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Diplomas

Parents, businesses, and postsecondary institutions are all interested in knowing the status of a home education diploma or privately tutored program and whether it is recognized by PDE. Additionally, there is confusion sometimes over what constitutes a home education program.

This Diplomas section explains state-recognized diploma options for home education and private tutoring programs. It also explains options that do not lead to a state-recognized diploma, although they often are misunderstood as leading to one.

Distance-Learning/Online Education

Distance-learning or online education encompasses school districts that provide remote instruction, public and private cyber schools, and umbrella schools. Some lead to a state- recognized diploma.

School District Online Schools or Programs

Some school districts have online programs or online cyber programs where students work from home via the Internet and complete the required credits to obtain a high school diploma as an enrolled student of the district. This is not homeschooling. A diploma from a school district online program is a state-recognized diploma.

Cyber Charter Schools

In Pennsylvania, a cyber charter school is an independent public school established and operated under a charter from PDE and in which the school uses technology in order to provide a significant portion of curriculum and to deliver a significant portion of instruction to its students through the internet or other electronic means without a school-established requirement that students be present at a supervised physical facility designated by the school, except on a very limited basis, such as for standardized test. Cyber charter schools are public schools and are not homeschooling. High school diplomas awarded by cyber charter schools under a charter from PDE are recognized by the state. Each year, the list of PA's cyber charter schools may change and should be checked. Cyber Charter List

Private Cyber Schools

Non-public, private cyber schools are not registered with PDE, and their diplomas are not state-recognized.

Parents may elect to use a private cyber school but must do so and comply with home education law. Although some institutions may choose to recognize a diploma from these private cyber schools or programs, the state does not.

Umbrella Schools

An "umbrella school" is any alternative source of education which provides curriculum and oversight of homeschooled students to fulfill the requirements of a state government. These are not registered with PDE and do not lead to a state-recognized diploma.

In PA, an umbrella school includes any educational entity that is neither a public school nor a "brick-and-mortar" private school.

Examples of Umbrella Schools

Umbrella schools include such entities as correspondence courses, private cyber schools, or any type of private provider of virtual or remote education. Anyone using curriculum from an umbrella school must operate within all the legal requirements of a home education program, including but not limited to the parent submitting a notarized affidavit or unsworn declaration and all other required documents to the local school district of residence's Superintendent, ensuring that the home education program is evaluated by a qualified evaluator, and submitting the annual written evaluation of a home education program to the superintendent.

While PDE does not recognize a diploma granted by an umbrella school, other institutions may.

Private Tutoring Programs

There is no direct path to a state-recognized diploma through a private tutoring program; therefore, there are no graduation requirements. Students who are privately tutored may obtain a Commonwealth Secondary School Diploma by passing a high school equivalency test or completing 30 college level credits from an United States accredited postsecondary institution. Another option may be to privately tutor students through eleventh grade and then homeschool in twelfth grade to obtain a home education high school diploma.

Home Education Programs (Homeschooling)

Occasionally PDE is asked to verify the diplomas of students graduating from home education programs. While PDE does not provide or track individual diplomas of students participating in home education programs, students in home education programs have multiple paths to a state-recognized diploma.

Supervisor-Issued Diploma

Act 196 of 2014 modified the law to allow home education supervisors (parents, guardians, legal custodians) to award a state-recognized home education high school diploma to their children. The Act became effective for diplomas granted beginning October 31, 2014. The requirements for this diploma follow.

Legal Requirements

  1. The supervisor must submit an affidavit to the superintendent of schools in their district of residence for the student's twelfth grade (graduation) year.
  2. The student must complete the graduation requirements of the law while enrolled in the home education program. (See the Curriculum section.)
  3. The home education evaluator must fulfill the legal requirements as a secondary level home education evaluator. (See the Evaluators section.)
  4. The evaluator who signs the diploma, in confirmation that the student has completed the graduation requirements of the law, must be the same evaluator whose evaluation was submitted to the school district for the student's twelfth grade (graduation) evaluation.
  5. The diploma must be awarded to the student on a standardized form developed by PDE.

If the homeschool family provides evidence to the school district of the diploma, the school district can make a notation of the fact in the student's record at the district. Then, if the diploma is lost or misplaced and the twelfth grade evaluator cannot be located to sign a replacement, there will be a record at the school district that it exists. The evidence could be (1) a copy of the diploma with the evaluator's signature attached, or (2) a notation on the twelfth grade evaluation, submitted to the superintendent, stating that the graduation requirements have been met.

The form for a supervisor-issued diploma (Home Education Diploma (PDE 6008) and Definitions) may be downloaded and printed from a link on the Home Education and Private Tutoring homepage.

Duplicate Diplomas

It is imperative that a parent-issued diploma be preserved in case the evaluator moves or does not keep a log of the diplomas they have signed. The original twelfth grade evaluator is the only one who is legally authorized to co-sign the diploma.

Home Education Association Diploma

The Department grants authority to certain home education associations to provide home education program diplomas. These associations are required to keep records of the diplomas they grant and may be contacted for verification of any student. Some of these also provide transcripts for higher education. A list of these Diploma-Granting Organizations (State Approved) is provided from a link on the Home Education and Private Tutoring homepage.

Requirements

  1. The supervisor must submit an affidavit to the superintendent of schools in their district of residence for the student's twelfth grade (graduation) year.
  2. The student must complete the graduation requirements of the law while enrolled in the home education program. (See the Curriculum section)
  3. The supervisor must submit an evaluation to the superintendent's office for the senior year.

Duplicate Diplomas

Home education association diplomas are uniquely identified and tracked. If a diploma is lost, the association may be contacted for confirmation or a duplicate diploma.

Commonwealth Secondary School Diploma (CCSD)

Homeschooled students may obtain a Commonwealth Secondary School Diploma by passing a high school equivalency test or completing of 30 college level credits from a United States accredited postsecondary institution if they do not have a diploma from any other state- recognized source. This mainly is applicable to those students who graduated prior to October 31, 2014, or for those who did not complete the graduation requirements for a home education high school diploma.

Verification of a Home Education Program Prior to October 31, 2014

For students who need verification of having completed the graduation requirements of a home education program (24 P.S. § 13 1327.1 (d)) but who have not received a state-recognized diploma, there are two ways to verify that the program has been completed:

  1. Request a letter from the superintendent of the student's district of residence stating that the student fulfilled all the graduation requirements of the law for a home education program; or
  2. Request the superintendent of the student's district of residence complete a Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) form or send a letter to PHEAA for any student who had completed the graduation requirements for a home education program prior to October 31, 2014. The PHEAA form can be obtained from a link under the question "Must I be a high school graduate to qualify for a State Grant?"

Superintendents are required by regulation to do this. Before the signing of Act 196 of 2014, the superintendent tracked homeschool progress through submission of the portfolios and they are required to maintain the historical records from those they tracked. Act 196 removed the responsibility for portfolios from superintendents as of October 31, 2014. For students without a state-recognized diploma and who graduated prior to Act 196, this remains an option for verification of having completed the graduation requirements (the PHEAA form is not a diploma). See 22 Pa. Code § 121.21 (c); "the Agency" is defined in 22 Pa. Code § 121.1 as PHEAA.

Commonwealth Secondary School Diplomas

A Commonwealth Secondary School Diploma (CSSD) can be obtained both by homeschooled and privately tutored students by passing a high school equivalency test or completing of 30 college level credits from a United States accredited postsecondary institution. See 22 Pa. Code § 4.72.

The CSSD may be issued to an applicant who is a resident of Pennsylvania; is at least 18 years of age (or, for 16 and 17 year old, has an approved age waiver from PDE); does not possess a secondary school diploma from the United States; is not enrolled in a public, licensed private, registered accredited or licensed nonpublic secondary school and has not obtained a state- recognized home education high school diploma.

Information about the Commonwealth Secondary School Diploma may be obtained at ra-edhse@pa.gov.

Becoming a Diploma Provider

An association serving homeschooling families may apply to PDE for recognition to grant home education high school diplomas by completing the Home Education Association Application for Recognition on the Home Education and Private Tutoring homepage. An organization's application is submitted and reviewed for renewal every three years.