High School Graduation Requirements
Pennsylvania has updated its high school graduation requirements and aligned secondary school curriculum to the Common Core Standards that have been adopted by 42 states and the District of Columbia. The new requirements are meant to guarantee that all students who have earned a high school diploma have the knowledge and skills they need to enroll in college or begin pursuing a career.
Courses and Credits
Pennsylvania requires all high school graduates to have a minimum of 21 credits, including 4 credits in English, 3 credits in math, 3 credits in science, and 3 credits in social studies. State law also requires students to earn 2 credits in arts and humanities, 1 credit in health and physical education, and 5 credits in elective courses such as computer science, business, vocational education, or music.
Remember, those are minimum requirements. Many school districts have set a higher bar for graduates. For example, in addition to the core requirements mandated by the state, the Ferndale Area School District requires students to have 2 credits in a foreign language and a combination of 7 credits in math and science. The Erie and Harrisburg school districts require students to take four years of math, and at Richland High School in Johnstown, graduates need 4 credits in social studies and will soon need 5 credits in math.
Students in Pennsylvania also need to pass Keystone Exams, which are state assessment tests, in algebra I, biology, and literature in order to graduate. In 2019, the Keystone Exam requirements will include an exam in composition, and, in 2020, a civics and government exam will be added as a graduation requirement. The exams will be scored on a scale of 1-4, and students must earn a 3 to pass.
Those who fail will have the opportunity to retake an exam twice. Those who fail the second retake will be able to seek alternative options, such as taking Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams or completing an assessment that meets the approval of district officials. Some students with disabilities are exempt from taking Keystone examinations.
Students in Pennsylvania may also be required to meet additional requirements established by their local education agency, which is the school district where their school is located. For example, some local education agencies require students to pass one or more exams in content areas like geometry, algebra II, US history, world history, and chemistry.