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Graduation Guidelines Promising Practices


The section provides examples of graduation guidelines practices currently used in Colorado schools and districts. They represent a wide variety of practices across the state, including: rural, suburban, and urban areas; districts that range from small to large; public schools, and charter schools. This collection provides school professionals with real-life examples of Graduation Guidelines implementation practices that can be downloaded and adapted for use in your setting.

This site will continue to expand as more districts align their local graduation requirements with the Colorado Graduation Guidelines, and as they begin to share their practices.

Submit a Promising Practice

If you would like to submit examples of board policy, strategic plans, implementation plans or tools, please contact:

Robin Russel, CDE
Graduation Guidelines Manager

Graduation cap and diploma

Jump to a Section:

Strategic Plans

Roaring Fork

Roaring Fork underwent a visioning process which led to a strategic planning process. A local nonprofit organization facilitated meetings to involve all stakeholders. A strategic plan was developed from the themes of these meetings.

  • Strategic Plan Overview
    This overview displays five strategic pillars, numerous strategies, and target results of the district’s strategic plan, along with the mission and six core values that guide them.
  • Strategic Plan Summary
    This summary describes the foundations (mission, commitments, and values), results-based approach, process, results, monitoring plan, data development agenda, and recommendations of the district’s strategic planning efforts.
  • Strategic Plan Coordination Website
    This website includes information about Roaring Fork’s strategic plan: an overview, a summary report, and a 1000x view that includes results and indicators, academic excellence, character development, talent development, strategic use of resources, and community partnership. The website also provides plans and resources for each of 16 action teams and the commitments and final report for the visioning process. It was created for action teams to use in collaboration, monitoring, and implementation efforts.

District Policies

Aligning Local Graduation Requirements with Graduation Guidelines


Aurora Public Schools 

Custer County C-1

  • Graduation Requirements Policy
  • Process: Custer County’s local graduation requirements were adopted in 2007 and revised in recent years. In 2015, a section was added regarding the district’s responsibility to meet or exceed the state guidelines. District administration involved the School Board, community stakeholders, and school staff in revision feedback (e.g., meetings, an open forum, and email communication). The addition was intended to communicate the flexibility needed by district and school administration to meet state guidelines as they change.

Denver Public Schools 

Dolores RE-4A

  • Graduation Requirements Policy 
  • Process: We began our process toward the new graduation requirements in August 2015 by convening a committee of parents, students, and teachers. We began with looking at the state's minimum competencies, deciding that we would keep all of them as options, and require the capstone for every student. We met biweekly for several months. In January and February, we hosted three "world cafe" style discussions for our community and staff. The final policy is the result of the revisions that came out of the world cafe suggestions. - Jen Huffman, Secondary Educational Leadership

Douglas County RE-1

Greeley-Evans (Weld 6)

Jefferson County 

Pueblo 70


Communication Tools

Toolkit for Community Collaboration

In early 2015, the Colorado Department of Education, The Colorado Education Initiative, and The Learning Accelerator invited two Colorado districts - Archuleta 50 in Pagosa Springs and District 51 in Mesa County - to pilot a new model in their local communities.  The early lessons from these two pilot districts are the basis for the Community Collaboration for School Innovation Toolkit, a resource that will continue to evolve as districts are able to use, own, and adapt it to meet the needs of their unique communities.
This toolkit was created for use by any district as administrators and leaders begin the important work of shifting to a new community collaboration model that  encourages the district to pull in guidance and directives from the community and leverage that input to drive innovations. This new model is critical as school districts look for innovative and effective ways to meet the growing challenges facing public education in the 21st century.

Click Here to access the Communication Collaboration Toolkit




Mesa 51

  • * Preparing Our Graduates for the 21st Century
    The subtitle for this Prezi: What the New Graduation Requirements Mean for our Schools, Students, and Community
  • * What You Need to Know About Graduation Requirements
    "This toolkit provides resources related to creating, communicating, and implementing upcoming graduation requirement revisions. It follows years of work from the district on the initiative, ‘Transforming into a 21st Century District.’ "
  • District 51 - Progress
    This brochure highlights District 51’s progress on meeting the state’s graduation guidelines and postsecondary and workforce readiness. Sections of the brochure include timeline, previous year’s accomplishments and planned accomplishments for the next three years.

Falcon 49

  • 49 Pathways
    “In our new system, which we call 49 Pathways, District 49 students will graduate after designing their unique pathway, completing a series of classes, presenting capstone projects, earning industrial certifications, and achieving assessment results that demonstrate mastery of the knowledge and skills they will need to be successful. Our students will earn a diploma as recognition for completing the pathway specified in their individual career and academic plan. Every student will navigate their own path at their own pace toward the destination that matters most to them.”

View the Key Messages and Talking Points from the Graduation Guidelines Engagement Toolkit

Capstone – Implementation Practices

Denver Public Schools - Denver School for Science and Technology (DSST)

  • Senior Project Introduction
    This communication provides an introduction to the Senior Project, specifically the essential question, the product, the paper, the presentation, and the timeline.
  • Senior Project Letter
    This letter from the Senior Projects Coordinator to the twelfth graders of each graduating class provides basic information on the Senior Project, including information on the course; timeline for preparation, work, and completion; evaluation; and approval requirement.
  • Senior Project Proposal Rubric
    Senior project teachers use this rubric to score a student’s senior project proposal. A standard is described for 10 elements, along with corresponding expectations for exceeding, meeting, and below standards. The 10 elements include: executive summary, essential question and thesis statement, rationale, product and deliverables, SMART goals, academic rigor, timeline, budget and materials, mentor, and overall assessment. A comments section is also provided.

  • Senior Project Proposal Template
    This template outlines expectations and points for a student’s proposal of a senior project. Sections include: executive summary, essential question and thesis statement, rationale + element, product and deliverables, SMART goals, academic rigor, timeline, budget and materials, mentor, optional funds request, and overall assessment.
  • Senior Project Syllabus
    This syllabus describes the Senior Project course, including: a course description, materials and supplies, gradebook, policies, and deadlines.
  • Senior Project Grader Information
    This document answers frequently asked questions about the responsibilities and procedures of a Senior Project grader. Meeting and due dates are listed, accompanied by the meeting purpose and notes.

Denver Public Schools - Denver Center for International Studies (DCIS)

  • Capstone Presentation Rubric
    Student presentations are evaluated against a set of clearly defined performance outcomes that are communicated through this rubric.

Mapleton Public Schools

The following documents are incorporated in the Instruction section of the Mapleton Board Policy. Each school applies its model to Capstone experiences.

  • Capstone Rubrics
    This file contains rubrics for Capstone elements: overall presentation, independent research project, ICAP portfolio, and presentation of community service project. Panel members use the rubrics to provide ratings and/or comments.
  • Community Service Project Forms
    These forms include sections for a community service project description, reflection, hours and activities log (with supervisor signature), and rubric. The reflection prompts students on the impact of the experience, their learning, and how the learning will help them in the future.

  • ICAP Checklist
    This checklist lists ICAP tasks by month. Those required for graduation are highlighted. Those regarding college readiness, career preparation and exploration, and high school/academic planning are identified.
  • Independent Research Project Forms
    This set of forms for independent research projects includes: contact information for student, advisor, and sponsor; research topic description; purpose, objectives, expectations; plans for demonstration, support/verification, records of progress; anticipated needs and cost; other contacts. Student and parent/guardian signature pages outline understandings and agreements. Process monitoring and completion forms are also included.

University Schools Charter School (Greeley Evans 6)

University High School has required senior projects for over 20 years. University High School has five pathway diplomas, and the senior project is required for all. Recently they revised the requirement to include more accountability and consistent quality.

  • Senior Project Packet
    This packet provides detailed information for seniors and parents, including: an overview (benefits, requirements, and steps); the process and guidelines for considering and selecting a topic and project; communications and approvals regarding faculty and mentor; tracking and reflection; and guidance regarding the Senior Project Portfolio and Speech. Samples, forms, and rubrics are included.
  • Senior Project Calendar
    This calendar displays dates by month for events and deadlines related to Senior Project. The calendar is revised annually in spring for the following academic year.
  • Presentation to Juniors re: Senior Projects
    This presentation introduces juniors to the Senior Project: structure, goals, calendar, projects to avoid, posters, and the opportunity for juniors and adults to volunteer on Senior Project Presentation Day.
  • Communication with families of juniors re: Senior Projects
    These email and phone messages provide information about an optional meeting for juniors and their parents about Senior Projects. Also provided in the email message are the school website which displays Senior Project requirements and timelines for submitting the letter of intent.
  • Senior Projects to Avoid
    This letter alerts the student to edit their Senior Project proposal because their letter of intent describes a project listed in the Senior Project Handbook under “Projects to Avoid.” Addressing issues in a revised letter may result in circumstances or exceptions that achieve project approval.

  • Presentation Day – Public Service Announcement
    This public service announcement publicizes the Senior Project Presentation Day to the community, including a call for volunteers.
  • Senior Project – Volunteer Training Presentation
    This presentation outlines for volunteers the purpose, guidelines, definitions of success, and products of Senior Projects. It also provides information on the role of the lead teacher, agenda for the presentation day, and procedures for judges. Volunteers then practice.
  • Presentation Day Scoring Packet
    The scoring packet contains information, instructions, and forms for the Lead Teacher including: a senior sign-in sheet; responsibilities for self and others (e.g., judges and junior volunteers); tally sheets; and evaluation forms on non-proficient students. An instructional letter for faculty and community member judges is included, along with the agenda and criteria and a rubric for scoring.
  • Presentation Day – Junior Volunteers
    This agenda outlines the timing and responsibilities relevant to junior volunteers on Senior Project Presentation Day.
  • Capstone (Senior Project) Improvement Plan
    This presentation outlines the rationale, goals, timeline, and plan for the recent revision of the Senior Project graduation requirement.

Roaring Fork

Roaring Fork underwent a visioning process which led to a strategic planning process. A local nonprofit organization facilitated meetings to involve all stakeholders.

  • Capstone Action Team Plan
    This action plan outlines the objective, goals, deliverables, action steps, timeline, metrics and data, and performance measures for implementing Capstone as part of high school graduation requirements. People involved and resources are also identified.

Resources from other states

Industry Certificates – Implementation Strategies

View a copy of the Industry Certificates Work Group Report


CTE programs offer a unique opportunity for the implementation of industry certifications into the curriculum. Programs often have an appropriate sequence of courses that seamlessly lead to an industry certification. Note that while there are community/technical college certificates signifying completion of a series of courses, this is not the same as an industry recognized certification. Completion of a community/technical college series of courses can prepare a student to take the assessment to earn an industry recognized certification.

CTE Pathways Plans of Study and Individual Career and Academic Plans (ICAP) can be used to guide students to develop and maintain a personalized plan that will ensure program and workforce success. These plans of study can often lead to identified industry certifications, providing a guided pathway toward earning these certifications.

CTE Pathways Plans of Study

Examples of plans of study are available on the Colorado Community College System and College in Colorado websites.In each plan of study, the student:

  • Identifies a career pathway, lists the progression of high school courses, and can include industry-recognized certificates and licenses
  • can link to industry and certification

Littleton Public Schools

  • Plan of Study: Information Technology
    Littleton Public Schools partnered with Arapahoe Community College to create a sample Plan of Study for the Management and Administration STEM Pathway. In addition to suggested high school courses and electives, the plan includes links for industry-recognized certifications for Microsoft, MOS Cisco, and A+ Network (Comp TIAA).
  • CTE Career Pathways
    This document is Littleton’s adaptation of the Colorado Career Cluster Model. It displays career pathways and indicates offerings for concurrent enrollment and courses offered at Littleton and at external locations (e.g., community college).
  • Entrepreneur Plan of Study
    This document is Littleton’s adaptation of one of the Colorado CTE Plans of Study. It displays suggested high school courses by grade level; secondary to postsecondary linkages and certifications; postsecondary programs, institutions, and requirements. It also lists information on the career cluster, including extended learning experiences (and their local availability) and career options and corresponding salary ranges.

Peyton School District 

The Woods Manufacturing Program is the showcase of an industry-based program.  In 2009 – Dean Mattson, a business man from the cabinet-making industry, came to North Salem HS in Salem, Oregon and built a Lean Manufacturing Woods program that was recognized Nationally.  In 2015 Peyton School District hired Mattson to expand this educational model to Colorado. In the fall of 2105, Peyton School District opened its Career Technical Education Facility in an abandoned middle school with the Woods Manufacturing Program.  “This is not a shop class, but a program that teaches students cutting edge skills needed in the Woods Manufacturing industry. ” 

Send Us Your Promising Practices


In June 2015, district and school leaders gathered for a Professional Learning Community to discuss promising practices for industry certifications. Here is a list of practices that reflects the kind of examples that these administrators would like to learn more about:

  • Districts who work together (CTE) to support students’ technical education interests
  • Equitable process(es) for all students
  • Sector Summits: Industry validates course work and validates certifications
  • Customized training
  • Programs at our designated CTE schools(s) that encourage students to take a certification exam as part of the program
  • Programs that help all students prepare for licensure – but necessarily sit for the exam (especially helpful for English learners and undocumented students)
  • Career Services departments that stay on top of in-demand certifications
  • Testing center in a high school that proctors certification exams

  • How to 1) find and 2) partner with industries in my community/area
  • How to inventory what is already available in my school/district
  • Advising models
  • Timelines
  • Common plans of study with common course numbering (like community colleges already have)
  • Professional development/information sessions for all stakeholders to encourage a common understanding of certifications and graduation guidelines, and how to support students
  • Businesses that work with schools to build apprenticeship programs (including curriculum development) that lead to specific industry certifications (and jobs!)
  • Collaboration between districts (and with CDE) to help train teachers and to learn about partnering with industry



Students With Disabilities

Poudre Integrated District

Poudre Integrated Services provides coordination of Transition Services that promote movement from school to post-school activities.

  • ACE Coffee Project
    Coffee Roasting is a new program provided by the Alternative Cooperative Education (ACE)-Supported Employment Program. This presentation describes the purposes, process, and tasks of The Coffee Roasting project in the ACE-Supported Employment Program. Other entrepreneurial programs in the district are also listed, including: Laser Engraver, Coffee Cart & BloomTown, Sign Shop, Clyde’s Closet, and Dog Biscuits.
  • Pathways to Graduation
    This document describe pathways to high school graduation for students with exceptionalities, including the following programs: Alternative Cooperative Education (ACE), WorkKeys, Credit Recovery, Career and Technical Education (CTE), and School to Work Alliance Program (SWAP). Post high school programs are also listed.
  • SWAP Brochure
    Poudre School District developed a partnership for SWAP with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. This brochure describes the School to Work Alliance Program (SWAP) for young adults ages 16-25. It describes participant candidacy, benefits for participants, and benefits for employers. It also provides a link to the Poudre Integrated Services webpage for more information.
  • Transition Series Flyers and Videos
    These flyers publicize the following events to students with disabilities ages 14 and over and their families: Job Readiness Skills and Community Resource Fairs, Community Centered Board – Foothills Gateway, Transition Programs and opportunities post high school, Legal and Social Security Information for Transition, Community Resource Fair and Employment Opportunities.


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