What is ACTUALLY Required for Graduation?

Ruth R. Martin, Ph.D.,(c) 2018
Lately, I've been hearing more and more parents talking about graduation requirements in Georgia. Many are participating in accredited home school "schools" that have their own requirements. In Georgia, there have always been THREE ways to graduate a student -- since 1984 when our law was passed. Three ways: public school, private school, homeschool. Public schools have their requirements that they must follow because, if they're accredited (and some aren't!), then they're a part of the Georgia High School Association (GHSA). Private schools have their own requirements and those depend on which associations they belong to -- Georgia Association of Christian Schools (GACS), Georgia Independent Schools Association (GISA), GAC (Georgia Accrediting Agency), among others. Homeschools have traditionally been unaccredited, except in the past few years when the Accrediting Commission of Independent Schools (ACIS) opened a way for homeschool diplomas to be accredited. The homeschool "schools" that join this association are known as non-traditional educational centers, or NTECs. Many homeschoolers continue to educate their children completely independently of these accreditation centers, or perhaps utilizing their classes as supplements but not using them for accreditation. What many parents don't realize is that accreditation is NOT necessary for HOPE or Zell Scholarships, nor for admission to colleges in Georgia, including state colleges and universities.
Each of these accreditation agencies has requirements for students graduating in their member schools. Example: private Christian schools typically require 4 credits of Bible for graduation, but that is definitely NOT a requirement for students in public schools! Some require more sciences; some more math. BUT, there is NO requirement for homeschool students! At this point, I would be doing a disservice to my fellow homeschoolers to imply that we aren't accountable for what our children learn. While there are no set requirements for homeschoolers for graduation in Georgia, what you need to provide for your children is what the next step in your child's life requires. Whatever this may be -- college, military service, service academies, technical school, Bible college, whatever -- THOSE are the requirements that your student needs to complete.
Are you aware that there are colleges in Georgia that do NOT require 4 maths and 4 sciences? There are! They are great schools and absolutely love homeschooled students! And, did you know that other states don't require the 4 maths and 4 sciences that the Georgia Legislature and University System of Georgia require of Georgia public school students? And, those other states house colleges such as MIT, Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale!
Accreditation is NOT necessary for college admission. Many students (my own included) graduate from unaccredited homeschooling with diplomas issued by their parents. My own children graduated from me, went on to college with academic scholarships, then on to law school, seminary, and culinary school, respectively. One of the services I offer as an educational consultant is transcript preparation. At this point in my career, I've prepared over 200 transcripts for unaccredited students and ALL have been accepted at colleges and universities in many states, including Georgia. Some of these institutions include: Vanderbilt University, Furman University, University of Georgia, Georgia State University, Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State University, University of North Georgia, Covenant College, Berry College, Toccoa Falls College, Truett-McConnell College, Anderson University, Piedmont College, Auburn University, North Greenville University, Clemson University, and SO many more!
When you elect to homeschool independently of the accrediting agencies, you can set your own requirements for graduation. My advice is to set your requirements to meet those of the next step in your student's life, whatever that may be. If they're going to Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), they don't need Calculus! If you want your student to take a personal finance, take it! It's an elective that looks good on a transcript. If your student wants to do Creative Writing, great! An English elective! Students are typically
required to do the following for college admission:
English: Elements of Literature or a General Literature
American Literature
And.....TWO others -- one each year -- but TWO are electives!
Math: Algebra 1
Algebra 2
ONE OTHER -- an elective!-- if the college requires it!
Science: Physical Science or Physics
Biology + lab
Chemistry + lab
One other -- an elective -- if the college requires it - marine biology, anatomy, etc.
Social Studies: World History
US History
1 other - depending on the college - this could be geography, psychology, religion etc.
Foreign Language OR Tech Educ. Fine Arts: Most colleges do want to see two years of the same foreign language -- French 1 &2; American Sign Language is a good one, also
Technical Ed - Computer skills
PE, Health - 1 credit required, BUT you can let them do karate, swimming, football, cheerleading, etc. or just running around the block or weight training with the family!
Georgia requires its students to have 23 credits to graduate. But, why limit your student to that? As an unaccredited student, your child can explore many other areas of interest.
One more issue: the accrediting agency for homeschooling
This is a hot potato in the homeschooling world. Homeschoolers are very touchy about the choices they make. You are responsible for the education of your children, but you do have choices. In Georgia, you can be totally free of any interference from anybody. My wish is for you to know what your choices are. When you go the accrediting route, you turn over some of your freedoms to the NTEC who is keeping your child's records. Basically, when you play in their ball field, you have to play by their rules. People who have chosen the accreditation route are basically giving up many of their freedoms granted in our homeschool law. These freedoms were hard-fought-for! We have the freedom to pick our own curriculum. In an accredited situation, you don't. We have the freedom to pick our own scope and sequence -- when our kids take what. In an accredited situation, you don't. ANY subject that is high school level --- no matter when they take it --- gets high school credit ---- unless you're accredited! Many of these NTECs only give high school credit for courses they teach in high school. So, a high school course taken in 8th grade -- example, Alg.1 or Physical Science -- doesn't get high school credit in an NTEC. Absolutely NOT what our law intended! As an unaccredited homeschooler, I don't have to have tests proctored. I can do a college-prep curriculum, if that's what my student needs. Or not! But, many parents have bought into the idea that that's the only way to go. As one of the pioneers of homeschooling in Georgia and as a person who has fought for our freedoms since 1983, this makes me sad. I see us rapidly losing our freedoms as we buy in to a system that we don't even need. Find out what the accrediting agencies really require for centers to be accredited. It will surprise you! The requirements center mostly around privacy for tests, requiring a college-prep program (which many students don't need!), and building/facility requirements. The standards that have to be met to be accredited have very little to do with the actual quality of education. Check them out at http://gac.coe.uga.edu/
Please be aware that the Georgia Home Education Association (GHEA) - your state homeschool association -- is still out there trying to preserve your freedoms to educate freely. They've been doing that since the early 90's. They also hold a beautiful graduation ceremony each year -- for unaccredited homeschoolers! Check out their new website at www.ghea.org.
Bottom line for all this: Check with the college or next step for their requirements! Parents, that's YOUR job, not your child's! All public and private school students have guidance counselors to help. That's what you do!
If you need help preparing a high school transcript, please let me know at martinedservices@gmail.com.