At its February 2019 meeting, the Arkansas State Board of Education adopted an alternate pathway to graduation, including required courses, for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. This pathway will be available to incoming freshman for the 2019-20 school year and beginning with this 9th grade cohort, students must either meet the requirements for the core pathway or alternate pathway in order to graduate with a regular diploma. In order to pursue the Alternate Pathway to Graduation, the student must meet the criteria for and participate in the state’s alternate assessment.
At this time, students with disabilities who are not participating in the Alternate Pathway to Graduation, but are receiving content instruction in special education classes, may continue to earn credit toward a regular diploma through the core pathway as long as the special education teachers for those classes are AQT and the coursework is credit bearing, and fully aligned to the grade level core content requirements.
The requirements for the Alternate Pathway to Graduation differ from the traditional core graduation requirements. For each current graduation requirement, the Alternate Pathway to Graduation provides an aligned, appropriate alternative for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. Students who will be graduating through the alternate pathway must complete each of the prescribed graduation requirements linked below. A diploma obtained through the alternate pathway may be obtained through the student’s Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) period, which in Arkansas is the end of the school year in which the student turns 21.
Students who earn a diploma through the Alternate Pathway to Graduation will count as a graduate in the cohort for the year they graduate, and will not count against the district’s regular four or five-year cohort graduation rate. (Please refer to the Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate information included below and the Every Student Succeeds Act High School Graduation Rate Non-regulatory Guidance linked below, specifically A18-A20, for specific details and conditions.)
While this pathway will be implemented for all incoming ninth grade students for whom the IEP committee has determined it is appropriate, districts may implement the course codes and standards linked below for high school students at other grade levels who have significant cognitive disabilities.
Representatives of Dynamic Learning Maps (Arkansas’ alternate assessment system) provided professional development on the ELA, math, and science alternate achievement standards during the summer of 2018 to support the implementation of this pathway. ADE will offer additional professional development pertaining to this pathway at educational service cooperatives in the coming summer. Informational documents to share with administrators, teachers, and parents are linked below.
Every Student Succeeds Act High School Graduation Rate Non-regulatory Guidance
Arkansas Alternate Pathway to Graduation Course Requirements and Standards
Course Code Chart for Special Education Classes: tinyurl.com/19-20sped
Arkansas Alternate Pathway to Graduation Informational Document
Five Things Administrators Need to Know
Five Things Teachers Need to Know
Five Things Parents Need to Know
Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR)
Students eligible for the Alternate Pathway to Graduation must be included in the cohort of entering first-time students in grade 9. Students on this pathway must remain in the cohort through their fourth year of high school. A student who is eligible to be on the Arkansas Alternate Pathway to Graduation should be removed from the student’s original cohort if the student on the alternate pathway does not graduate in four years when his or her original cohort completes grade 12, provided the student remains in school working toward graduation on the alternate pathway.
If students with the most significant cognitive disabilities have not graduated or exited with credentials at the time their four-year cohort graduates, the students eligible for the Alternate Pathway to Graduation should be removed from their original four-year cohort and reassigned to the four-year cohort graduating in the year of their exit. Such students will then appear in the denominator of the new cohort assignment and, if they earn a diploma through the Alternate Pathway to Graduation, in the numerator for that cohort’s four-year Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR). Reassignment of a student to a cohort must take place within the time period for which FAPE is available, which in Arkansas is the school year in which the students turns 21 years of age.
Districts should code students on the Alternate Pathway to Graduation in eSchool as potential Alternate Pathway to Graduation diploma recipients. This will ensure that these students are accounted for between their original grade 9 cohort’s graduation and the students’ actual graduation or exit from high school. Information will be forthcoming as to the specific method of documenting in eSchool.