Parents' guide to graduation

What Does It Take To Graduate?

The path to graduation will be smoother if students can start on track, and stay on track, all the way through high school.

Preparation for graduation begins long before students enter high school. The skills, concepts and habits students learn starting in elementary school build at each advancing grade and support the demands that are placed on students in high school.

To be on track to receive a standard diploma in four years, students entering grade 9 should**:

  1. Be on grade level in all subjects
  2. Have solid study and organizational habits

In order to receive a diploma in the state of Oregon, students must achieve a set number of class credits, prove they have Essential Skills, and complete personalized learning requirements.

For students going on to college, maintaining a solid GPA (grade point average) and taking the SAT or the ACT in their junior year will also be important. Plus, many colleges require at least two years of foreign language with a grade C or better to qualify for admission.

The path to graduation will be smoother if students can start on track, and stay on track, all the way through high school. Visit your high school’s website for even more information and resources on graduation.

**Some students may need extra time or support to achieve high school graduation requirements. Schools are prepared to support students’ unique learning needs. For information on diploma options, please contact your student’s counselor.


In order to receive a diploma, Oregon high school students must earn a total of 24 high school credits in the classes shown below. One credit equals one full year (or 2 semesters/4 quarters) of class with a passing grade:

  • English, 4 credits
  • Math, 3 credits
  • Science, 3 credits
  • Social Studies, 3 credits
  • P.E., 1 credit
  • Health, 1 credit
  • Second Language, Arts or Career-Tech, 3 credits
  • Other electives, 6 credits

It’s important to remember that credit is not given for math classes lower than Algebra I.

Essential Skills

The Oregon Legislature passed a law that requires students to prove they have “Essential Skills” in order to receive a diploma.

As of October 2020, the following state assessment requirements have been waived for the 2020-21 school year:

The waiver for Essential Skills applies only to current seniors and juniors who have an early graduation plan in place to graduate in 2021.

There are nine Essential Skills currently required to receive an Oregon Standard diploma:

  • Read and comprehend a variety of texts
  • Write clearly and accurately
  • Apply math in a variety of settings
  • Listen actively and speak clearly and coherently
  • Think critically and analytically
  • Use technology to learn, live, and work
  • Demonstrate civic and community engagement
  • Demonstrate global literacy
  • Demonstrate personal management and teamwork skills

Students can prove they have these skills through one of three ways:

  • Reaching a set score on the Smarter Balanced tests, or
  • Reaching a set score on another, approved standardized test (such as SAT, ACT, etc.), or
  • Providing work samples

For more information on the Essential Skills, please visit the Oregon Department of Education website.