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State Minimum High School Graduation Requirements

Minimum set of courses required for high school graduation.

Beginning in the 1986–87 school year, California Education Code (EC) Section 51225.3 has specified a minimum set of courses to meet state requirements to graduate from high school and receive a diploma. The governing boards of local education agencies (LEAs) have the authority to supplement the state minimum requirements at the local level.

EC Section 51225.3 states that all pupils receiving a diploma of graduation from a California high school must have completed all of the following courses, while in grades nine to twelve, inclusive:

  • Unless otherwise specified, each course shall have a duration of one school year:
    • Three courses in English
    • Two courses in mathematics, including one year of Algebra I (EC Section 51224.5)
    • Two courses in science, including biological and physical sciences
    • Three courses in social studies, including United States history and geography; world history, culture, and geography; a one-semester course in American government and civics, and a one-semester course in economics
    • One course in visual or performing arts,  world language, or commencing with the 2012–13 school year, career technical education. For the purpose of satisfying the minimum course requirement, a course in American Sign Language shall be deemed a course in foreign language
    • Two courses in physical education, unless the pupil has been exempted pursuant to the provisions of EC Section 51241
  • One semester of Ethnic Studies, commencing with pupils graduating in the 2029–30 school year (a course based on the model curriculum developed pursuant to Section 51226.7; an existing ethnic studies course; an ethnic studies course taught as part of a course that has been approved as meeting the A–G requirements; or a locally developed ethnic studies course approved by the governing board of the school district or charter school). Other coursework adopted by the local governing board of the LEA.

The local governing board of the LEA with the active involvement of parents, administrators, teachers, and pupils, shall adopt alternative means for pupils to complete the prescribed course of study, which may include:

  • Practical demonstration of skills and competencies
  • Supervised work experience or other outside school experience
  • Career technical education classes offered in high schools
  • Courses offered by regional occupational centers or programs
  • Interdisciplinary study
  • Independent study
  • Credit earned at a postsecondary institution

Requirements for graduation and specified alternative modes for completing the prescribed course of study shall be made available to pupils, parents, and the public.

Beginning January 1, 2010, students in foster care who transfer to a new school while in grades eleven or twelve may be able to graduate from high school without meeting the local graduation requirements that exceed the state minimum course requirements. In these cases, the district would need to conclude that the student would not reasonably be able to complete the additional local graduation requirements during the student’s remaining time in high school. See the California Department of Education Foster Youth Resources webpage for additional information.

High School Graduation Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently asked questions regarding high school graduation requirements.

Courses Required for California Public University
The University of California and the California State University systems have established a uniform minimum set of courses required for admission as a freshman.

The entire California Education Code may be found in the California Law External link opens in new window or tab. library.

Questions:   High School Innovations and Initiatives Office | | 916-319-0893
Last Reviewed: Monday, October 30, 2023