43-234 - Defined Program, Grades 9-12 and Graduation Requirements

43-234. Defined Program, Grades 9-12 and Graduation Requirements

Each school district board of trustees must ensure quality schooling by providing a rigorous, relevant curriculum for all students.

Each school district must offer a standards-based academic curriculum organized around a career cluster system that provides students with individualized education pathways and endorsements.

I. Requirements for Earning a South Carolina High School Diploma

A. The student must earn a total of twenty-four units of credit as follows:

Unit Requirements

English language arts






U.S. History and Constitution




U.S. Government


other social studies


physical education or Junior ROTC


computer science 1.0


foreign language or career and technology education





24.0 total

B. Students shall have the opportunity to earn endorsements within each high school diploma pathway; however, earning an endorsement is not a requirement for graduation. Endorsements shall identify a particular area of focus, beginning with the freshman class of 2018-19. The earning of a graduation endorsement shall be based upon the following criteria:

1. Students shall meet all requirements for earning a South Carolina high school diploma as set forth above and within this regulation.

2. Students may earn one or more endorsements in pathways approved in guidelines set by the State Board of Education (SBE). School districts may apply to the SBE to have additional endorsements approved.

3. English I, II, III, IV or their course equivalents (customized English I, II, III, IV as approved by the SBE through the locally designed course process as mentioned in II.H.l) or higher level courses (Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, Dual Credit, etc.) must be taken to receive an endorsement.

C. The South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) has the authority to develop guidelines approved by the SBE in accordance with provisions of this regulation.

D. The student must pass a classroom examination on the provisions and principles of the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist papers, and American institutions and ideals. This instruction must be given for a period of at least one year or its equivalent, either within the required course U.S. History and Constitution or within another course. (For specific regulations regarding the end-of-course test for U.S. History and Constitution, see Reg. 43-262, Assessment Program.) As part of the high school curriculum regarding the United States government required credit, students are required to take the civics test as defined as the one hundred questions that officers of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services use to demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of United States history and the principles and form of the United States government.

E. The student must pass a high school credit course in science in which an end-of-course examination is administered.

F. The student must be enrolled for a minimum of one semester immediately preceding his or her graduation, except in case of a bona fide change of residence. Units earned in a summer school program do not satisfy this requirement.

II. Provisions for Schools in the Awarding of High School Credit

A. A school may award and accept credit in units of one-fourth, one-half, and a whole.

B. A school may award one unit of credit for an academic standards-based course that requires a minimum of 120 hours of instruction. A school may award one-half unit of credit for an academic standards-based course requiring a minimum of 60 hours of instruction and one-fourth unit of credit for an academic standards-based course requiring a minimum of 30 hours of instruction.

C. A school may award credit for courses that have been approved by the SCDE in a proficiency-based system. A proficiency-based course may also be offered for one-fourth, one-half, or one unit if the system specifies these units. Each school district that seeks to implement a proficiency-based system must submit a plan to the SCDE that provides procedures for establishing and developing a proficiency-based system including the method for determining proficiency. The SCDE must approve the district-submitted plan prior to the district's use of the proficiency-based system. Districts are accountable for making sure that the academic standards and the individual learning needs of the students are addressed.

D. A school may award credit for those gateway courses that are a part of the End-of-Course Examination Program only if a student takes the course approved by the school in which he or she is enrolled and meets all the stipulated requirements of the End-of-Course Examination Program. (For specific regulations regarding end-of-course tests, see Reg. 43-262, Assessment Program.)

E. A school may award credit only for courses in summer programs-either district-wide or school-site programs-that meet all the regulatory requirements for courses offered for students in grades nine through twelve. A district-wide summer school program may meet the administrative certification requirement by employing a district supervisor as well as a lead teacher for each school site.

F. A school may award credit for a course that is approved by the district-whether that school offers the particular course or not-if the student receives prior approval.

G. A school may award credit toward the high school diploma for a course that the student takes in an approved adult education program if the course is granted approval by the local superintendent or his or her designee.

H. A school may award credit for locally designed courses under the following conditions:

1. Locally designed core subject-area courses used as graduation units of credit must be aligned with the state academic standards for the particular subject area and must be approved by the local board of trustees and the State Superintendent of Education.

2. Locally designed elective courses must be approved by the local board of trustees. No more than two units may be awarded to a student for released-time classes in religious instruction.

3. Locally designed Career and Technical Education (CATE) courses funded with state or federal CATE monies must be approved by the SCDE's CATE office.

I. A school may award credit for the American Sign Language course as the required unit in a foreign language.

J. A school may award credit for a college course that students in grades nine through twelve take under the district's dual credit arrangement.

K. A student who has earned the one-half credit in Keyboarding by the 2017-18 school year will be awarded one-half unit of credit for Computer Science.

III. Dual Credit Arrangement

A. District boards of trustees may establish a policy allowing students to take college courses for units of credit toward the high school diploma. The district policy may allow for courses to be offered by an institution of higher education through a cooperative agreement.

B. A three-semester-hour college course transfers as one unit of credit.

C. Tuition costs and any other fees are the responsibility of the individual student or his or her parent(s) or legal guardian unless otherwise specified in local school district policy.

D. Students enrolled in a South Carolina public school may take only courses that are applicable to baccalaureate degrees, associate degrees, or certification programs that lead to an industry credential offered by an appropriate regional accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

IV. Transfer Students

A transfer student is one who enrolls in a South Carolina public school after having been enrolled in another school in this state or in a school in another state. Credits that he or she earned at the former school may be accepted and applied toward the South Carolina high school diploma. (For specific regulations see Reg. 43-273, Transfers and Withdrawals.)

V. Instructional Program

School districts must organize high school curricula around a minimum of three clusters of study and cluster majors. Such curricula must be designed to provide a well-rounded education that fosters artistic creativity, critical thinking, and self-discipline through the teaching of academic content and skills that students will use in postsecondary study and in the workplace. Students must declare an area of academic focus, also known as a career major, within a cluster of study before the end of the second semester of their tenth-grade year.

Each year, schools must offer a range of required college- and career-ready courses in the core subject areas as listed in the SCDE's Activity Coding System to meet the needs of all students in a four-year graduation cohort.

For students whose academic needs are greater than those courses offered by their school, Virtual SC courses, if available, must be offered by the district to the students in order to graduate with the four-year graduation cohort.

A. Career Clusters

School districts must use the sixteen clusters for reporting purposes but may modify these clusters (for example, Arts and Humanities in place of Arts, Audio-Video Technology, and Communications). The sixteen state clusters are the same as the sixteen federal clusters:

Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources

Architecture and Construction

Arts, Audio-Video Technology, and Communications

Business, Management, and Administration

Education and Training


Government and Public Administration

Health Science

Hospitality and Tourism

Human Services/Family and Consumer Sciences

Information Technology

Law, Public Safety, Corrections, and Security


Marketing, Sales, and Service

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics

B. Schools must also offer instruction in each of the following areas:

1. Advanced Placement: Schools whose organizational structure includes grades eleven and twelve must offer Advanced Placement courses. (For specific regulations regarding the Advanced Placement program, see Reg. 43-258.1, Advanced Placement.)

2. Alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs: Schools must provide age-appropriate instruction regarding the dangers in the use and abuse of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Instruction must emphasize the negative effects that the use of such substances can have on the total community.

3. Career and technology education: Schools must offer CATE courses. Students who plan to complete a CATE program must earn at least three units in an approved sequence of CATE courses leading to a career goal.

4. Driver education: Schools must provide a complete program of driver education, including classroom and behind-the-wheel phases, each semester on an elective basis for eligible students. (For specific regulations regarding driver education, see Reg. 43-242, Driver Training.)

5. Environmental studies: Schools must include environmental studies as a part of their instructional program.

6. Financial literacy: Schools must include financial literacy as a part of the instructional program.

7. Foreign language (modern and classical languages): Schools must offer levels 1 and 2 of at least one modern or classical language. Most state four-year colleges/universities require at least two units of the same modern or classical language for admission.

8. Health education: Schools must have a program of instruction in comprehensive health education. (For specific requirements regarding health education, see Reg. 43-238, Health Education Requirement.)

At least one time during the entire four years of grades nine through twelve, each student shall receive instruction in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) which must include, but not be limited to, hands-only CPR and must include awareness in the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) except that virtual schools may administer the instruction virtually and are exempt from any in-person instructional requirements.

9. Physical education: The required physical education course in secondary schools shall occur over two semesters (year-long schedule) or two nine weeks (semester block schedule) or the equivalent. For one semester, a personal fitness and wellness component must be taught, and for one semester, a lifetime fitness component must be taught either over the semester or in two nine-week divisions or the equivalent.

10. Visual and performing arts: Schools must offer courses in the visual and performing arts.

VI. Other Program Requirements

A. School Counseling Program

All schools encompassing any combination of grades nine through twelve are required to provide a comprehensive school counseling program that is based on grade-specific standards. The standards must address the academic, personal and social, and the career domains. Specifically, students must be provided school counseling and career awareness programs and activities that assist them in developing and fulfilling their individual graduation plans and prepare them for a seamless transition to relevant employment, further training, or postsecondary study.

B. Library Media Program

Library media programs and technology resources must be available and accessible to all students and staff and must be appropriate for the accomplishment of the strategies and goals in each school renewal or district strategic plan.

C. Length of School Day

1. The instructional day for secondary students must be at least 6 hours, excluding lunch, or the equivalent weekly.

2. Homeroom will not count as part of the instructional day. When no homeroom period is utilized, the administrative time that is used to determine attendance, make announcements, or complete other tasks normally accomplished during homeroom period will not be considered as part of the instructional day.

3. Schools may exercise options and vary the number of minutes in the instructional week, provided that such variation meets statutory requirements and is approved by the local board of trustees.

D. Class Size

1. The teacher load must not exceed the maximum of 150 students daily. Class size must not exceed the maximum of 35 students.

2. The above-stated maximums do not apply in the following circumstances:

a. A maximum of 40 students per period with a total teaching load of 240 students daily is permitted for physical education teachers. If physical education and health are taught on alternate days to the same class, the 40-student maximum and 240-student totals are also permitted for health. When health is taught as a separate subject, the teaching load is a maximum of 35 students per period and a total of 150 students per day.

b. Music teachers may teach a maximum of 240 pupils daily. No class may exceed 40 students in membership. However, when band, chorus, or orchestra require rehearsals of the entire membership, any number of students is acceptable if adequate space is available.

c. When a teacher's daily schedule includes a combination of subjects, the maximum daily teaching load will be calculated on the basis of 30 students per academic class and 40 students for each music or physical education class. (Example, 3 classes of math of 30 each = 90 + 2 classes of physical education of 40 each = 80. In this example, the teacher is not overloaded but teaches maximum allowable.)

d. Maximum teacher load requirements and individual class size limits are the same for mini-courses as for any other classes.

E. Additional Regulatory Requirements

1. Due to federal requirements, all students must take a science course for which an assessment is given.

2. For state accountability purposes, every student must take an end-of-course examination in biology.

3. State Board regulations that contain instructional program requirements are accessible on the SCDE web site on the "State Board of Education Regulations Table of Contents" page.

4. All students must be offered a college entrance assessment that is from a provider secured by the SCDE. In addition, all students entering the eleventh grade for the first time in school year 2017-2018 and subsequent years, must be administered a career readiness assessment. If funds are available, the State shall provide all twelfth grade students the opportunity to take or retake a college readiness assessment, the career readiness assessment, and/or earn industry credentials or certifications at no cost to the students. Therefore, the students may subsequently use the results of those assessments to apply to college or to enter the work force or the military.

5. High schools shall offer state-funded tests to each tenth grade student in order to assess and identify curricular areas that need to be strengthened and reinforced. Schools and districts shall use these assessments as diagnostic tools to provide academic assistance to students whose scores reflect the need for such assistance. Furthermore, schools and districts shall use these assessments to provide guidance and direction for parents and students as they plan for postsecondary experiences.

VII. Reporting Requirements

A. High School Completers

1. Each school issuing the state high school diploma must submit to the State Superintendent of Education on or before May 1 the following data on its previous year's completers:

a. the number of the school's completers who entered the freshman class of a postsecondary institution-either in South Carolina or out of state-and on whom such an institution has sent the school a first-term transcript or summary grade report,

b. a breakdown of all postsecondary courses that this group of completers passed during their term,

c. a breakdown of all postsecondary courses that this group failed during their first term,

d. a breakdown of all postsecondary courses for which this group received a grade of "no credit" during their first term, and

e. the number of the school's completers who did not enter a postsecondary institution but who instead chose a postsecondary alternative such as employment or military service or for whom no information is available.

2. Each school must use the official form to submit the required data on its previous year's completers.

B. Career and Technology Education Completers

Each district must survey all its high school graduates who are identified as career and technology education completers to determine their placement status with regard to employment, postsecondary education, and military service. A career and technology education completer is a student with an assigned Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code who has earned at least three units of credit in CATE courses leading to a career goal.

The district must conduct the survey ten months after graduation each year and must submit the results annually to the SCDE for the purpose of federal and state accountability requirements.

C. Student Records

1. Each school must have an appropriate means of reporting academic achievement to parents.

2. Each school district must maintain accurate student data according to the pupil accounting system prescribed by the SCDE.

3. Each school district must file a record of all dropouts that specifies for every student the name of the school in which he or she was enrolled and gives the following information on the student: his or her name, grade, race, sex, date of birth, free/reduced meals status, English proficiency status, and migrant status.

4. Each district superintendent must verify the accuracy of the student enrollment, attendance, membership by category, and dropout reports submitted to the SCDE's Office of Finance.

5. Each school must comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act regarding student records (20 U.S.C. Section 1232(g)).

D. Course Records for Students

1. Each district superintendent must verify the accuracy of course records for students.

2. The name and code number of every course that each student takes must be entered into the student data collection system active master scheduler at the time the student takes the course. Courses may not be added to the student's course history (transcript) without first being entered into the scheduler.

3. Courses offered in nontraditional settings such as online courses, courses offered in conjunction with a college or technical college (i.e., dual credit), and courses offered by the school through the district, state, or another type of provider must be included in the active master scheduler.

E. Longitudinal Data System

The Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, working with the Office of First Steps to School Readiness, the SCDE, the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, the Department of Social Services, the South Carolina Technical College System, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Employment and Workforce, and other state agencies or institutions of higher education, shall develop, implement, and maintain a universal identification system that includes, at a minimum, the following information for measuring the continuous improvement of the state public education system and the college and career readiness and success of its graduates:

1. students graduating from public high schools in the State who enter postsecondary education without the need for remediation;

2. working-aged adults in South Carolina by county who possess a postsecondary degree or industry credential;

3. high school graduates who are gainfully employed in the State within five and ten years of graduating from high school; and

4. outcome data regarding student achievement and student growth that will assist colleges of education in achieving accreditation and in improving the quality of teachers in classrooms.

VIII. Emergency Closings

All school days missed because of snow, extreme weather conditions, or other disruptions requiring schools to close must be made up. All school districts shall designate annually at least three days within their school calendars to be used as make-up days in the event of these occurrences. If those designated days have been used or are no longer available, the local school board of trustees may lengthen the hours of school operation by no less than one hour per day for the total number of hours missed, operate schools on Saturday, or may waive up to three days. A waiver granted by the local board of trustees may only be authorized by a majority vote of the local school board, and, after the completion of the 2014-15 school year, may not be granted for a school in the district until the school has made up three full days, or the equivalent number of hours, missed due to snow, extreme weather, or other disruptions requiring the school to close during the same school year in which the waiver is sought. When a district waives a make-up day pursuant to this section, the make-up day also is waived for all charter schools located in the district and for all students participating in a home schooling program approved by the board of trustees of the district in which the student resides. Schools operating on a four-by-four block schedule shall make every effort to make up the time during the semester in which the days are missed. A plan to make up days by lengthening the school day must be approved by the SCDE, Office of Federal and State Accountability before implementation. Tutorial instruction for grades 7 through 12 may be taught on Saturday at the direction of the local school board. If a local school board authorizes make-up days on Saturdays, tutorial instruction normally offered on Saturday for seventh through twelfth graders must be scheduled at an alternative time.

The SBE may waive the requirements of making up days beyond the three days forgiven by the local school district, not to exceed three additional days missed because of snow, extreme weather conditions, or other disruptions requiring schools to close. Such a waiver only may be considered and granted upon the request of the local board of trustees through a majority vote of that local school board. The SCDE annually before July 1 shall provide the General Assembly with a detailed report of information from each district listing the number of days missed and the reason, regardless of whether any were missed; days made up; and days waived.

(Amended by State Register Volume 21, Issue No. 6, Part 1, eff June 27, 1997; State Register Volume 23, Issue No. 6, eff June 25, 1999; State Register Volume 28, Issue No. 5, eff May 28, 2004; State Register Volume 31, Issue No. 5, eff May 25, 2007; State Register Volume 37, Issue No. 6, eff June 28, 2013; State Register Volume 39, Issue No. 06, eff. June 26, 2015; State Register Volume 41, Issue No. 05, eff. May 26, 2017; State Register Volume 42, Issue No. 05, eff. May 25, 2018.)

Statutory Authority: S.C. Code Ann. Sections 59-5-60 (2004), 59-5-65 (2004), 59-29-10 et seq. (2004)(Supp. 2005), 59-39-10 et seq. (2004)(Supp. 2005), 59-53-1810 (2004), 59-59-10 et seq. (Supp. 2005), and No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, 20 U.S.C. Section 6301 et seq. (2002)

The following state regulations pages link to this page.