A young man in a cap and gown smiles at his graduation.
Pamela White, Ed.S.
January 9, 2024

The April Dunn Act is Increasing Graduation Rates of Students with Disabilities Across Louisiana

Louisiana’s April Dunn Act can help students on IEPs fulfill graduation requirements. Learn how it works!

Meeting all graduation requirements can seem like a difficult thing to do for some students with disabilities. In addition to completing specific courses, earning the required number of course credits, and all other requirements, students must pass the statewide LEAP 2025 assessments.  Many students and parents feel stressed thinking about the assessments.

Students with disabilities often must repeat courses and retake LEAP 2025 as they work towards earning a high school diploma.  This increases students’ stress and anxiety levels, which makes attending school more difficult. As a result, some students with disabilities feel defeated and drop out of high school. 

Louisiana has taken steps to help students with disabilities break down many barriers that delay or stop them from earning a high school diploma. The April Dunn Act has helped certain disabled students meet graduation requirements across Louisiana.

What is the April Dunn Act

In 2014, the Louisiana Legislature passed ACT 833. ACT 833 was renamed the April Dunn Act in 2020. The April Dunn Act is a Louisiana law that provides an alternate pathway to graduation for certain students with disabilities who meet eligibility requirements. Passage of the April Dunn Act has removed barriers for students with disabilities that once seemed impossible to overcome. 

The law was made possible because of the efforts of April Dunn, a Louisiana resident and high school graduate. Due to April’s inability to pass statewide assessments, she graduated from a Louisiana high school with a certificate of achievement instead of a high school diploma. April advocated for students with disabilities who have difficulty passing statewide assessments to have an alternate way to satisfy graduation requirements. 

The April Dunn Act does not remove any graduation requirements—it provides an alternate means for students to satisfy them. For example, if a student cannot pass the LEAP 2025 assessments required to graduate, the April Dunn Act can provide a different way to satisfy the requirement. Suppose a student has difficulty passing specific courses to earn the Carnegie credits required for graduation. In that case, the April Dunn Act can provide an alternate means to earn the Carnegie credits.  

Qualifying for the April Dunn Act

Students must meet eligibility requirements to qualify for the April Dunn Act for graduation. Students must first have a diagnosed disability and an IEP. Students with an IEP who are gifted or talented only do not qualify for the April Dunn Act. 

When a student enters high school, the IEP team should review student data to see if they qualify. 

A student qualifies for April Dunn if:

  • They did not meet the state-established benchmarks on the LEAP 2025 state assessment for 2 of the 3 most recent school years, or 
  • They do not pass the same high school LEAP 2025 assessment after 2 tries 

Students who meet these requirements can have the April Dunn Act implemented through the IEP to help satisfy graduation requirements for Carnegie units, statewide LEAP 2025 testing, and credentials needed to earn an Industry-Based Certification or IBC.

April Dunn Act Implementation

Once a student has qualified for the April Dunn Act, it is implemented through the IEP. This must occur during the first 30 days of a student entering a new course. The IEP team must develop rigorous IEP goals and objectives to address academic content for the course or area targeted for graduation.

For example, if the April Dunn Act is implemented to satisfy Carnegie units and LEAP 2025 testing for English I, rigorous IEP goals and objectives that address English I state standards should be developed. All IEP goals and objectives must be aligned with the Louisiana Student Standards.

Read more about Graduation Pathways in Louisiana for students with an IEP.

The regular education and special education teachers monitor the student’s performance during the school year. If a student meets the April Dunn Act goals and objectives identified in the IEP, the regular education teacher of authority can approve awarding the student graduation credit for the targeted area as identified in the IEP. The targeted area may be Carnegie credit, testing, or credentials.

The April Dunn Act does not excuse students from taking all LEAP 2025 assessments. Students must still take all LEAP 2025 assessments, but they do not have to pass them to graduate if the April Dunn Act is implemented, and satisfied.   

Increased Graduation Rates of Students with Disabilities

The April Dunn Act has been a great benefit to students with disabilities. This alternate means to graduation has allowed many students to earn a high school diploma instead of a certificate of completion, and to do so without having to repeat as many classes and assessments.  As a result, high schools across Louisiana have seen increased graduation rates among students with disabilities.

In addition, students with disabilities, and their families, can celebrate the accomplishment of earning a high school diploma under less stressful conditions.  If your child has an IEP and is entering high school, talk to their IEP team about the April Dunn Act! The team can review your child’s data to see if they qualify. If your child does not qualify, then talk to the IEP team about the April Dunn Act again after your child has taken the LEAP 2025 testing, or as you prepare for the annual IEP meeting.

  • Pamela White, Ed.S.

    Special Education Program Facilitator

    Pamela White is an Education Specialist who has worked with individuals with disabilities for almost 15 years. She facilitates special education programs for a Louisiana school district and serves as an Educator in Residence for the PROGRESS Center at The American Institute for Research. She is passionate about establishing high expectations for students with disabilities, developing reading skills, teaching with intention, and educators implementing high-leverage practices.

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