New Graduation Requirements: Competency

DPS’ new graduation requirements have three components. Completing coursework and filling out a plan for your future (called the ICAP) – are straightforward requirements, but what does it mean to “demonstrate competency”?


Simply put, demonstrating competency means being able to show that you’ve learned certain skills, abilities and  concepts, and that you are able to apply them in the real world. You not only understand an idea or skill — you are able to build on what you’ve been taught, and even feel comfortable explaining it to others. With any college work or job in your future, you will be asked to prove what you know. In DPS, we start that skill early, through many opportunities and plans of study.

In DPS, we ask students to demonstrate they have the skills it takes in English and math to be successful in life after they graduate. As DPS educators and district leaders, it’s our job to help get students there. It’s another way we are opening access to college and career pathways to all students — so our students will be successful in any career path they choose.

Our new 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. That’s why we have set new higher standards for graduation and are connecting our students with resources to ensure they are prepared for success in college and career.

How can a student demonstrate competency?

Because we know every child is unique, we created a flexible menu of ways to demonstrate competency. How one student proves they’re ready for what’s next may not be the way another student shows it, and that’s okay.

You may hear about the assessment exams — such as the ACCUPLACER — we encourage, and oftentimes require, students to take. These measures help us track each individual student’s abilities to ensure we are placing them in the right class tailored to their needs, and are pinpointing growth opportunities to work on with the student. Earning a qualifying score on ACCUPLACER is one of the many ways students can demonstrate competency.

Learn about the other graduation requirements:

Coursework »

DPS Achieves Advanced Placement Honor Roll Recognition

More than 3,000 DPS students take AP courses each year. Learn more. »

Break it down for me, what are the options?

In order to graduate from DPS, every student will demonstrate competency in English and math by completing one or more items in the competency menu below. In general, the college readiness measures like ACT, SAT and Accuplacer are aligned to the standards set by Colorado colleges and universities; however, each college or university may have unique admissions standards, so it’s important for students and families to work with school counselors and other school staff to understand individual requirements.

For any questions related to specific college admissions requirements, please talk to your school counselor and college advisor, as scores on state tests or transfer of credits may differ from the DPS menu.

Two high school students sitting at desks with laptops