In Massachusetts, public school students must meet both local and state requirements in order to earn a high school diploma. This page addresses state requirements. For local requirements, please contact your high school.
The Massachusetts Education Reform Law of 1993, G.L. c. 69, § 1D, requires that all students meet the Competency Determination (CD) standard, which is usually done by earning a passing score on MCAS. This requirement is for all students educated at public expense, including those at public schools, at educational collaboratives and those in approved and unapproved private special education schools.
Students must earn a passing score on the grade 10 MCAS tests in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics, and one of the high school Science and Technology/Engineering (STE) tests to meet their CD requirement.
Students who do not pass the MCAS tests in grade 10 may take retests according to these participation guidelines in grades 11 and 12 and beyond. Some students may also be able to participate in an appeal process as described below.
The tables below describe the CD requirements for students in the classes of 2021–2031 and beyond. Please note that some requirements for the classes of 2020-23 were modified due to disruptions during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic. Also note that, as described in the Competency Determination regulations, students are assigned to an original graduating class based on when they first enter grades 9–12 in a Massachusetts public school system. That class (e.g., 2023 for a student who entered 9th grade in August 2019) never changes in terms of CD requirements.
For the graduation requirements from earlier classes that do not appear on this web page, please contact email@example.com .
Earn a score of 455–471
Fulfill the requirements of an Educational Proficiency Plan
Earn a score of 469–485
*A note on the passing standard:Please note that the passing standards for the classes of 2021–2025 are set at a level of achievement that has been established as equivalent to the standard on the legacy MCAS tests. Some students in the classes of 2021–2025 may score in the Not Meeting Expectations level, but their scaled score is high enough to earn the CD in that subject. Please see the September 22, 2022 edition of the Student Assessment Update for a visual representation of this.
**Modified CD RequirementsThe Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved modified CD requirements due to the cancellation of testing opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The modified CD is in place for the following graduating classes and subjects:
Please also see FAQs on the modified CD , and the list of the accepted courses that fulfill the modified CD requirements.
Earn a score of 470–485
Fulfill the requirements of an Educational Proficiency Plan (not required to take an MCAS retest or file an appeal)
Earn a score of 470–499
An EPP must be developed for students meeting certain scores on the grade 10 MCAS tests in ELA or Math (see the tables in #1 above for the scores for different classes). (STE is not part of the EPP requirement.) The EPP is not required for students in the classes of 2020–2022, who are eligible for the modified CD.
In addition to the standard MCAS tests and retests, students may earn a Competency Determination (CD) through the MCAS Performance Appeals process. When granted, a performance appeal is not a waiver of CD requirements, but a different means of earning the CD.
If school and district officials believe that there is compelling evidence that a student has demonstrated the attainment of the state's learning standards through coursework but has been unable to meet the minimum score requirements on MCAS, the superintendent may submit a performance appeal to the Commissioner on behalf of the student.
For a student with a disability, the superintendent must file an appeal on behalf of an eligible student with a disability if the parent (or the student who is age 18 or older) requests it. The superintendent may initiate on his or her own an appeal for an eligible student with a disability with the consent of the parent (or the student who is age 18 or older).
With the enactment of An Act Relative to Veterans' Access, Livelihood, Opportunity, and Resources, also known as the VALOR Act, Massachusetts joined the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children. We are committed to facilitating the on-time graduation of high school students in military families by providing alternatives to allow these students to earn a high school Competency Determination (CD) in English language arts, mathematics, and science and technology/engineering.
View the CD requirements for students in active military families .
Under state law, all students, including students with disabilities, seeking to earn a high school diploma must meet the Competency Determination (CD) standard, as well as local graduation requirements.
Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), even if a student with an IEP has met state and local requirements for graduation, a district may not properly graduate the student if the district did not provide a "free appropriate public education" (FAPE) to that student.
For additional information on graduation requirements for students with IEPs, please see Administrative Advisory SPED 2018-2: Secondary Transition Services and Graduation with a High School Diploma.
Students with IEPs who do not meet the state's CD standard will remain eligible to receive educational services until they meet all graduation requirements or turn 22 years of age.
Students who have not earned a CD in the required subjects may be eligible to receive a Certificate of Attainment if they have met all local (but not state) graduation requirements.
Two scholarships are available based in part on student performance on the high school MCAS tests in English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science and Technology/Engineering:
Massachusetts state law requires the instruction of American history and civics (G.L. c. 71, § 2) and physical education (G.L. c. 71, § 3).
The Massachusetts High School Program of Studies (MassCore) is intended to help high school graduates arrive at college or the workplace well prepared and to reduce the number of students taking remedial courses in college. The Department recommends that high school students complete the MassCore program of studies, which is a comprehensive set of subject area courses and units as well as other learning opportunities, before graduating from high school.
The MassCore program includes:
MassCore is just a start; students are also encouraged to pursue additional learning opportunities, including Advanced Placement classes, dual enrollment, a senior project, online courses for high school or college credit, and service or work-based learning.
Last Updated: October 12, 2023
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906
Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370
Disclaimer: A reference in this website to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public and does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.