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Indicator 1: Graduation Rate for Students with IEPs

What Is Indicator 1?

Indicator 1 reports the percentage of students with IEPs who exit K–12 education with a high school diploma.

The data for Indicator 1 are from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's Student Information Management System (SIMS).

Why Is Indicator 1 Important?

Indicator 1 is one way to assess whether Massachusetts is meeting its goal to prepare all students for success after high school in further education, in work, and in daily life.

Changes to Indicator 1 Reporting

In the past, Indicator 1 reported the percent of students with IEPs who earned a high school diploma based on the total number of students with IEPs who began school together in grade 9.

As of school year 2020-2021, the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) requires that Indicator 1 base its percentage on the total number of students with IEPs who left high school in the reporting year. The reported graduation rates in the table below have been recalculated using OSEP's new measurement requirement so that we can review the annual data using the same measurement for each year.

Graduation Rates for Students with IEPs


Indicator 1 Measurement

The percentages shown in the table above are the number of students aged 14–21 with IEPs who graduated with a regular high-school diploma divided by the number of students aged 14–21 with IEPs who left high school. "Left high school" means that a student:

  1. graduated with a regular high school diploma or
  2. received a certificate or
  3. reached maximum age or
  4. dropped out.

To receive a diploma from a public high school in Massachusetts, a student with an IEP:

  1. Must earn a Competency Determination (CD), which means achieving a specific level of proficiency on Grade 10 English Language Arts (ELA); Mathematics; and Science, Technology, and Engineering (STE) statewide assessments administered through the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) or MCAS-Alt for students needing an alternate mode of testing;
  2. Must meet the local graduation requirements of the district awarding the diploma;
  3. Must have received a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

Impact of COVID

In response to the closing of schools in March 2020 the DESE Board of Directors voted to allow a modification to the CD for those who had not yet met the CD requirement. Modifications were also made for those students in the 2021 and 2022 graduating classes. The modification to award the CD is as follows:

  • For English language arts and mathematics — upon district certification that the student earned full credit for a relevant course aligned to the appropriate curriculum framework in that subject matter and has demonstrated competency in that subject.

  • For science and technology/engineering — upon demonstration that the student earned credit for a course in the relevant subject matter and demonstrated competency in one of the four tested disciplines (biology, chemistry, introductory physics, technology/engineering) during their high school career.

    For more information on the CD and modifications, visit Massachusetts Graduation Requirements and Related Guidance.

Recommended Baseline: 76.33%
We use baselines as a starting point and compare data from other years to the baseline year data. Because of the impact of COVID, OSEP allowed baselines to be set at the 2019 graduation rate.

Recommended Indicator 1 Target: 1% annual increase through each of the next five years.

Learn More about Indicator # 1:

Last Updated: March 21, 2023

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