.
Amanda Selogie: So, anyway, today on the pod, we are going to get into the diploma versus certificate track. So we’ll talk a little bit about each one, what they mean, what the implications are, and then the practical side of it of why you should think about which track you’re on, and when you should start thinking about that, and then what happens after. I think that a lot of families realize that on their IEP, there’s one box for this, and it says, “Diploma or certificate track,” and there’s a check mark. And so many families I’ve talked to, like, the school have made a decision about one, and there was never really a discussion, and next thing they know they’re in 11th grade, and they’ve been on this track forever, and it’s hard to change it.
So it’s something that I think that not enough parents think about. Maybe they’re told one thing about one track and not really given a compare and contrast scenario about the different ones, and it’s important to do that.
Vickie Brett: Yeah, and I think the diploma … I mean, now, we’re as millennials. A lot of our parents may have gone to college or gotten some college, but they all got their high school diplomas or maybe a majority of them. And so, our grandparents some of didn’t even get a high school diploma. So then, we were taught growing up like, “You’re going to college. You’re going to college. No emphasis on vocational schooling. I was just reading an article about this. It’s all about, like in Germany, obviously, they still have vocational programs where you go … or apprenticeships-
Amanda Selogie: Like trade schools.
Vickie Brett: Right, right, right. But then, Germany, when I was listening to NPR and they were talking about like apprenticeships, and how, like, after you’re done two years or three years or however long it is for the apprenticeship in Germany, it’s like the cultural perspective of it. Once you’re done with the program, your name’s in the newspaper. It’s like just as big of an accomplishment as hitting your college diploma, which I mean, it’s a dime a dozen now, right?
Amanda Selogie: Right.
Vickie Brett: Everybody has a college diploma or whatnot. So, I think for a lot of parents the significance of a diploma, even if their child has special needs and they’re not … just the paper, like, they got the diploma. It means a lot. But you have to like scratch the surface of that to see what it is, and I think that’s why we’re going to change the conversation. [crosstalk 00:07:46].
Amanda Selogie: Yeah, we you definitely need to change the conversation. I mean, I get parents all the time that say, “Well I want my kid to walk at graduation with the cap and gown and everything,” and we go, “Well you can.” So, we’ll get into all the differences when we look at usually a child, a student, graduates high school, right? What does graduation mean in the special education world? It could mean that you graduate with a diploma or it could mean you graduate with a certificate of completion. So that walking across the stage with the tassel and the robe and getting handed the “diploma” happens in either scenario. So that’s one of those myths that oftentimes families don’t realize.
But what does graduation actually mean for these kids? Well we talked about it before. Special education can extend all the way up to age 22. So just because you “graduate” high school doesn’t mean you’re graduating from special education, or as a lot of schools call it, being exited out of special education. So getting into the diploma track means that you’ve met all the requirements to earn a high school diploma and at 18 years old, when you finish high school, or if you’re 17.5 or those late birthdays.
Vickie Brett: Or whatever, yeah.
Amanda Selogie: You’re receiving a diploma and you’re no longer in the K through 12 education system. You’re essentially an adult. You can go off to college, get a job, whatnot. So there’s generally requirements to receive that diploma. In California, we have specific requirements under the California Education Code, and you can find that online very easily, and in other states, they have different types of requirements. So we’ll break it down a little bit of What’s in California and then give you kind of an overview of other states. But in California, you’re required to take 13 year-long courses, and those courses include three courses of English, three courses of math.
In math, you have to do Algebra 1, two courses in science, three courses of social studies, one course of visual and performing arts, a foreign language or career tech education, and then two courses in physical education. Some local educational agencies or school districts have additional requirements set on there, but that’s basically it. So to earn a high school diploma in California, it’s not as difficult as it may be once was or as people may think, because if you add up all those classes, that’s not that many. So we obviously have electives and stuff.
Vickie Brett: But they’re not needed to graduate from high school.
Amanda Selogie: Right.
Vickie Brett: Those are just fun things or kind of rounding out your education with, like, more art. You have to take a year of art, but there’s also requirements for a UC. So you have to take a foreign language if you want to get into a UC.
Amanda Selogie: And, like, two years I feel like, right?
Vickie Brett: I actually think it’s like three years and they recommend the fourth, because that’s what I did, and because it was like so many people were trying to get into college. And so, then it was just like the requirements changed especially for Cal State or for UC, which are kind of different. I can only talk to the UC and that being back in the day. But yeah, that’s not on here, right? There’s a difference between getting the legit diploma and then the diploma that is going to get you in the running to try and to get into Cal State or a UC. But it’s not guaranteed. Now some college campuses will say, “If you do guarantee three years of Spanish and all that, we will guarantee you coming in,” or at least they did when I was graduating.
I’m sure there’s some programs because they want people to come to their schools. It’s like, “You do all of this,” you get in, but I haven’t had any families of children with special needs be able to like accomplish that.
Amanda Selogie: Yeah, I mean, just looking up these requirements, and I look them up all the time, but looking to prepare for today, I was looking through, and I was like, “Man, I took so many more classes than I needed to.”
Vickie Brett: Right, right. Well because there’s a difference, just getting the diploma, but then trying to get into college.
Amanda Selogie: Yeah, yeah. That’s the difference when we look at what’s going to happen after high school. But, the important thing that’s sometimes frustrating in California specifically is that what I labeled those course subjects of English, math, science, social studies, the California Education Code has pretty vague guidelines of what that means. So school districts can come up with their own classes that are labeled English, English 1, 2, 3, or I think I remember, like when I was in school, it was English 9, 10, 11, 12, and then algebra, geometry. But what we’re seeing way too often is special day classes being labeled as English 1 or algebra 1. When you look at the curriculum, it’s a modified curriculum. They’re not learning algebra. They’re learning simple math.
They’re not learning how to do expository paragraphs, and did you have to do your CDE? I don’t remember what that stand for it, but like, remember? It was a big paper you had to do in 11th or 12th grade. It was like the CDE and the DCE. I’m probably messing up these acronyms, but it was a big paper you did the entire year, like, 11th grade and 12th grade. Maybe it was my school district. I don’t know.
Vickie Brett: Yeah, I don’t know. We always had … I mean, since my freshman year, we would have year-long group projects that we would do. I remember that vividly for my freshman year, but I don’t remember doing that later on.
Amanda Selogie: I think my senior year English class was-
Vickie Brett: Maybe we did. I don’t remember.
Amanda Selogie: In senior year, it was, you had to take an author and it was throughout the whole school year, you did that author. So, I did Shakespeare, obviously. I love Shakespeare.
Vickie Brett: What? Like, do what?
Amanda Selogie: So, you pick I think three books, and so, you start off the year with one book, and you have to write an essay on that book. Then you do the second book, and you do the third book, and then your final paper at the end of the year is basically comparing and contrasting the author and the themes and this stuff. It took the entire year to do this last paper, because you had to do all these steps, and it was like, that was the main thing you did in English. So the special day class English classes we’re seeing that are labeled English 1 or even English 12, they’re not doing this kind of work, right?
Vickie Brett: Yeah.
Amanda Selogie: They’re doing simple reading.
Vickie Brett: Well if it’s severely modified then the certificate track is something that, like, a lot of the kids get frustrated and they can’t even get past even if it’s severely modified. If we’re doing algebra and the first time you’re getting algebra is like freshman year, let’s say, and they’re severely modifying it so that like the basics of algebra that you start learning, let’s say, in second grade, is all you’re doing, what’s the point?
Amanda Selogie: Right, and that’s the problem, is that we have school districts that are trying to push out these kids and giving them high school diplomas, and so, they’re labeling a class as Algebra 1 when they’re not actually learning algebra, because if it’s labeled Algebra 1, and they satisfied the minimum what the ed code says, they could satisfy the A through G requirements for high school diploma. And that’s where I think a lot of families get confused, because they’re like, “Well my kid is in Algebra 1 and they’re getting an A.” Okay, well, they’re not actually learning algebra, and they’re getting an A because it’s participation, right?
Vickie Brett: So the point is to graduate with these basic skills so that when you get into college, you have the foundations, and then you learn on top of that. So if you’re still doing basic basics of algebra and not doing the higher level, when you get into a even community college classroom of algebra or algebra 2 or whatever, if you’re continuing it, they’re going to be completely lost, and it’s like the rug is going to be pulled from under them, because it’s going to be anything that they’ve actually learned. And so, that I think important for parents to look into is, like, what the actual class entails. Because if your goal is to get them into college or at least community college, once you get there, they are adults and they have to go to the community colleges.
They have to be ADA compliant, right? The adults with the Disability Act … Americans with Disability Act. Sorry. Not adults. But they are adults. We work under the individuals with Disabilities Education Act because we’re dealing with minors. Obviously, when they’re 18, they’re not a minor, and that’s like a specific … but anyway, I digress.
Amanda Selogie: So when we’re looking at the diploma track, we should be looking at a more rigorous academic program that would allow the student to then go on to apply for a job or go on to college. The problem that we see in special education is that we have a lot of students on the diploma track who are in these courses like I described that are not true courses. The reason they’re able to do that is because the requirements for a high school diploma in California are very vague, versus there’s other states that have very stringent requirements. So, if you are in … I can’t think on top of my head specific states, but there are other states that have, like, the ed code has specifics of what algebra means, for instance.
So, the school districts can’t get away with labeling an SCC class algebra, but what they do have is they have a middle ground. So we just talked about the diploma and how in California there’s only a diploma or a certificate track. In other states, they have alternative options. Some of them are considered like an IEP special education diploma or a certificate of achievement, so those are kind of in that middle ground, right? Maybe they’re not able to complete the requirements if the algebra class was true algebra, but they’re more higher-functioning so they can still do somewhat of an academic rigor. So it’s like in the middle. But unfortunately, in California, we don’t have that. We only have two options.
So if a student is unable to complete the requirements for a high school diploma, what they should be receiving is what’s called a certificate of completion. Other states call it either a certificate of completion, a certificate of attendance or an occupational diploma. And so, essentially, what that means is it’s a certificate saying you’re completing high school, but you’re continuing on either through a vocational program or whatnot. Now, getting a certificate of completion, like we said, you still walk at graduation, but it has certain implications. During your time in high school, it allows more flexibility, right? because we’re not dealing with the same academic rigor as with a diploma. Those 13 year-long classes, they don’t technically have to take.
So, I’ve had kids that are academically really strong in one subject but not in the other. So for instance, really good at math, and maybe they’re great at computers, and they could end up being a coder and working for Google, but their English skills and their writing and reading is on the lower end. So they would never be able to pass a gen ed English class. So with those kiddos, we’ve been able to accomplish a flexible schedule where, yeah, they’re still taking English classes, but maybe they’re taking an SCC English class, they’re taking gen ed math, and then they’re taking more electives than maybe a traditional high school student would do, because they’re taking some voc ed, maybe some study skills and then electives that go towards what they’re good at.
Vickie Brett: Well that’s the thing, too, is, a lot of the special day classes in high school are now geared more towards, like, yes, technically it would be the English class, but it’s more functional. So you’re learning basic skills. Your math class would be balancing a checkbook and going on trips to the grocery store and having the correct amount of change and things like that. So that can still happen within high school and the child will still … I have a client that is really good at art, and so, they’re taking all the like upper-level art classes. So then for next year or this current school year, it’s like, “Oh well can you start taking community college art classes and be able to have that?”
But graduate with certificate and just kind of … You could be really flexible and really creative with it once you’re on the certificate of completion track. Which is different than a GED, because a GED is a separate test on four subjects that, if the person passes, then you’re saying, “Oh you have the equivalent of, like, high school skills,” right?
Amanda Selogie: Right.
Vickie Brett: It’s not necessarily like, “Oh you can now get into a UC,” because they have certain requirements and stuff like that. But it is different because we’ve had parents ask that too. If you get the certificate completion, it doesn’t mean that you can’t eventually get your diploma. You could do that.
Amanda Selogie: Right, right. It doesn’t it doesn’t preclude you from getting that or even getting the GED. And the GED, the main difference, with the diploma … obviously, you didn’t take all of the course loads, but the GED does allow you to apply … There’s certain jobs that say diploma or GED required. So the main things that make the certificate of completion different from the high school diploma and the GED is applying for a four-year university, applying for financial aid and certain jobs. So if you have a certificate of completion, you can still attend and apply for a community college or a two-year like associate’s degree. They don’t require a high school diploma.
Even students who are in school sometimes take some community college classes, but it’s really important because we have a lot of parents that say, “Well my kid eventually is going to go to college. They’re not going to be ready right after high school. Maybe they need an extra year or whatnot,” but the reality is they eventually want to go, and we say, “Well if the goal is to go to a four-year university eventually, but they’re planning on taking community college classes, then the certificate of completion doesn’t matter.” You can absolutely do that. What a lot of kids on that realm do is they take two years of community college class and then they transfer to a four-year university.
And that’s totally fine because the diploma requirement for a four-year university in California, the UCs and the Cal States is to have a diploma. That’s no longer a requirement if you have the two-year degree from a community college. The other difference is for federal financial aid at a four-year university. That’s a little bit different if you don’t have a high school diploma either. And then of course there are some jobs that you have to have a high school diploma, of course, that they can make that requirement. But other than that, there’s not really too many more implications of doing one or the other. So if a parent is deciding between the two, there’s a lot of information they need to know about just how it can impact their child’s education.
One of the biggest things when we talk about when they graduate, what does that mean? A lot of school districts assimilate graduating with exiting special education. So we get students who are on IEP, who receive a high school diploma, and the school district then says, “Oh we’re done. You’re exited from special education.” But there’s nowhere in the IDEA that says that that’s automatically true.
Vickie Brett: Right.
Amanda Selogie: Not at all. In fact, there’s case law where there’s students who receive a high school diploma because their academic abilities allow them to take those courses with some modifications or accommodations, because you can still get a high school diploma with a modified curriculum. Not heavily modified like you were saying before, but somewhat modified. But that student needs that vocational or independent living skills. So if remember back to the IDEA, there’s three main pillars of the IDEA. It’s the academic functioning, it’s the independent living skills, and it’s the vocational skills. The IDEA promises all three of those through a FAPE. Free Appropriate Public Education. So, if a student is only receiving the academics, then they’re not receiving all three.
And so, a student can receive a diploma and still be part of some kind of vocational program if they need it.
Vickie Brett: Right, right. I guess the myth or the things that the district staff are used to is that, “Oh well they could get … they’re academically there, so they’re academically there vocationally, social-emotionally, and they don’t need our help, and they’re not our problem anymore,” and so, a lot of parents just don’t know to, like, push for that, and they get forced to make a decision. Well, if you want your kid to have a diploma, then we can’t give you any other services outside of it. Then parents don’t know that that’s not what the law says or that the law is even silent to that, and so, then they just think, “Oh my kid is exited out,” or they don’t know that oftentimes it’s not accurately explained to the child, and if the child is 18, that is an adult.
If the parent doesn’t have a power of attorney just for the educational rights of their child or a limited conservatorship in some cases, then the child, that’s what happened my cousin Ken, that’s why I always use him as a perfect example. He was a fifth-year senior because he wasn’t able to graduate on time because of the types of courses. He had to retake some. I’ve even had clients that, like, they retook algebra three times. First their freshman year, then again their sophomore year, and then between sophomore and junior year that summer. They were like, okay, just take it during summer school and then he passed.
Amanda Selogie: Wow.
Vickie Brett: He failed both times, and it was just like, in summer school, it’s like more … It’s condensed, but it almost was just like, “Okay well he passed with a D,” but that’s not real, right?
Amanda Selogie: Right.
Vickie Brett: And so, it’s one of those things where it’s just, “Oh well the norm is if they can get an actual diploma, then they don’t need anything else,” and that’s what parents really need to look out and look out for, because you could be getting so much … because what will happen is a parent will go, “Oh well, they have regional center services. They go to regional center when they’re 18.” And they go, “We’re not going to touch this kid until they’re like 22,” so you need to figure it out.
Amanda Selogie: And we’ve gotten that before. I’ve gone to IEPs where the student is 18 and the school goes, “Oh well you can go to the Department of Rehab, you can go to regional center, all these services are going to get you there.” But the school district is required until 22, if the student needs it, and if they need these additional services, then they should be providing it. But of course, the school districts get away with, like I’ve been told before, “Well don’t you know that most high school students don’t know how to take a bus? So it doesn’t matter that your child with special needs doesn’t know how to take the bus,” which is a ridiculous statement, and I would beg to differ that most high school students graduated with a diploma probably can, but-
Vickie Brett: They can figure it out.
Amanda Selogie: But if they can’t, then that’s a problem too. One other thing with the high school diploma is there used to be in California up until last year, the California High School Exit Examination or the CAHSEE. Last year, the California Senate Bill 172 eliminated that requirement, so it’s actually made it even easier for students to be pushed out through a diploma. And in fact, the impact of a Senate Bill 172 was that students from the 2003-04 school year to now, if they received a certificate of completion only because they didn’t pass the CAHSEE, so they were in all these classes that whether or not they were true gen ed classes or not, they satisfied the requirements, but they didn’t pass the caste so they received a certificate of completion.
They can actually go back and request a diploma because of that. But, what are the implications of getting a certificate track? Because we talked about the kind of cons, right? Not being able to apply to a four-year, the financial aid, which are minimal in reality. The pros of a certificate of completion is we have a lower academic rigor. So students who maybe are kind of in the middle academically but need other assistance, maybe they need modifications. Maybe if they’re in a gen ed class with modifications, they can do it. A lot of misperceptions that we get is, well, if they’re on the certificate of completion track, then they can’t be in gen ed classes.
Or if they’re on the certificate of completion track, they have to all be in functional classes. Or if they’re on the diploma track, they can’t be in any vocational classes. The IDEA is actually not specific to that. It’s about unique individual needs of the child, right? So if we have these kids that are … We have a lot of them that are in between. Not quite diploma track bound, but if they were to be put in all functional classes of the certificate track, then it would not be appropriate. I have many kids like that and what ends up happening is they’re higher functioning socially and they’re very aware, but academically, they’re so behind. Maybe they’re behind because of their disability, but maybe they’re behind because they didn’t receive the appropriate services for years.
Vickie Brett: Right.
Amanda Selogie: And they come into high school and they’re put in all these functional classes because they say, “Oh well your academic functioning, you’re reading at a 2nd grade reading level. You couldn’t possibly do gen ed English, so we’re going to put you on a certificate track. We’re going to put you into these SDC classes, but they’re so low functioning that they are like, “I should not be in this class.” And what happens? They end up acting out. We get kids who have disciplinary actions that have never had it before. Or ones that had it before really have it, because it’s not an appropriate place. So, we get a lot of parents who come to us asking about … or maybe they don’t even ask us about it.
We’ve looked on their IEPs and said, “Why are you on a diploma track?” Or, “Why are you on a certificate track?” for that matter. And, a lot of times the answers that we get are total untrue statements that they’ve been told. Like, “Well academically her potential is where she should be receiving a diploma, so she’s going to be on this track.” But there’s a lot of flexibility with certificate of completion and being on one track now doesn’t mean you can’t switch back later. So we can have a student on a certificate track for the first two years of high school and then get back on track for the diploma if we had some regression and we’re just catching up. For instance-
Vickie Brett: Yeah, they could be that fifth-year senior. We wouldn’t want to really go past that just for social-emotional reasons. If they didn’t really have many friends that were juniors that would now be seniors because all their friends had already graduated, or we want to delay. Okay, well, graduating, you won’t necessarily graduate with your friends that you like knew this whole time, but you would go with the juniors that will be graduating or things like that. You could do that. But we wouldn’t want parents to think like, “Oh well, let’s just try the certificate, and then we’ll just be able to do it.” Well it doesn’t work that way.
I mean, even if you get your certificate, you could still work to get your high school diploma and be part of a vocational program. I think that’s easier than trying to like shift in the middle, because then all of a sudden, the child may have all these fun classes, and then all of a sudden, their last two years is just like all this like crazy work and it may not even be worth it. If you’re a sophomore, let’s try to do in four years, you know?
Amanda Selogie: Yeah.
Vickie Brett: At least with that and having the school, you’re still getting that help. Even if it’s through the vocational program, they may have to continue working on their diploma like an adult continuation school, and so, it’s not modified. It’s not like how all these other things are, but if they learn in those two years, junior and senior year, the basics of like note-taking and things like that, or like, “Oh I need to listen to a lecture three times, so I have to record it.” If they start learning those things, then they can go to the adult continuation school, get better diploma and then still go to a community college. It’s just, you got to think about the longer path. It may not be four years. It shouldn’t be four years for a lot of kids.
Amanda Selogie: No, definitely not.
Vickie Brett: It’s so cookie-cutter.
Amanda Selogie: And even, like, I have kids who either have social-emotional, mental health issues, anxiety, OCD, that sort of thing or have health problems that make it very hard for them to have a five-class day. So I’ve had students and then … But the school says, “Well you have to take five classes, because in order to satisfy your A through G graduation requirements, you have to take these classes. You have to be in class this amount,” but it doesn’t work for some of these kids because they get so overwhelmed, they end up failing their classes. So, I’ve had some kids where we have almost like a half day or we have a three-quarter day, something along those lines. They’re taking less classes each year, so they may need that fifth year.
Or maybe they’re able to take them finally in the summer because maybe they had a traumatic experience in ninth grade. By junior year, that’s when maybe they can switch, because they can make up in the summer. I don’t know. The reality is, is we can have more flexibility in having that shorter day, having to taking science in your third year instead of your first year or history. A lot of times students come into ninth grade and they’re given that full load of English, math, science, social studies, PE, and they have one elective, and it’s like, “Well you only need two classes in science, so you don’t need to take it your first year. Maybe we take it your third year.” Some schools have these very strict requirements, so, if you’re a freshman, you have to take this.
Vickie Brett: Right, and I think you know your child best. So if you think that it’s something that your child can’t … I’m not saying your child has dyslexia. You should be on the certificate of completion program. No, I’m not saying that, because with learning differences, we know that we can make certain accommodations. We could use assistive technology to help the child and kind of level the playing field for them in a gen ed classroom. When you can do little things, and little in the grand scheme of like they’re not a 12th grader reading at a sixth grade level, then you’re able to attend the general education classroom, with these accommodations, with this bit of support. Maybe you take tests outside of the big noisy classroom.
Those things, you could still even get that when you’re in college, and you can self-advocate. I think those are the questions you need to start asking yourself. Can my child do it? Because guess what, you’re not going to go to college with them. If they get into a Cal State or if they get into a UC, you’re not going and holding their hand. You have to know what your child is capable of and that’s the vocational, social-emotional aspect that the high schools need to actually work on as well as the academics, because not all children are going to need to be on an IEP and graduate with their certificate of completion. That’s not what we’re saying.
Amanda Selogie: Yeah, and at the end of the day, like we said, there’s lots of flexibility in looking at which kind of students need to be on which ones. The biggest takeaway I’d want parents to get is, if you’re told this can only happen on a diploma track and that can only happen on a certificate track, that’s not true. Anything can happen on either track because it’s supposed to be individualized. And, when should you start thinking about this? Well typically you need to have a track decided around 16, but reality is if you get it, like when they start high school, but it should be a discussion. It shouldn’t be a school district saying, “This is the track you’re on.”
It needs to be a discussion by the entire team, because like we’ve talked about in the last 30 minutes, there’s a lot of factors with this. So, we really need to have it be a team meeting.
Vickie Brett: And it definitely shouldn’t be decided in first grade.
Amanda Selogie: No. I have some school districts now recently who are starting to decide it in sixth grade, which is not appropriate, because sixth grade, we’re still getting up there. We have kids who were just figuring out by the time sixth grade comes along how best they learn, and maybe from sixth to eighth grade, they can make great strides, and maybe in fifth grade they were a candidate for a certificate track, but in eighth grade? I mean, there’s so much learning that goes on there that it’s really important to really do it once you get towards the high school. And so, once you’ve gone through and you’ve gotten either your diploma or your certificate of completion, what comes next?
Vickie Brett: There’s plenty of other things. Sometimes we are able to get children … There’s this great program at UCLA called Pathways through their extension program for children that either have a diploma or a certificate of completion. You’d be 18 to 25, I think, and it’s a great program, because I mean, essentially, you’re assimilated, but you have that extra support that the child may have gotten used to like in high school. But they just can’t do it like completely on their own, so they participate in classrooms. It’s not necessarily like they’re doing high school level work. It’s all almost individualized as well and there’s information on their website. We hope to go and take a tour of it one day because we would like to see it ourselves.
It’s supposed to kind of … The child can be away from home, and it’s like, not the parent that’s like kind of helping them out, but then they need to know safety and things like that and be able to live on their own. It’s a lot more support than if you just got into UCLA and you’re going for the first time.
Amanda Selogie: Oh yeah. There’s other ones too. There’s one called CLE, College Living Experience that’s in Costa Mesa. There’s a bunch of organizations like this, but essentially, there’s going to be kids who can go off to community college because they have the functional and daily living skills to be able to do that on their own. But then there’s the kids who maybe are in that middle ground, maybe they need a little bit more support. So, these organizations are there. There are resources out there for if we’re thinking about what’s going to happen after high school or after … Maybe they go through the vocational program and then they’re able to do-
Vickie Brett: After graduation, right? After that.
Amanda Selogie: Yeah, “graduation.”
Vickie Brett: Yeah, because maybe you could get Pathways or CLE funded by the school district-
Amanda Selogie: Absolutely.
Vickie Brett: … as a type of vocational program or as a type of supplemental, you know, if the district doesn’t have a program, that’s appropriate. Maybe you could do that, which would be helpful.
Amanda Selogie: I’ve had kids where in their IEP, from 18 to 22, it’s that they’re taking community college classes. That’s in their IEP because the school district has a vocational program but not an academic vocational program. And so, the student was able to do some academics, especially if we’re talking about elective trade stuff, like, they’re really good at art, or they’re really good at computers. So it’s more of that trade school type of thing. That can be in the IEP too. It’s limitless on the options that we have for these kiddos. You’re going to have a school district that tell you one option, but just know that there’s a lot of options out there.
And so, yeah. I mean, that’s essentially diploma and certificate track in a nutshell. Know that you have options. Know that you don’t have to pick one super early, and it’s not the district’s decision, it’s an IEP team decision.
Vickie Brett: Exactly, and you know your child, and your child’s going to want to have some opinions on it too. So, you want to be able to include them in on the conversation as well and make it as a team as it should be. Well we hope you enjoyed our little discussion.
Amanda Selogie: I hope you got some good information from it. I think this time of year is a good time to start thinking about this. We have just starting the second semester of the 2017-18 school year and maybe your kid is going to be graduating this year. Maybe next year.
Vickie Brett: Yeah, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us firstname.lastname@example.org. We also always have information on our website, which is www.iepcalifornia.org. We appreciate all the feedback you guys have been leaving us. It’s been overwhelmingly happy, or it makes us so very happy when you give us a positive feedback because we like doing this. It’s hard to fit it into our schedule sometimes, but I think that with the positive reinforcement, we know that we’re able to, at least, be able to change the conversation.
Amanda Selogie: And if you haven’t already, please remember to subscribe so that you get the latest episode every Tuesday when they come out, and please share with a friend if you have someone that you know might benefit from this information, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, IEP California. And yeah, have a great rest of your day and week, and we’ll see you next week.
Vickie Brett: Bye.
Amanda Selogie: Bye.