Denver Public Schools Graduation Requirements

Life beyond high school is different than what it used to be. Most jobs in Colorado now and in the future require training or education beyond high school. When students graduate from a DPS high school, their diploma must be a diploma of possibility that opens the door of opportunity for their success.

Beginning with the Class of 2021 (ninth graders in fall 2017), DPS has redefined our expectations for earning a DPS diploma so that our graduates will be successful in any path they choose.

The change in graduation requirements means students must demonstrate their competency (or what they know how to do) in courses that reflect Colorado academic standards and 21st century skills in order to graduate from high school. This new approach is less about the time spent in a classroom, and more about students demonstrating they are truly prepared for the world after high school.

By completing these important components to earn their DPS diploma of possibility, our students will be empowered for success to make their plan for the future a reality!


Below is a summary of courses all students need to complete with a passing grade to graduate with a DPS diploma before 2021:

  • 40 credits of language arts courses, including Introduction to Literature and Composition, American Literature, World Literature and Upper Division Writing;
  • 30 credits of social studies courses, including U.S. History and Civics;
  • 40 credits of math courses, including Algebra, Geometry, Algebra 2 and Upper Level Math;
  • 30 credits of lab science courses, including at least two of the following: Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science or Physics;
  • 10 credits of physical education, such as Dance, Citywide Marching Band, ROTC or DPS Athletics;
  • 40 credits of academic elective courses, including, but not limited to, Fine Arts, Career and Technical Education, English/Social Studies electives, World Languages, AVID, Gear-Up and AP/IB courses;
  • 50 credits of elective courses from either academic courses or other electives, including, but not limited to, Art, Business/Marketing, Foreign Language, Industrial Technology, Music or Physical Education.

It is also recommended that each student takes two to four years of world language courses.


Starting with the Class of 2021, students will need to complete three key requirements to earn a diploma:

  • Planning for the future through the Individual Career and Academic Plan (ICAP)
  • 24 units of course credit in required areas, including a minimum of:
    • English 4 units
    • Math 4 units
    • Science 3 units
    • Social Studies 3 units (to include .5 unit of Civics)
    • Physical Education 1 unit
    • Arts or eligible CTE 1 unit
    • Approved Electives 8 units
  • Competency demonstrations in English and math through college and career assessments, a capstone to show mastery of the standards, or by attaining an approved career certification

This new approach is less about the time spent in a classroom, and more about students demonstrating they are truly prepared for the world after high school.

Read the full Board of Education policy on the new graduation requirements with additional details.