Get Adobe ReaderA note about viewing streaming video

Missouri Option Program
Frequently Asked Questions

The Missouri Option Program is available in public school districts during the regular school year.  To offer this program, local schools must meet requirements established by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  Participation is voluntary for schools and students.


When did the Missouri Option Program begin in Missouri?

In 2002 the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education initiated the Missouri Option Program.  The program is approved by the American Council on Education and the Missouri State Board of Education.

What is the Missouri Option Program?

The Missouri Option Program is designed to target students who have the capabilities to complete Missouri High School Graduation Requirements, but for a variety of reasons lack the credits needed to graduate with their class and are at risk of leaving school without a high school diploma.

The program specifically, targets those students who are 17 years of age or older and are at least one year behind their cohort group or for other significant reasons identified in the local Missouri Option Program plan.

Note: For the Missouri Option Program, cohort is defined as when a student started kindergarten, not high school.

How many Missouri Option Program school districts are there in Missouri?

The Missouri Option Program has grown to over 230 school districts across the state in a mix of urban and rural areas.

How does the Missouri Option Program benefit a school?

School Districts approved by DESE to participate in the Missouri Option Program can continue to receive average daily attendance funds for the participating students. Additionally, students remain in school and are not required to dropout when it is time to take the HiSET Tests. Once the school district issues a High School diploma, participants are then counted as graduates.

Note: A credential that includes the word "diploma" will be awarded.  The school district issues a "regular" High School Diploma (the same as awarded to all students by local boards of education).

How does the Missouri Option Program benefit a student?

Students in the Missouri Option Program will be provided guidance and counseling services consistent with the high school program.  Ongoing academic/career advisement will be provided by the Missouri Option Program instructor(s), with supplemental guidance and counseling provided, as needed.  Students will have access to all educational programs and services available in the school district, have the opportunity to stay in school, receive valuable academic and life-skills instruction, earn a High School diploma, and are eligible to participate in commencement ceremonies.

What is required of Missouri Option Program students?

A minimum of 15 hours of academic instruction per week will be provided.  Students must also be enrolled in other school supervised instructional activities (career education courses, elective classes, work experience, etc.) that lead to student's classification by the district as a full-time student.  The school district/eligible agency should provide a level and quality of education that ensures the integrity of the Missouri Option Program and locally issued High School diploma.

School districts may have additional requirements when issuing a regular high school diploma that is consistent with what is required of all students.  Missouri Option students must take the required EOC's and MAP tests appropriate for their age/grade level.  State law also requires that all graduate candidates take a course in government and the functions of government and pass the required tests related to the U.S. and Missouri Constitutions.  Participants must also complete a half unit course in Personal Finance and Health.  In addition, they must participate in appropriate substantive counseling and life-skills training that will assist them with job-readiness, financial management and independent living skills.

If a student takes the HiSET, what documentation will the district receive from the state verifying the students results?

The HiSET Tests are designed to measure the major academic skills and knowledge associated with a high school program of study.  Students enrolled in the Missouri Option Program take (and pass) the HiSET Tests to demonstrate and document the attainment of high school-level skills.  The HiSET Score Report is one of the academic components required for the awarding of a high school diploma by the local district, and as such, is placed in the student's permanent record.  Since the purpose of the Missouri Option Program is to qualify the student for a high school diploma, the scores are only valid in that context.

What happens if a student fails to complete the Missouri Option Program?

Should a student fail to complete other program requirements, even if they have achieved a passing score, they will receive neither a high school diploma nor a certificate of High School Equivalence.  Their status will revert to that of a high school dropout.  The student would have to take the HiSET Test as a dropout to be eligible to earn a High School Equivalency Certificate.

What are some common misconceptions about the Missouri Option Program?

The Missouri Option Program is NOT an "early out" program or "easy out" alternative.  Schools that attempt to use it for these purposes will be disqualified.  It is specifically intended to meet the needs of students who are credit-deficient (for whatever reasons), but who otherwise could be expected to meet regular graduation requirements.  This program is NOT just intended to prepare students for the HiSET Test; it must provide substantive academic content aligned with the school's regular curriculum and expectations.  Students must attend school regularly and have access to the kind of counseling and support services that are available to all students.

What are the requirements for the faculty in the Missouri Option Program?

Teachers working in this program must have a valid Missouri teaching certificate in any area or in Adult Education and Literacy (AEL).  AEL certification is not required if the educator already has a valid teaching certificate.

Are specific funds available to support the Missouri Option Program?

No.  The Missouri Option Program is not a grant program.  However, school districts do receive state aid for attendance of participating students.

How do schools or school districts "sign up" for the Missouri Option Program?

The Missouri Option application and assurances have been updated to include current operational standards, requirements and contact information. Missouri public school districts planning to operate a Missouri Option Program must submit a Missouri Option Program ApplicationDistrict superintendents must sign the updated Assurance Standards in the Appendix and provide a brief narrative response. For more information, contact the Missouri Option Office at 573-751-3190 or 573-751-4426 or