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About the Data - High School Graduation Requirements

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Overview

Wisconsin's high school graduation standards under s. 118.33(1)(a) and (am), Wis. Stats., include specific subject area credit requirements and recommendations for granting high school diplomas. These standards apply to all Wisconsin school districts. Local requirements meeting or exceeding Wisconsin standards are set by each school district and provide information about what it means to graduate from that district. Data about state standards and local graduation requirements are available on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) Website.

Where to Find Data about High School Graduation Requirements
School Years  WISEdash   School District 
 Performance Report 
 WINSS Historical 
 Data Files 
Beginning with 2007-08 -- X --
1996-07 through 2006-07 -- -- X

WINSS Data Analysis was a key source of DPI data about high school graduation requirements until spring 2015 when more recent years of WINSS data were migrated to the School District Performance Report (SDPR).

High school graduation requirements are reported annually for all school districts and all nondistrict charter schools statewide as part of the SDPR. Below you will find detailed background information, definitions, and related links to facilitate use and appropriate interpretation of these data on the DPI Website.


Cautions

  1. Requirements are not collected at the school level. For any district with multiple schools that offer grade 12, district requirements submitted to and reported by DPI are those that apply to the majority of district graduates in any given school year. In these situations, requirements that apply to a specific school may not match the requirements reported for the district.
  2. S. 118.33(1)(a)and (am), Wis. Stats., set a minimum number of credits in required subject areas and encourage a minimum number of credits in additional subject areas. Although the additional subject credits are not required by law, total credits required by districts almost always exceed the combination of required subject credits and the additional subject credits.
  3. Graduation requirements for nondistrict charters may or may not meet minimum Wisconsin standards under (a) and (am). These paragraphs do not apply to nondistrict charters.
  4. When requirements change at the school, district, or state level, graduation rates over time should be compared with this change in mind.

Definitions of Key Terms

For definitions, see the WISEdash Glossary (includes terms used in SDPR and in WINSS files).


Calculating Averages and Percents

Districts Offering Grade 12

The count of districts and nondistrict charters offering grade 12 in the reported school year. In WINSS historical data files, only districts and nondistrict charters with students enrolled at grade 12 on the 3rd Friday of September of the reported school year are counted.

Credits Required by District

For each subject, the minimum number of credits required by the district or nondistrict charter school for high school graduation in the reported school year. According to Chapter PI 18.02, Wis. Adm. Code, "'credit' means the credit given for successful completion of a school term of study in one course in the high school grades. . . " See also statutory definition of school term. For districts with more than one high school having different minimum credit requirements, the credits required reflect those that apply to the majority of district students graduating in the reported school year.

Credits Required by Districts - Average

Sum of "Credits Required by District" for all districts and nondistrict charter schools divided by the count of "Districts Offering Grade 12." In WINSS historical data files, "Credits Required by District" and "Credits Required by Districts - Average" are reported in a single field labeled "average_number_of_credits_required_by_districts" with district level rows being "Credits Required by District" and state level rows being "Credits Required by Districts - Average."

Districts Exceeding Minimum - Count

Count of districts and nondistrict charter schools where local credit requirements exceed the minimum state-required/-encouraged credits based on s. 118.33 (1)(a)and (am), Wis. Stats. In WINSS historical data files, only state-required credits are considered in determining if a district exceeds the minimum.

Districts Exceeding Minimum - Percent

"Districts Exceeding Minimum - Count" divided by "Districts Offering Grade 12" expressed as a percentage.


Data Changes Over Time

  • Prior to 2016-17. State law provided that districts may not grant a high school diploma to any student unless, in grades 9 through 12, the student earned at least 4 credits of English, 3 credits of social studies, 2 credits of mathematics, 2 credits of science, and 1.5 credits of physical education, and, in grades 7 through 12, at least 0.5 credit of health education. State law also encourages districts to require a minimum of 8.5 additional credits in in vocational education, foreign languages, fine arts, and other courses.
  • Beginning with 2016-17. Changes were made in state law impacting minimum requirements for students receiving a regular high school diploma in the 2016-17 school year. 2013 Act 63 changed s.118.33, Wis. Stats., as summarized below:
    • School districts need to require at least 3 credits of math (up from 2).
    • School districts need to require at least 3 credits of science (up from 2).
    • Additional options are provided for students to earn math and science credits through career and technical education (CTE) courses and computer science courses.

See Changes to Graduation Requirements for more details. To view the relevant administrative code, see Chapter PI 18 (June 2004 version). When this Chapter is revised, the June 2004 version will be archived (register no. 582) to preserve documentation of these changes.


Data Sources

Beginning in 2011-12, high school graduation credit requirements have been submitted by school districts and nondistrict charter schools as part of an annual DPI survey. Through 2010-11, these requirements were submitted in the Course Offerings Report (PI-1215).


Frequently Asked Questions about High School Graduation Requirements

  1. Are private schools included in these summaries?
    No. Only districts and nondistrict charters offering grade 12 are included in averages and percents. Private schools are neither covered by SDPR reporting requirements nor by s. 118.33(1)(a) or (am), Wis. Stats. Also, these summaries do not include schools operated by County Children with Disabilities Education Boards, State Department of Corrections schools, State Department of Health and Family Services schools, or districts offering only elementary school grades.
  2. Why might requirements for graduates of certain nondistrict charter schools not meet Wisconsin standards?
    The requirements of s. 118.33 (1)(a) and (am), Wis. Stats., do not apply to nondistrict charter schools. See s. 118.33 (1)(f), Wis. Stats., for provisions relating to nondistrict charter schools.
  3. Do all credits need to be earned in the high school grades to count toward high school graduation?
    Not necessarily. See s. 118.33(1)(a)2. and s. 118.33 (1)(em), Wis. Stats.. S. 118.33 (1)(em) first applies to a course completed by a student in grade 7 or 8 during the 2014-15 school year. See also Credit Taken in Middle School for High School Graduation.
  4. What types of courses might be included under "unspecified electives"?
    Any course not recorded under one of the specified subject areas might be included under "unspecified electives" (example: Personal Finance).

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