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Background and History

Graduation Guidelines Engagement Toolkit 

In 2015, The Graduation Guidelines Engagement Toolkit was published to provide the rationale, data landscape, school board responsibilities, and suggested early communication tools for Colorado's Graduation Guidelines. 



Colorado is the last state to align graduation expectations for all students.

The state’s graduation guidelines have been in development since 2007.They reflect Colorado’s updated expectations for students and educators, and were informed by considerable input from stakeholders - a process that included nearly 50 in-person stakeholder meetings across the state and in-depth conversations with nearly all of Colorado’s 178 superintendents. Here is who weighed in:

  • K-12 education representatives, including rural and charter schools - local school board members, admin­istrators, teachers, counselors, and parents
  • Business and community leaders

  • Community college and higher education representatives
  • Department of Labor and Employment experts
  • Military personnel



Legislature passes House Bill 07-1118 that requir­es the development of state high school graduation guidelines. An 18-member Graduation Guidelines Council forms to develop recommendations for the state board of education to consider.


Graduation Guidelines Council presents initial recommendation to state board of education. Legislature extends timeline to adopt revised state high school graduation guidelines to May 2013, allowing time for revised Colo­rado Academic Standards to be developed. Graduation Guidelines are reinforced and integrated into CAP4K policy.


Reconstituted Graduation Guidelines Council forms to build on initial recommendation of 2007 council. Forty-eight stakeholder meetings are held across the state to gather input.


State board of education adopts Colorado Graduation Guidelines proposed by the council, including the Colorado menu of college and career-ready demonstrations. Graduation guidelines work groups - including more than 330 representatives from workforce, higher education, schools and districts - convene by topic area to begin a two-year statewide discussion of career and college-ready demon­strations.


Districts continue to engage community and staff members in conversations about the skills students will need to be successful after they graduate from high school, and the consider adopted revisions to local high school graduation requirements to meet or exceed the Colorado Graduation Guidelines, including a local menu for students to demonstrate college and career readiness.

Graduation Guidelines Council and Constituency Meetings

The Graduation Guidelines Council, a representative group of educators and community members established in statute, met beginning in June of 2012 to draft and refine requirements for high school graduation. The state board of education adopted the menu of college and career ready demonstrations in May 2013.

In fall 2013, CDE convened seven work groups to inform the implementation of graduation requirements. More than 300 educators, business and industry leaders, parents and students from across the state joined these work groups to identify implementation recommendations, best practices, tools and resources.

Find it Now:

Rationale and Data Landscape

Life beyond high school is different from what it used to be.

Life beyond high school is different from what it used to be. Most jobs require education beyond high school. Colorado graduation guidelines provide a road map to help students and their families plan for success after high school. The graduation guidelines take effect with ninth-graders in fall 2017.

Most jobs in Colorado will require additional training or education beyond high school.

  • Jobs that require training beyond high school are growing three times as fast as jobs that require only a high school diploma.
  • By 2020, three out of four jobs in Colorado will require education or training beyond high school. That adds up to 3 million jobs.
  • Already, Colorado employers cannot find enough workers to fill jobs in some manufacturing, health, technology, and science-based industries. They say that students are not prepared to be successful in thousands of available jobs in our state.
  • Additionally, nearly 40 percent of students who enter college are unprepared for college-level work.

Colorado by the Numbers

Graduation Colorado by the Numbers Image

Local School Board Responsibilities:

Each local school board has the authority to establish local high school graduation requirements that meet or exceed the Colorado Graduation Guidelines.

Local high school graduation policies:

  • Align with:
    • Colorado Academic Standards
    • Colorado Career and Technical Education Standards
    • Colorado English Language Proficiency Standards
    • Postsecondary and workforce readiness definition
  • Include a course on the civil government of the U.S. (Civics) which students must complete satisfactorily, C.R.S. 22-1-1-4(3)(a).
  • Allow students multiple, equally rigorous and valued pathways to demonstrate competency of the knowledge and skills necessary for postsecondary education and meaningful careers.
  • Complete student demonstrations of:
    • Completion of Individual Career and Academic Plans (ICAP)
    • Proficiency in 21st Century Skills (embedded in Colorado Academic Standards)
    • Academic proficiency in four subjects—English, math, science, and social studies—using options local school boards and districts select from the approved Colorado menu of college and career-ready demonstrations.
  • Recognize and acknowledge the importance of education in world languages, comprehensive health, physical education, music, dance, performing arts, visual arts, and career and technical education in strengthening students’ learning in other subjects and supporting their ability to succeed in the 21st century.
  • Permit students longer or shorter time periods to earn their diploma.
  • Districts have the authority to adapt the competency demonstrations necessary to earn a standard high school diploma to accommodate for students with the following exceptionalities: students with disabilities, English learners, and gifted students.


Learn More

Communication Tools in the Graduation Guidelines Engagement Toolkit:

  • Guiding questions for district leaders (page 8)
  • Local school board responsibilities (page 10)
  • Sample local school board work session agenda to discuss Colorado Graduation Guidelines (page 11)

  • Key messages and talking points (page 18)
  • Drop-In Articles for parents and families, for staff and for community members (page 20)
  • Community and staff conversations - revising local high school graduation guidelines (page 25)

Graduation Guidelines Resources On the CDE Website:


Robin Russel 
Phone: 303-866-2908