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Graduation - March 2003 Revision

Awarding of Diplomas

Students must have satisfied all graduation requirements prior to the graduation ceremony in order to be eligible to participate, unless otherwise noted in this directive.

Special Education students will receive a New Mexico State Board of Education diploma upon satisfactory completion of the program of study (standard, career readiness, or ability) defined in their Individualized Education Program (IEP). The School Board will receive notification of students (only by student identification numbers) who have earned diplomas on a career readiness or ability program of study.

Eligible students will receive a New Mexico State Board of Education diploma if they have successfully passed the New Mexico High School Competency Examination or an alternative assessment. Students will receive a certificate of attendance if they do not pass the New Mexico High School Competency Examination but have completed all other graduation requirements.

A senior transfer student is eligible for a diploma from an APS high school after satisfactorily completing at least one (1) semester as a full-time student in an APS high school and satisfying the graduation requirements. Normally, senior transfer students who do not qualify will have their credits returned to their prior high school for the awarding of a diploma. Such students may participate in the local graduation ceremony. Special cases may be referred to the Superintendent, who may authorize the issuance of a diploma.

Foreign exchange students may petition for graduation and must meet minimum requirements of the Albuquerque Public Schools and the State of New Mexico Department of Education. For additional information, see procedural directive on Foreign Exchange Students.

Students who wish to study abroad in their senior year must have (1) completed U.S. history and government credit requirements, and (2) have a plan of study approved by the principal and filed with the registrar of their school. A diploma will be granted to a student who completes all graduation requirements abroad.

Recognition of Scholastic Achievement

Rank in Class

For the purposes of calculating GPA and rank in class for all seniors:

  1. Establish each student’s initial eligibility for being included in the class ranking by determining that the student has passed the New Mexico required assessment(s) for graduation or an alternative assessment and
    that the student has been enrolled in an APS high school for two (2) consecutive semesters (excluding summer sessions).
  2. Calculate the GPA and rank for each eligible student at the end of the sixth, seventh and eighth semesters.
  3. Include December graduates in the final semester class ranking.

Honoring Students

Individual high schools have the option of honoring students of high scholastic achievement by allowing them to wear tassels and other decorations at graduation ceremonies. Each high school will establish its own criteria for selection of students to be honored.

Graduation Requirements

Twenty-three credits are required for graduation. The credits will be distributed as follows:

Minimum Requirements


4.0 credits

Four (4) credits of English are required in grades 9-12. Courses which meet this requirement are identified in the High School District

Curriculum: District Essentials and Guidelines.


3.0 credits

Three (3) credits are required in grade 9-12.

Social Studies

3.0 credits

Three (3) credits are required in grades 9-12, one (1) of which must be U.S. History and Geography; one (1) credit of World History and Geography; 1/2 (.5) credit of Government; 1/2 (.5) credit of Economics.


2.0 credits

One (1) credit must have a laboratory component.

Physical Education

1.0 credit

One (1) credit must be earned in grades 9-12.

Fine Arts or Practical Arts

1.0 credit

One (1) unit of credit to be earned in Fine Arts (dance, drama, music, visual arts) or Practical Arts (vocational education courses).


0.5 credit

One-half (.5) credit is required in grades 9-12.

Communication Skills

1.0 credit

One (1) credit is required in grades 9-12. Must be a course titled Communication Skills or a course identified as a District alternative which meets the requirement.


7.5 credits

Must earn an additional seven and one-half (7.5) credits in any of the approved courses in grades 9-12.


23 credits

Grades 9 - 12


Students from Junior High School

Students who enter high school from a 9th grade junior high school program not granting high school credit must earn 17 credits in grades 10-12. The credit will be adjusted proportionately to reflect the difference in graduation requirements so that the student is neither penalized nor does he/she have an advantage in the process of changing schools. The official transcript from the sending school should not be changed; however, the interpretation of the APS transcript should reflect the equivalent adjustment of graduation requirement.

(Refer to Transcript Evaluation Procedural Directive.)

New Mexico High School Competency Exam

Students are required to pass the New Mexico High School Competency Examination to receive a diploma unless a waiver of this requirement is approved by the State Department of Education. Special Education students who are on a standard program of study must pass the competency examination to earn a diploma. Special Education students on a career readiness program of study must take but not necessarily pass the Competency Examination. Special Education students on an ability program of study will be administered the New Mexico Alternative Assessment developed by the New Mexico State Department of Education. A student who does not ever pass the competency examination or receive a State waiver of the requirement receives a certificate of completion.

(Refer to Tests and Examinations directive.)

Waivers of Requirements

All students except those graduating under a Special Education Individualized Education Plan which specifies an alternative graduation plan must earn 23 credits to graduate. Individuals who request permission to substitute another course for a graduation requirement must follow procedures according to the required courses they wish to waive.

Physical Education

  1. Medical - The principal of a school may excuse a student from physical education on a year-to-year basis if the student presents a physician’s recommendation that the student should not be enrolled in a physical education course. A final waiver of the graduation requirement must be obtained from the State Superintendent for Public Instruction. (See Exemptions from Health or Physical Education Curriculum directive.)
  2. Religious - The State Superintendent may waive the physical education graduation requirement upon a written request from a parent stating that the course requirements violate religious beliefs and a statement from the school that no modification the school can make in the student’s program can overcome the parents’ objections.
  3. Requests to waive the physical education requirement will be submitted to the Superintendent, who will request the exemption from the State Superintendent for Public Instruction.


  1. A parent who requests alternative assignments or home instruction for a portion of the health course may work out a satisfactory plan of instruction and evaluation with the teacher and principal of the school. The student will receive credit for the course and needs no District waiver. (See Exemptions from Health or Physical Education Curriculum directive.)
  2. The Superintendent may waive the health requirement if the student demonstrates achievement of the state health competencies through home or other instruction.
  3. A student whose parent requests a waiver of the health requirement and no demonstration that state health competencies have been achieved may request a waiver from the state health competencies from the State Superintendent for Public Instruction (see B. in "Other State Mandated Courses" below).

Fine Arts/Practical Arts

The Superintendent may waive the fine arts/practical arts requirement upon a showing that doing so would be in the best interest of the student.

Other State Mandated Courses

Other course requirements may be waived only as follows:

  1. The school and/or parent should submit a rationale showing how state competencies in the subject area will be met or why not meeting them is in the best interest of the student. The school principal will recommend approval or disapproval of the request.
  2. Letters of request will be sent to the District Superintendent who will request the waiver from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Cross Crediting Courses for Graduation Requirements

State Department of Education Approval Process

The State Department of Education has authorized local school districts to determine which courses meet graduation requirements. Transcripts must indicate the title of the course and the graduation requirement fulfilled (except when the title of the course is the same as the graduation requirement.) Cross-crediting is the process through which a specific course is authorized to meet a graduation requirement.

APS Approval Process

    1. To initiate a cross-crediting request, use the same process and form that is used to request a new District course. The principal’s signature on the form will verify that parents, students, and staff have been consulted and that the curriculum leadership group at the school supports the request.
    2. Forward the completed, signed form and accompanying documentation to the Coordinator of Curriculum Development for presentation to high school curriculum assistants.
      1. For the high school curriculum assistants to recommend approval, the request must meet the following criteria:
          1. Equivalent Academic Value. The course must achieve the same academic purposes as any course designated to meet the graduation requirements; and
          2. The licensure endorsements of staff who may teach the course must be specified and justified

        (Example: If a teacher with a vocational endorsement is recommended to teach an applied math course for math credit, a statement justifying the teacher’s qualifications to award graduation credit in math must be included.)

        1. A clear statement of the amount and kind of credit to be generated by the course must be made. A single course may not satisfy two graduation requirements with the same unit of credit.
      2. The curriculum assistants will review the request and recommend further study, approval, or denial. Teachers from the affected areas may be asked to review the proposal and offer recommendations.
      3. 3.Requests requiring further study will be assigned to the appropriate groups by the Director of Instructional Support Systems, who will return the requests to the High School Curriculum Assistants for action.
      4. Requests recommended for approval or denial will be sent to principals for review and comment.

After review and comment by principals, requests may be sent to Instructional Cabinet for final approval or denial, if the principals are divided in their recommendation.

    1. The High School Curriculum Coordinator will assign course numbers which meet state requirements and will include the course on the annual report to the State Department of Education.

    Communication Skills Course Alternatives


    At the time the student and his/her family and guidance counselor prepare the student’s Four Year Plan, the student must make a written commitment to take Communication Skills during the 10th grade or choose one of the following options:

    1. Complete three high school credits or the third high school level or equivalent of the same modern or classical language by the end of the 12th grade, or
    2. Complete two high school credits, one credit of journalism and one credit of speech, by the end of the 12th grade, or
    3. Complete any other District approved course authorized to fulfill the Communication Skills graduation requirement.

    Before May 1 of the 9th grade year, a student who originally selected the Communication Skills course may elect the options outlined above by initiating a change-of-program request with his or her guidance counselor. At any time, a student who originally selected the options outlined above may choose not to do so by initiating a change-of-program request with his or her guidance counselor and enrolling in Communication Skills at the earliest possible date.

    Prior to enrollment or at the time of preparation of the Four Year Plan, students are to be informed of their choices during orientation(s) and in the high school course catalog.

    Course Alternatives

    1. Three (3) high school credits of the same modern or classical language, or completion of the third high school level or equivalent of a modern or classical language, other than English, or
    2. Two (2) high school credits, one credit of journalism and one credit of speech, may be substituted for this requirement.


    Cross Ref.:

    NSBA/NEPN Classification: IKF

    Revised: May 1995
    Revised: April 1996
    Revised: May 1997
    Revised: May 2001
    Revised: March 2003