ECHSDA HomeProceduresDiploma OptionsFormsEvaluator InformationFeesQ&A

Links to graduation requirements:
General Diploma
Academic Diploma
Honors Requirements
Honors English
Vocational-technical
Business Courses
Transfers/Other exceptions
Diplomas & Transcripts

Graduation Requirements for all Diploma Options

According to Pennsylvania’s homeschooling law (Act 1988-169), the following courses are required for graduation from a home education program:
  1. Four years of English
  2. Three years of Mathematics
  3. Three years of Science
  4. Three years of Social Studies
  5. Two years of Arts and Humanities
Arts and Humanities may include courses such as:
Art, Bible, Dance, Foreign Language, Home-economics, Music, Philosophy, Practical living, and Shop.

A one year course will equal one full course credit.

The law further requires that the following areas must be covered in some way at the secondary level (7th-12th): geography, civics, world history, history of the United States and Pennsylvania, general mathematics, algebra, geometry, safety education (including fire safety), health and physiology, physical education, music, and art.

Since the law does not specify how much of each subject must be covered, there are two options.
(1) Students may study these subjects sometime during grades nine through twelve as a credit or partial credit toward graduation. The courses and credits would then be listed on the student's transcript.
(2) The required subjects may be taught in either seventh or eighth grade. High school credit would not be given, but neither would the courses have to be repeated in grades nine through twelve. The ECHSDA Diploma Transcript includes a paragraph to cover this second option. The evaluator's signature on the transcript verifies that the necessary coursework was completed at the secondary level.

Standards for the General Diploma

After meeting the graduation requirements of fifteen credits as outlined above, there are no additional requirements for a General Diploma. ECHSDA respects your right to meet only the basic dictates of the law, however a student may certainly earn more than the required fifteen credits. (Most public schools now require twenty-four or more credits for graduation even though Pennsylvania law only requires fifteen.)

Follow this link to download a General Diploma Checklist: General Checklist

Standards for the Academic Diploma

Twenty credits are required for a student to receive an ECHSDA Academic Diploma - the fifteen required by Pennsylvania law and a minimum of five more credits. (Again, we would like you to note that most school districts require twenty-four or more credits for graduation.) Quarter credit courses and credits earned for non-academic courses such as Community Service, Driver's Education, and Physical Education may not be counted toward the twenty credits.

To receive the Academic Diploma, the following guidelines must be used to determine if credits will be issued.

English: The four years of English must each include literature, composition, language, and speech. Requirements for each area follow:

1. Literature - Each year, the student will read at least fifteen books in any subject area, fiction or non-fiction, including one classic. A list of titles of at least fifteen books will demonstrate that a student has met this requirement. An anthology that is considered by the publishers to be one year's course of study may count for ten of the required books. The Bible will be treated as an anthology and considered as a classic. At the discretion of the evaluator the quality and length of books can be taken into consideration in order to accept credit for a student who has not met the quantity requirement. These books should be written at a high school level. While such books as the "Little House" books are classics, they are clearly written at an elementary reading level.

2. Composition and Language - Each year the student must demonstrate improvement in composition and language skills by writing three compositions, one of which is a long report using a minimum of three sources. The long report must be at least three pages (typed double spaced or hand written single spaced) in the ninth grade, five pages in the tenth grade, seven pages in the eleventh grade, and eight pages in the twelfth grade. Long reports must also include a bibliography page. While use of quotes gives authority to a work, overuse of quotes takes away from the quality of the work. Most papers should be non-fiction; however one long paper can be fiction if there are sources cited which indicate research on the subject. In order to meet the language requirement, rough drafts that show that punctuation, usage, and/or grammatical errors were corrected in the process of writing these compositions will be accepted. If you choose not to keep rough drafts to show that grammar was covered, the language requirement can be met through completion of over one fourth of a language or grammar textbook or at least forty-five daily logged entries of work in language or grammar study.

3. Speech - The student must give at least one speech during the year to a group outside of the immediate family. A speech is any student prepared public speaking or teaching (Sunday School, Boy Scouts, etc.). A recitation is not a speech. The speech need not be more than five to seven minutes, but improvement should be noted over the high school years. Any one of the following will be accepted as proof that the student has met this requirement:
(1) notes which the student used when giving the speech
(2) recognition from the organizers of the event where the speech was given, or
(3) a description of the event and speech, written by the student or parent.

As previously stated, all four credits of English required by Pennsylvania law must meet the basic requirements outlined above if a student is working toward an Academic Diploma or an Academic Diploma with Honors. In addition to work completed for the required four credits, a student may complete supplemental course work to earn more specific English course credits (e.g. speech, creative writing, journalism, or business English). These additional credits would be awarded according to guidelines for "other courses excluding mathematics" as listed below. For additional credit to be accepted, these courses must be designated as specific courses on the ECHSDA Diploma Transcript.

Other courses (excluding mathematics): Any one of the following alternatives will be accepted as evidence of completion of one year of credit for courses in other subject areas (excluding mathematics).
1. Completion of over three-fourths of a textbook
** Programs such as ACE, which have clearly defined numbers of paces, are excluded from this alternative and must be completed in their entirety. In addition, for any course which uses more than one textbook to equal one credit or specifically states that a certain text is a one half credit course, the student must complete the course as designed by the provider, using the number of textbooks specified.
2. Logged entries describing at least 120 hours of study and/or activities related to the course content.
3. Completion of a research paper.
** The paper must be at least ten pages in length (typed double-spaced or handwritten single-spaced), use at least three non-encyclopedic references, demonstrate learning of a subject, and include the student’s own conclusions based upon his research. There must be a thesis statement in the introduction which will be followed through to the conclusion. A standard format must be used, correctly citing quotes and including a bibliography.
4. Presentation of a speech of at least thirty minutes duration.
** The speech, presented to a group outside of the immediate family, should demonstrate an understanding of the subject and conclusions drawn by the student from his study.
5. Completion of a college course.
6. Passing test score on an Advance Placement exam (i.e. three points out of the possible five).

Mathematics: Only options one, two, five, and six would be considered when issuing credit for mathematics coursework. Also, to receive an Academic Diploma, the student must take either algebra or geometry as one of the three mathematics credits.

Follow this link to download an Academic Diploma Checklist: Academic Checklist

Honors Requirements for Subjects Other Than English

In addition to meeting all standards for the Academic Diploma, specific requirements must be met to receive honors in any given subject. It is understood that only very good students will receive honors. Each chosen honors course should be mastered well enough that the honors student could major in that subject in college if so desired.

Mathematics – The student must complete Algebra I & II, Geometry, Trigonometry, and Calculus sometime prior to graduation. The courses may be completed at any grade level; however, four full math credits, including a full credit in Calculus, must be earned during the four years of high school to qualify for honors in mathematics.

Science - The student must complete four science credits. A minimum of two credits must be earned in two of the higher sciences such as biology, chemistry, physics, or a college level science. In addition, the student must write at least two science research papers* based on student designed experiments. In designing his own experiments, the student will explore his own hypotheses and defend them.

Social Studies - The student will take four social studies credits and will write at least two research papers* which explore original hypotheses and defend them. On the diploma, honors will be stated "in Social Studies" unless four full courses were taken in one specific social studies discipline.

Computer Science / Programming - The student will take four computer science credits and write at least two original computer programs with explanations for how they are to work. The papers should be written so that anyone could use the programs. If the courses deal primarily with computer building and repair, they would be considered for vocational specialization.

Foreign Language - The student will take four credits in one foreign language. Student will write a paper in that language and read a novel or other non-textbook in the language in each of the last two years. Student will also demonstrate fluency in speaking the language. For those who are taking sign language the requirements change to writing a paper on deafness, adventitious deafness, etc., watching five videos about deaf people (fiction or non-fiction), and twenty hours of interpreting to CDs.

Humanities - At the discretion of the evaluator and with adequate documentation - including two research papers* - four years of concentrated study in one field of humanities (e.g. philosophy) will be accepted.

Fine Arts - At the discretion of the evaluator and with adequate documentation, four years of concentrated study in any fine arts area (e.g. art, music, design, or dance) will be accepted. Theory and history of the subject should be studied each year. In addition to performance or exhibition of work, two papers* shall be written on history, theory, or another aspect of your fine arts area.

*Please note: If "completion of a research paper" is the method used to provide evidence for one credit in any given subject, then the research paper required for honors must be in addition to the ten page research paper written for course credit.

Requirements for Honors English

Earning honors in English suggests that a student's work is well above average. Not only the quantity, but the quality of his work is exceptional and distinctive. For Honors English to be specified on the diploma, one would expect superior work in literature, composition, language/grammar, and speech/public speaking. Begin with requirements for the Academic Diploma and upgrade to honors level by adding the standards detailed below. In addition, as supervisor of the home education program or as an evaluator, you may add requirements that will improve the quality of the student's work even more. Make Honors English really impressive!

1. Literature
The student's Honors English program should be based heavily on literature, including both fiction and non-fiction from various genres such as novels, short stories, poetry, drama, essays, and periodicals. It is recommended that each year's study be concentrated on a specific type of literature to include American Literature, English Literature, and World Literature. Each year, the honors student will read a minimum of twenty-five books, including at least three classics. Classics must be written at a high school level. Lists of appropriate classics can be found on websites, at the local library, or through an evaluator. It is vital to remember that the quality of literature read by an honors student is as important as the quantity.
Literary analysis is an important aspect of a good Honors English literature curriculum. The honors student should understand and identify literary terms (plot, setting, characterization, etc.) and devices (refrain, parallel structure, simile, metaphor, foreshadowing, etc.), and should be able to recognize logical fallacies and ad hominem attacks.

2. Composition
The minimum composition requirement for each year of high school for Honors English is six papers, however an honors student should write significantly more, with an emphasis on the quality of writing. Writing, proof reading, and revising are integral aspects of a composition course, therefore frequent writing assignments are expected. The honors student's compositions should show continual improvement in purpose, organization, language mastery, and effective elaboration of selected topics. Yearly composition portfolios could include character analyses, narratives, persuasive papers, short essays, critical reviews, expository writings, and research papers.
In addition, at least one research paper must be written each year - five, seven, eight, and ten pages for grades nine through twelve respectively. The research paper must include a title page, an outline, a body with a clear introduction and conclusion, correct use of parenthetical citations, a bibliography, a thesis statement which is followed throughout the paper, and evidence that the student's research was thorough and comprehensive. Follow MLA guidelines (or another standard format) to ensure a properly formatted research paper.

3. Language
It is essential that an honors student acquire a thorough knowledge of English grammar. Not only should the student be able to recognize the eight parts of speech, he should also be able to analyze and/or diagram sentences. One important goal of language and grammar studies is to prepare the student to produce written work free of mechanical errors.

4. Speech
An honors student should be familiar with persuasive, argumentative, informative, impromptu, humorous, and extemporaneous speeches. All require different preparation and are beneficial to the student's development as a public speaker. Therefore, the yearly speech requirement should come from one of these categories. The student must present a minimum of one self-prepared speech per year to a group outside the immediate family.

Follow this link to download an Academic Diploma with Honors Checklist: Honors Checklist

Vocational-technical Courses

Students studying vocational-technical courses will be able to receive credit for such courses. They must be listed on the ECHSDA Diploma Transcript under "Other Electives" and documented in a manner acceptable to the evaluator.

Students who meet the requirements for an Academic Diploma and complete nine credits of vocational courses (a minimum of three credits each year for three years during grades nine through twelve - three credits being equal to one-half school day for 180 days or 360 hours), could have their vocational training recognized on their diploma, e.g. "Academic Diploma with a Specialization in…".

Students who earn a General Diploma and, in addition to the core fifteen credits, complete nine credits of vocational courses (a minimum of three credits each year for three years during grades nine through twelve - three credits being equal to one-half school day for 180 days or 360 hours), could have their vocational training recognized on their diploma, e.g. "General Diploma with a specialization in…".

Business Courses

Students studying business courses may be eligible to receive an "Academic Diploma with a Specialization in Business." Successful completion of at least nine credits of business courses is necessary for this recognition.

Transfer Students & Other Exceptions

Transfer credits will be accepted by ECHSDA if a student transfers to home education from a public, private, or nonpublic high school. Upon receipt of the high school transcript, courses completed with passing grades will be recognized as credits toward graduation.

Where homeschoolers have not kept good documentation, the evaluators, at their discretion, may choose to accept credits for previous years of homeschooling based upon interviews with the parent and student.

Services for Students with Disabilities

Accomodations approved by evaluators for students with disabilities shall not be interpreted to reduce ECHSDA requirements for an Academic or Academic with Honors diploma. Common accommodations include physical, technological, or time limit adaptations. Students applying for an ECHSDA diploma who need to apply for special accommodations for the PSAT/NSMQT, SAT, ACT, or Advanced Placement Program Exams may do so with the assistance of the Services for Students with Disabilities Coordinator. (Use ECHSDA email to make request for contact.) To be eligible for accomodations, the student must have a current IEP, 504 Plan or "formal school (district) - generated plan/program" and disability documentation.

Diplomas & Transcripts

Erie County Home Schoolers Diploma Association (ECHSDA) offers a standard diploma certificate in a presentation case. The certificate is printed with the type of diploma earned and should be signed by the senior year evaluator and the supervisor of the home education program. Transcripts with attached evaluation letters will be kept on file by ECHSDA. Copies of these will be sent out to institutions of higher learning or prospective employers at the written request of the student.