In Florida, a high school "Certificate of Completion" is a document given to a student who has completed all the necessary coursework to graduate from high school but hasn't met other requirements to receive a standard diploma. Florida generally does not recognize holders of completion certificates as "high school graduates," so its state universities won't admit such students.
To earn a standard high school diploma, students must complete the coursework required by state law and the policies of their local school districts, including passing core subjects and earning the right number of credits. Students must finish high school with a cumulative grade-point average of at least 2.0 -- a "C" average. And they must pass the Florida Comprehensive Test, or FCAT. If a student does the coursework but fails the FCAT or fails to finish with a 2.0 GPA, that student gets a Certificate of Completion.
The FCAT measures student ability in reading and mathematics. Florida administers the test to all students in the 10th grade. Those who pass remain on track to earn a standard diploma. But students who fail the FCAT can retake the test as many as four times to try to raise their scores to passing before they finish high school. If they still haven't passed by their senior year in high school, they can substitute equivalent scores on a college prep exam, either the SAT or the ACT. As of the 2010-11 academic year, the equivalent scores were 420 in reading and 340 in math on the SAT, or 18 in reading and 15 in math on the ACT.
In addition to the regular Certificate of Completion, Florida also issues a "College Placement Test (CPT)-Eligible Certificate of Completion." Students who finish the required coursework and maintain a 2.0 GPA, but haven't passed one or both sections of the FCAT, can earn a CPT-eligible certificate. There is also a "Special Certificate of Completion" available to students with disabilities who haven't met all the requirements for the "Special Diploma" that the state makes available to some disabled students.
Florida's state universities and community colleges do not accept the Certificate of Completion as the equivalent of a standard diploma, so a student with only a regular certificate cannot enroll at those schools. However, students with a CPT-eligible certificate can enroll in community colleges and technical schools if they pass the state-administered College Placement Test.
If a student has met all the requirements for a diploma except passing the FCAT, that student has the option of remaining in high school for an extra year to gain additional instruction. And students who fail to meet the requirements for a standard diploma can also pursue the "GED Exit Option." This involves passing the state Test of General Educational Development, or GED. Students who pass the GED get a "State of Florida Diploma," which is the equivalent of a standard diploma but is not accepted for admission to state universities. If a student can pass both the GED and the FCAT before finishing high school, that student gets a standard diploma.