Marshall Adult Education

Minnesota Adult Basic Education (ABE)
Minnesota Department of Education  


Policy Intent: The intent of this policy is to ensure that programs funded under M.S.124D.51 (State ABE aid) are using this limited source of state aid in a manner that:

  1. maximizes the opportunity for an adult student to obtain a high school diploma within a reasonable period of time; and
  2. supports the integrity of the high school diploma issued through an ABE funded program.

Policy Statement:  In order for a state-approved Adult Basic Education program to count and submit student contact hours for a program that offers credit (or a competency set) toward an adult high school diploma, the following three conditions must be met:

  1. Student Eligibility (ability to benefit) – The program must serve only those students who have a 6.0 or above reading score on a TABE, or a 235 or above score on a CASAS, or an equivalent score on a standardized test approved for use by the Minnesota Department of Education Adult Basic Education Office.  If a prospective student scores below this criterion, they are eligible to be enrolled in other, lower-leveled ABE funded programs, but not in the credit based adult diploma program.
  1. Competence Equivalency Determination – In order for a program to award a diploma, each adult diploma student must achieve the full complement of credits (or competency set) required of regular high school graduates in the sponsoring school district and must pass the same set of state graduation examinations that are in effect for Minnesota high school seniors at the time of expected graduation for the adult student.  For example, if the adult diploma student is enrolled and expected to complete his or her diploma in 2007, that student must pass the high school graduation exam that is required of the 2007 Minnesota graduating high school seniors.  Please note that a waiver may be obtained from the Minnesota Department of Education for adult diploma students that were born before 1982.
  1. Accommodations  – Adult diploma program providers must offer reasonable accommodations for access, instructional delivery, and testing for enrollees in adult diploma programs who qualify for such accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 or under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Information on these laws may be found at:

Policy Transition (Grandfathering Clause): An adult diploma program provider may use their own, locally established student eligibility and competence equivalency determination criteria for students who were enrolled in the ABE-funded local adult diploma program prior to the effective date of this policy, January 31, 2006.

Non-compliance Consequence:  If an ABE consortium counts and submits student contact hours to the State for one or more students that were admitted to the adult diploma program who did not qualify for eligibility as specified by this policy, or if a consortium does not comply with the graduation examination requirement as stated above, all student contact hours for that consortium’s adult diploma program may be at risk of non-funding for that fiscal year.

Effective Date:  January 31, 2006

Policy Contact – For discussion about this policy, please contact:  Anne Marie Leland, ABE Policy and Accountability Specialist, (651) 582-8479, 


ABE Position Paper of the Minnesota Department of Education
Adult Basic Education Office


December 12, 2005

Statement of the Issue – There are two key issues pertaining to the need for a formal policy for adult diploma programming that is conducted by state-funded Adult Basic Education programs:

bullet The first issue is one of enrolling students into credit-bearing or competency-based adult diploma programs who are not ready academically (i.e. – students have low basic skills and/or English skills). For adult students who have basic academic skills or English skills below the 6th grade level, it is our position (MDE-ABE) that those students would be more effectively served by programs which focus on these basic skills before they enroll in credit-level high school courses in an adult diploma program.
bullet The second issue is the need to ensure the integrity of a diploma issued through an Adult Basic Education program.  It is the position of MDE-ABE that if employers or college intake staff doubt the credibility of a diploma issued to a student who attended an ABE funded adult diploma program, the value (and perhaps future funding prospects) of ABE programs in general are undermined.

The state ABE office has reason to believe that without a policy addressing these two issues, state-funded ABE programs could (for well-intended reasons) enroll students who are functioning below a 6th grade level of reading, and secondly, programs could exempt adult diploma students with limited English proficiency from the state’s required graduation examinations, thus creating a credibility issue for the adult diploma as a valid certificate of high school competency. 

Eligibility Requirement – Under this new adult diploma policy, a student may not be enrolled in the adult diploma program unless they attain a 6.0 or above on a TABE reading test or a score of 235 or above on the CASAS.  This criterion ensures that the student is academically ready for credit-level high school courses and has a reasonable chance to complete a rigorous high school program.  If students were allowed to enter an adult diploma program and they lacked basic reading or English competence (below the 6.0 grade level), there is a high likelihood that a typical, credit-earning diploma program would be too difficult for them and it would take them an unreasonable amount of time to acquire their high school diploma. 

MDE-ABE believes that it is a justifiable and sound educational decision to enroll diploma-seeking but lower level adult students in other types and levels of ABE classes such as beginning and intermediate ESL programs or into beginning or intermediate ABE classes.  Enrolling a lower-functioning student into an adult diploma program may give the student a false hope that they will attain a diploma in a short amount of time, or in the same amount of time as a higher-functioning student – this approach would be misleading and unethical. 

Diploma Credibility Requirement – Under this policy an ABE-enrolled student would have to demonstrate competency on the state required high school graduation examination (formerly the BST).  That policy would be congruent with the majority of under-21 students who are enrolled in the K-12 system funded through state foundation aid. 

While the concept of having an exemption from the graduation test for some K-12 limited English speaking students (with less than three years of US education) is allowable in the under-21 K-12 foundation aid system, a similar exemption is not allowed under this adult diploma policy.  The ABE system does not want to be in the position to issue diplomas to students who have only met seat-time credit criteria and can not demonstrate competency levels equivalent to regular K-12 graduates. The MDE-ABE office believes that it is in the best interest of the student and the integrity of the ABE diploma program to require the state graduation examination as proof of competence.  The only exception (by waiver) to the graduation examination requirement would be for students who were born before 1982.  Also, certain instructional and testing accommodations (not test exemptions) would be allowable for students with disabilities who qualify under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the American Disability Act of 1990.

The ABE program in general is viewed by its funders as transition program – transition into post-secondary education or into work.  In both cases, the quality of the diploma is critical to the success of the individual.  At the post-secondary level, if a student’s diploma does not equate with actual high-school level basic skill attainment, the student may not pass parts of or the entire entrance exam and would need to take remedial or developmental classes that do not count toward a degree or certificate program.  Further, students that end up taking many remedial classes often are using Pell grant funds which consequently expire for that student long before he/she can finish their degree program.

Students who are awarded diplomas without mastery of the graduation examination may find themselves in work situations that are difficult, confusing and potentially dangerous.  Employers of these students who discover after the fact that their new employee lacks basic skills will legitimately question the quality of the delivery system that allowed that person to receive their diploma.  Employers are not shy about communicating the shortcomings of educational systems to local and state officials – some of whom are officials that make funding decisions for ABE programs.

Other Related Concerns and Positions – Although not stated in the formal policy, it would be expected that ABE programs that offer diploma classes would also ensure that the credits being earned by the adult diploma student are rigorous, high school level credits. It is our position that ABE students in a credit program should not be awarded credits for studies that are for academic work below the high school level.

Approved ABE providers who contract services to other organizations such as alternative schools, CBO's, or charter schools, have the responsibility to ensure that the services delivered by those partners comply with this new policy and with all ABE policies in general. 

This policy is not intended to limit the options for adults who are seeking their high school diploma.  If adult students enroll in an ABE program and hope to obtain a diploma, they should first be assessed as to their eligibility for the diploma program (TABE or CASAS).  If they do not attain that eligibility, they have the option to attend the Adult Basic Education program and enroll in a lower-level, non-credit ABE or ESL program.

Contacts – For discussion about this position paper or the ABE adult diploma policy, please contact:  Anne Marie Leland, ABE Policy and Accountability Specialist, (651) 582-8479, , or Barry Shaffer, MN State Director of Adult Education, (651) 582-8442,