Nebraska's Tool Kit for Systems Involved in the Education of Students in Out-of-Home Care

Tool F-1:  Frequently Asked Questions
High School Completion

Part Four: Elementary & Secondary Education
Section F. High School Completion

high school graduationThe following summarizes questions about high school completion, Personal Learning Plans, Multiple Pathways to Graduation (MPG), and General Educational Development (GED) programs often posed by the primary systems involved in the education of students in out-of-home care. The responses are based on federal law, Nebraska statute, administrative rules, regulations and State agency memoranda. However, in some cases, the response may be primarily dictated by the individual student’s situation and needs. Familiarity and discussion with the school as to how its policies, procedures and protocols may relate to a particular youth under a specific set of circumstances is recommended as a matter of “best practice” and may greatly assist in advocating for that student and achievement of his or her academic and vocational goals.

For more information about High School Completion, refer to Nebraska Revised Statute §79-729; and Nebraska Department of Education’s “Rule 10: Regulations and Procedures for the Accreditation of Schools”. Additional information is available on the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) website:


High School Graduation

1. What does a student have to do to graduate from high school?
A student must, at a minimum, complete the statutory requirement of two hundred (200) hours of high school credit hours, with at least 80% of those hours being in “core curriculum” courses prescribed by the Nebraska State Board of Education. Individual school districts and school governing bodies may have their own additional requirements as long as this statewide minimum is met. (Source: Nebraska Revised Statute §79-729; and Nebraska Department of Education - Title 92 NAC Chapter 10-003.05)

For additional information about Requirements for Curriculum and Instructional Programs in Elementary, Middle School and High School, refer to Nebraska Department of Education’s “Rule 10: Regulations and Procedures for the Accreditation of Schools”:

2. What is the difference between a high school diploma, General Educational Development (GED) diploma and Certificate of Completion?
A high school diploma is issued by an approved (Rule 14) or accredited (Rule 10) high school or Special Purpose School to students who have satisfactorily completed the specified number and type of academic credits required for graduation as set forth by the Nebraska State Board of Education.

A GED diploma is issued by the State of Nebraska to adults who did not complete a traditional high school course of study but have successfully demonstrated their attainment of high school-level academic knowledge and skills through a series of GED Tests.

A high school diploma is issued when a student with a disability satisfactorily completes the graduation requirements set forth by the Nebraska State Board of Education or when he or she achieves all the goals of the Individual Education Plan (IEP). When a student with a disability receives a high school diploma upon completion of the IEP goals, that diploma cannot be different than those issued to other students.

When a student with a disability reaches the end of the school year following his or her twenty-first (21) birthday without completing graduation requirements or achieving the IEP goals, the school district may issue a Certification of Completion or Certificate of Attendance. Colleges and universities make their own determination as to whether to accept those Certificates. Some colleges allow students to begin taking courses but require a certain level of academic performance or the student must take remedial classes.

For more information about Students with Disabilities and Individual Education Plans (IEP), refer to the Systems Tool Kit - Part Six, Section B. Additional information is provided on the Nebraska Department of Education – Office of Special Education website:

3. Can a student graduate with a high school diploma from an Interim-Program School, Special Purpose School or alternative school?
While Interim-Program Schools cannot issue high school diplomas, they do work with the receiving school to secure academic credits for coursework completed by students while in their education program. This may include the receiving school district or Special Purpose School issuing a diploma to a student who has satisfactorily completed sufficient credits to meet the high school graduation requirements set forth by the Nebraska State Board of Education. Special Purpose Schools have the same authority to issue academic credits and high school diplomas as public schools. (Source: Nebraska Department of Education - Title 92 NAC Chapter 10-003.05B and 10-013.04; and Title 92 NAC Chapter 18-004.01D)

An alternative school established by a school district for suspended or expelled students must provide an individualized learning program which enables those students to continue academic coursework for credit toward graduation. Once a student completes the high school graduation requirements, the alternative school may issue a diploma via the school district. However, since policies and protocols differ among individual school districts and alternative schools, familiarity and discussion with that particular school is recommended. (Source: Nebraska Revised Statute §79-266; and Nebraska Department of Education - Title 92 NAC Chapter 17-001.01 and 17-003.01C)

For more information about Interim-Program Schools, Special Purpose Schools and Alternative Schools, refer to the Systems Tool Kit – Part Four, Section C.

Personal Learning Plans

1. What is a Personal Learning Plan (PLP)?
A Personal Learning Plan is a student’s current plan of coursework, history of classes taken, school and community activities, interest inventory results, educational and career goals, and plans for extended learning and employment. The PLP serves as a flexible and relevant plan leading to high school graduation and transition into post-secondary education and employment. Research indicates development and implementation of a PLP encourages students to be fully involved in making decisions about their own learning, earning and independent living goals.

A blank sample Personal Learning Plan and Career Clusters Overview are provided in the Systems Tool Kit - Part Four, Tool F-2. The sample Personal Learning Plan is also available on the Nebraska Department of Education website:

A series of Personal Learning Plans and corresponding Career Clusters specific to a variety of vocations and fields of interest are available at:

2. At what age should a student start to develop a Personal Learning Plan?
Ideally, the student’s initial Personal Learning Plan will be developed as early as middle school. Students attending middle school or high school should update their PLP at least annually, with assistance from the School Counselor and other staff, as needed. The Personal Learning Plan is intended for continued use throughout a student’s lifetime of learning.

For more information about Middle School Personal Learning Plans, refer to the Nebraska Department of Education website:

3. Who at the school is responsible for helping students with their Personal Learning Plans?
This may vary with each school district, but the School Counselor usually assists students in developing their Personal Learning Plans, providing guidance in course selection, development of post-secondary plans, and, when appropriate, assistance with the college application, financial aid and scholarship process. It is also critical for the student to have an adult, such as a parent, teacher, mentor, advocate or out-of-home caregiver, involved who can be supportive and ensure he or she is enrolled in and does the course work necessary to gain the academic skills needed to pursue post-secondary education and self-sufficiency in the work place.

4. What should be included in a Personal Learning Plan if the student plans to attend college?
Coursework, grades, college entrance exam scores and other activities necessary to meet college entrance requirements differs among colleges and universities. Information about specific course requirements for high school graduation and college eligibility based on the student’s career interests is available through Nebraska Career Connections.

For more information about Nebraska Career Connections, refer to the Systems Tool Kit - Part Five, Tool A-1: Frequently Asked Questions - Career Planning. Additional information is available on the Nebraska Career Connections website:

Multiple Pathways to Graduation

1. What are examples of “pathways to graduation” other than traditional high school?
Traditionally, the trajectory for high school graduation has been a student entering and attending a local high school for four (4) years and eventually graduating with a diploma. For students who leave high school before graduating, earning a GED diploma has been the most common alternative “pathway”.

Multiple Pathways to Graduation (MPG) programs identify the reasons why students leave high school and provide viable alternatives leading to graduation. A student may leave school for a variety of reasons, such as having to work full-time out of economic necessity, caring for a family member, teenage pregnancy and parenthood, health problems, lack of interest, difficulty completing coursework or the credits required to graduate, or court involvement.

Multiple Pathways to Graduation programs focus on policies, partnerships, and assistance which improve students’ access to other options leading to graduation. Some examples include: Gateway to College, transition services, drop-out recovery, “virtual” courses, Early-College High School, and other community-based programs. The goal of all types of MPG programs is the student’s successful completion of high school.

2. How does a student get information about Multiple Pathways to Graduation programs in order to decide which is best for his or her particular situation?
The availability of Multiple Pathway to Graduation programs and student eligibility criteria differs from school district to school district. When a student and his or her specific set of circumstances indicate a MPG program may be an appropriate option, discussion with the local school district about the types of programs available or appropriate for that particular student is recommended.

For information about Multiple Pathways to Graduation Programs available to students in your community, contact the local school district. A Directory of Nebraska Schools is available through the Nebraska Department of Education website:

General Educational Development (GED) Programs

1. What is a General Educational Development (GED) diploma?
The General Educational Development (GED) Testing Program is an opportunity for an individual who has not completed high school to earn a State of Nebraska High School Diploma. This GED credential may provide an avenue to post-secondary education, employment, career advancement or military enlistment as well as achievement of personal goals.

2. What are the GED Tests?
The GED Tests measure an individual’s major academic skills and knowledge in the “core curriculum” areas learned during four (4) years of traditional high school. There are five (5) GED Tests on the following subjects:

  • Social Studies;
  • Science;
  • Mathematics;
  • Language Arts - Writing (includes a direct writing assessment); and
  • Language Arts – Reading.

The GED Tests take more than seven (7) hours to complete and may be taken separately over a period of time.

3. Is a GED diploma equal to a high school diploma?
According to the American Council on Education, 98% of colleges and universities that require a high school diploma accept the GED credential. 96% of companies accept applicants with a GED diploma for jobs requiring graduation from high school. Education requirements differ among the various branches of the military so checking with the local recruiter is recommended.

4. What are the eligibility requirements for GED testing?
An individual must be at least sixteen (16) years of age to be eligible to take the GED Tests. However, sixteen (16) and seventeen (17) year olds must have their parent or legal guardian’s permission to officially withdraw from school. The youth must be officially withdrawn from school for at least sixty (60) days or have received a waiver from the school last attended prior to being eligible to begin GED testing.

5. What are Adult Education (AE) programs and their role in preparing for GED testing?
There are Adult Education programs located throughout Nebraska which help individuals preparing for GED testing determine what they need to study and develop a study plan that will work best for them. These free classes are provided by a variety of sources, including: community colleges, public schools and community-based organizations. Accommodations may be available for students with disabilities. Youth, sixteen (16) and seventeen (17) years old, must attend AE classes before GED testing.

An AE Instructor gives the student a reading, math and language assessment to determine his or her readiness to take the GED Tests. When the AE Instructor decides the student is ready, he or she may take the Official GED Practice Tests. The Practice Tests are a good tool to help determine whether the individual is adequately prepared to succeed on the actual GED Tests or if additional study and Practice Tests would be beneficial. The AE Instructor helps the student interpret the Practice Test scores and determine the next step. The student can apply to take the actual GED Tests once the AE Instructor’s approval is given.

To locate the nearest Adult Education (AE) Program, refer to the Nebraska Department of Education – Adult Education website:, or call: (402) 471-4807.

6. What is the application process for GED testing and how much does it cost?
The fee for GED testing ranges from $35.00 to $50.00, depending on which Official GED Testing Center is used. To apply to take the GED Tests, the following forms and documents must be submitted to the Official GED Testing Center:

  • A completed and notarized NDE Form #12-003 (available from the Nebraska Department of Education, Official GED Testing Center, or the Adult Education website listed above);
  • Evidence that sixty (60) days have passed since official withdrawal from school or a waiver from the school last attended;
  • Supporting documents required by the Official GED Testing Center; and
  • A current valid photo ID is required to test.

For those 16 or 17 years of age, the following additional documents must be submitted to the Nebraska Department of Education’s GED Administrator:

  • A hand-written letter stating the circumstances of withdrawal from school and reason(s) for wanting to take the GED Tests;
  • An official copy of transcripts from the high school last attended, indicating the date of official withdrawal and class graduation date; and
  • A copy of the youth’s Birth Certificate, if the birth date is not on the transcripts.

Once the individual successfully completes the GED Tests and reaches eighteen (18) years of age, the Nebraska Department of Education will send a letter explaining how to apply for a State of Nebraska High School Diploma. There is a $5.00 fee for the diploma.

To locate the nearest Official GED Testing Center, refer to the Official GED Testing Service website:, or call the GED Hotline: 1-877-EARNGED (1-877-327-6433).

7. Under what circumstances may a State Ward pursue a GED diploma rather than a high school diploma? Who pays for fees associated with obtaining the GED?
A youth who is a ward of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) may pursue a GED diploma when it has been determined that it is in his or her best interests to obtain a GED rather than a high school diploma. The youth must be committed to completing the GED. DHHS will pay for costs associated with the GED when funding sources other than Child Welfare funds have been explored and are not available. (Source: Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Manual 390, Chapter 15-012.04)

8. Can a youth with a disability who has earned a GED diploma return to public school for special education and related services until age twenty-one (21)?
Yes. While a youth with a disability who has graduated a high school diploma is not eligible to continue to receive a “free appropriate public education”, the term “regular high school diploma” does not include an alternative degree that is not fully aligned with the State’s academic standards, such as a GED diploma. As a result, a youth with a disability who has earned a GED diploma could return to public school for special education and related services through the school year in which he or she turns twenty-one (21) years of age. (Source: Nebraska Department of Education - Title 92 NAC Chapter 51-004.03A3)


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