Excellence For All

Qualification Scores


smiling girlExcellence for All calls for students to demonstrate proficiency in English, mathematics, the sciences, history and the arts. Students must achieve college ready scores in all five of these disciplines to earn a proficiency-based diploma, which they can do as early as the end of their sophomore year. Each participating state is free to set the qualification scores for the sciences, history, and the arts courses but the initiative has been designed so that all students, across the states, must meet a common standard in English and mathematics. This is because both students and participating open-admissions postsecondary institutions have been promised that a student who has demonstrated proficiency on these examinations has the mathematical and English literacy needed to succeed in the initial credit-bearing courses in these institutions. Students demonstrating proficiency in these foundational courses are also deemed ready for college-level high school courses, such as AP, IB and Cambridge (A and AS levels).

Technical Advisory Committee

NCEE’s Technical Advisory Committee was formed to design and execute the plan to establish college-ready qualification scores on the English and mathematics end-of-course examinations offered through Excellence for All. The Technical Advisory Committee is co-chaired by Howard Everson of the City University of New York and James Pellegrino of the University of Illinois at Chicago and its members include some of the world’s leading experts in education measurement, cognitive science, English language arts and mathematics. Learn more about the Technical Advisory Committee here.

Science and History Task Forces

At the request of the states, NCCE convened a Science Task Force and a History Task Force to make recommendations about qualification scores the states might consider for Cambridge IGCSE examinations in those two disciplines. State education agencies in Arizona, Kentucky and Mississippi and the Capitol Region Education Council in Connecticut were each invited to appoint members to the Task Force. Participants included high school teachers in each of the relevant subjects, community college and university faculty, state education department curriculum professionals and representatives of the private sector.

Qualification Scores

The Technical Advisory Committee used available data sets, primary data collected for this purpose and other relevant analyses to determine the qualification scores for the three Cambridge IGCSE exams that students need to earn in order to meet the English and mathematics criteria and qualify for a proficiency based diploma.

Examination and Qualification Scores

Courses Qualification Scores
American History C
Biology C
Chemistry C
Coordinated Science C
English Literature C
First Language English B
Mathematics C
Physics C
World History C
Arts G

The Cambridge grade scale is A*, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, U, and X. Students earning a C grade are viewed throughout the Cambridge International Examinations system as ready for community college or for entry into upper secondary school A-level courses, similar to the rigor of AP classes. To earn a Grade G on a Cambridge IGCSE course, a student has to produce a portfolio of work, sit for the end-of-course examination, and earn enough marks to get on the scoring scale.

Qualification System Structure

Excellence for All requires students to sit the exams for all of the following courses:

•    First Language English and English Literature
•    Mathematics
•    (World) History and American History
•    Two of Biology, Chemistry, and Physics OR Coordinated Sciences
•    One arts or CTE course

To qualify in Excellence for All, students need to reach the qualification score on the following core exams:

•    First Language English
•    Mathematics
•    One of (World) History OR American History
•    One of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, OR Coordinated Sciences
•    Plus one additional course, which must be English Literature, a second history course, or a second science course

In addition, students must earn at least a Grade G or better on the remaining required courses, including (if not already counted as the “plus one” above):

•    English Literature
•    A second history course
•    A second science course

Under this structure, students must reach the college-ready qualification scores in five courses (the core four plus one).  By requiring a “plus one,” Excellence for All allows students to demonstrate greater depth of knowledge in English, history, or science, a requirement that is in the spirit of a well-rounded liberal arts education, while giving students some choice about where they want to focus their studies.

Moving Forward

These qualification scores are the results of extensive deliberation, based on the best information available at the time. During the pilot years the Technical Advisory Committee will be gathering additional evidence, paying particular attention to how Excellence for All students perform a) on the Cambridge IGCSE examinations, b) on college admissions exams and c) in college. The Technical Advisory Committee, as well as the Task Forces, will return to these decisions in fall 2014 and fall 2016 to consider whether the new evidence suggests any refinement in the qualification scores. For more details about the Technical Advisory Committee’s and Task Forces’ analysis, see the following white papers:

Sign up to receive updates from NCEE

* indicates required
Check here if you would like to receive information about NCEE Events in DC