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Certificate of Completion vs. High School Diploma

Netlore Archive: Forwarded email claims the No Child Left Behind Act mandates that high school students who fail to qualify for diplomas must receive Certificates of Completion which will prevent them from entering GED programs, attending college, etc.

Description: Email flyer
Circulating since: April 2006
Status: False

Email text contributed by Sonya P., Apr. 28, 2006:

Subject: Certificate of Completion or Attendance

The "Certificate of Completion or Attendance" that is being offered in lieu of high school diplomas, is a part of Bush's "No Child Left Behind". This is how it works:

It is for students who are unable to pass both the Language Arts and Math portions of the 10th grade ISTEP. Students must take the same 10th grade test over in the 11th and 12th grades until they pass both portions. If they are unable to pass the 10th grade test by the 12th grade then they have two options:

1. Drop out and go to a GED program or,

2. accept a "Certificate of Completion" - it is NOT a diploma. Once a student accepts it, they cannot ever get a diploma or a GED. A certificate of completion means that a student can never (as long as they live):

1. go to the armed services
2. go to college
3. go to trade school
4. go to journeyman's school
5. go to beauty school
6. go to culinary arts school
7. get a federal loan in their lifetime

This is the portion of NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND (2001) that Bush slipped in during the 2004 revision of the NCLB bill. It has not been publicized. At a high school in Indiana, in 2005, there were 87 seniors in the graduation class. Five got diplomas and 82 got "Certificates of Completion".

This is being referred to as the "Paper Plantation". It is better for students to drop out and get into a GED program so they may seek other forms of education, later in life, if they desire to do so. All 50 states have "Certificates of Completion or Attendance".

Please pass this information along to EVERYONE you know who has school age children. Clergy, please preach it from the pulpits. Our people MUST know this information. Thank you & stay blessed.

Analysis: Though there are a few scattered elements of truth in this text, it's riddled with falsehoods and drastically misrepresents the implications of receiving a Certificate of Completion or Attendance in lieu of a high school diploma.

For starters, graduation requirements and the rules governing the issuance of diplomas vs. Certificates of Completion are determined by individual state departments of education, not the federal government. The No Child Left Behind Act contains no provisions, "slipped in" or otherwise, mandating how or when such certificates are to be issued.

Though the specifics vary from state to state, generally speaking a Certificate of Completion or Attendance is issued in cases where a student has not met all the academic requirements for graduation by the time he or she reaches the end of the 12th grade. There is nothing new or diabolical about this.

It does not affect future eligibity for diploma or GED

Does being a recipient of a Certificate of Completion render a student ineligible to receive a diploma or GED at a later date?

No — although, again, the law varies from state to state, and there may be time limits or other constraints affecting a given student's continuing eligibility to receive a diploma or equivalent.

In Indiana, for example (home of the "ISTEP" test mentioned in the email), a student who has received a Certificate of Completion can still elect to return to high school and complete the requirements for a diploma (or enter a GED program) through age 21.

It is not a permanent obstacle to attending college, etc.

Does receiving a Certificate of Completion or Attendance mean you can never, as long as you live, join the armed services, attend college or trade school, or get a federal loan?

No, that's complete rubbish.

Nearly all colleges and most trade schools do require a high school diploma or its equivalent for entrance, so anyone holding a Certificate of Completion will need to go back and complete the necessary academic requirements to get one before they can apply. The same is true, generally speaking, for military enlistment and receiving federal student aid. But there is no sense in which the mere fact of having received a Certificate of Completion or Attendance permanently disqualifies one from pursuing any of these goals.

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Updates and news coverage:

DOE Press Release on 'Hoax' Email
Statement by U.S. Dept. of Education Deputy Press Secretary Chad Colby, 24 May 2006

Don't Trust Education-Conspiracy Email
Wichita Eagle, 26 May 2006

Sources and further reading:

U.S. Dept. of Education Statement on Certificates of Completion
Received via email, 05/17/06

What Is a Certificate of Completion?
(Word doc) Indiana Dept. of Education fact sheet, April 2006

Statement from Paul Ash of the Indiana Dept. of Education
Received via email, 05/17/06

Last updated: 05/27/06

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