Rethink High school

Starting with our Class of 2021 and every graduating class after that, we have updated graduation requirements. These requirements are less about grades earned for time spent in a classroom, and more about students demonstrating they are truly prepared for the world after high school. 


Learn about each graduation requirement:


DPS requires all students to graduate having a plan for after high school that is meaningful to them. Students work with their counselors to develop, update and complete their personalized Individual Career and Academic Plans (ICAPs), a process which started as early as the sixth grade.

Through this personalized career and academic planning process, students are empowered to learn about themselves and evaluate their path to career and college including setting and marking progress towards goals, exploration career and college options, planning towards high school graduation, and financial aid opportunities.

9th Grade
  • Students learn about their graduation requirements, options to get there, and how to plan for ongoing success throughout their four years.
  • Freshmen are introduced to the DSISD pathways, which include, Career Education Center Early College High School, DSISD, Apprenticeship, and Internships. 
  • We also introduce “The Raven’s Nest”, which is a student-run Future Center designed to help all DSISD students become aware of and take advantage of opportunities that will put them on the path towards their post-secondary goals.
  • All freshmen students will have a 1:1 meeting with a Raven’s Nest junior or senior student during the first semester and also the second semester.
10th Grade

Sophomore ICAP is a continuation of 9th grade ICAP.  During 10th grade students will:

  • track their progress towards graduation requirements.
  • learn about their options and how to plan for success throughout their high school years.
  • take a Career Interest Inventory and explore the careers and postsecondary paths and high school opportunities (CEC, Internship, Apprenticeship, and DSISD).
  • explore Naviance, a college/scholarship resource website and review their transcripts on student portal. 

Counselors also present lessons about comparing the career, college, and financial aid options available to them. Sophomores have a 1:1 meeting with a Raven’s Nest senior student.

Students are welcome to continue to request meetings if they need more assistance with their career exploration or post-secondary goals.

11th Grade

Junior ICAP focuses on the next steps of life after high school. Each student:

  • takes a career interest survey provided by the Community College of Denver.
  • dives into Naviance to explore Colleges, Scholarships, and to build their resumes.
  • reviews financial-aid, grants, loans, and scholarships.
  • reviews their Student Portal/Infinite Campus to see their current GPA, student rank, and on-track to graduate status.

Juniors are introduced to senior schedule expectations and meet with their counselor to select a pathway. Counselors  begin in March to review all materials during an individual meeting with the student to make sure they understand where to locate their transcript, their GPA, student rank, SAT score, Naviance, how to pay for college, career exploration, graduation requirements, and their on-track to graduate status. 

As always, students are welcome to continue to request meetings if they need more assistance with their career exploration or post-secondary goals.

12th Grade

Senior ICAP lessons are combined with senior meetings. These meetings happen throughout each month to discuss FAFSA, FAFSA completion, and college deadlines (early decision, early action, regular decision, and rolling admission).

During senior year students:

  • learn about available scholarships  and are shown where to search for additional scholarships.
  • learn about SAT retake dates and how to reach out to teachers and counselors for recommendations.
  • meet individually with their counselor to check in about college choice, FAFSA, scholarships, and graduation status. During this 1:1 students create their own checklist to help them identify what they need to complete and what list what they need from their counselor.

Senior ICAP lessons also provide an overview of graduation and other senior related events. 

Ultimately the student is responsible for tracking graduation, identifying college applications, college requirements, FAFSA application, and scholarships. The counselor is there to assist and their door is always open to help the student. 

Why New Graduation Requirements?

The 2021 graduation requirements mirror what is expected for our students to be successful in college, career training or the workplace.

In Colorado, 53% of students in two-year colleges and 20% of students in four-year colleges have to take remedial courses, which are designed to catch up struggling students by helping them build core skills before they are able to take college-level courses. Not only does this mean a longer timeline toward degree completion, intensifying the potential for dropout, but it also means students incur additional tuition fees and debt. These factors contribute to only about half of Colorado students who enter public colleges actually earning their degrees. 

At DPS, we want to ensure our students can reach their full potential and don’t need to take remedial classes after they graduate. That’s why we have set higher standards for graduation and are connecting our students with resources to ensure they are prepared for success in career and college.  We believe high school is a foundational touchstone to the future, and postsecondary success is a top priority as our third goal under the Denver Plan 2020. More education is associated with both higher rates of employment and earning potential.

  • 74% of all Colorado jobs require education beyond high school, such as college, trade school, an apprenticeship or military service.
  • Jobs that require training beyond high school are growing three times as fast as jobs that require only a high school diploma.
  • High school dropouts earn on average $11,667 a year, compared to an average salary of $62,609 a year for college graduates 
  • The unemployment rate for dropouts is 27%, compared to 5% for college graduates

Additional Resources

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