Thousands of Florida high school seniors struggling to meet graduation testing requirements got one step closer to a diploma on Wednesday.
The Florida House unanimously approved a bill (HB 1537) that includes provisions to delay the higher passing scores that have presented a hurdle to teens who otherwise have met all other standards in place to complete school.
Bill co-sponsor Rep. Kimberly Daniels, D-Jacksonville, noted that Republicans and Democrats alike received calls from concerned superintendents, teachers and students.
“Now they can go home and confidently announce that this is no longer a concern,” Daniels said during her closing remarks on the bill.
The legislation, which also includes several other education-related measures, would allow students who have not been able to pass the state’s Algebra 1 or 10th grade language arts exams to substitute scores from the SAT or ACT that are lower than what had been put in place starting this year.
District leaders across Florida argued that the new stricter standards, initially established in 2018 but postponed until this year, were unfair to the Class of 2023. The current seniors faced an unusual set of circumstances because of the coronavirus pandemic, including a shuttered final quarter of freshman year and a quarantine-marked sophomore year where many of the testing opportunities were limited.
“Placing these new expectations on these seniors is untimely and, perhaps, unjust,” Pinellas County Superintendent Kevin Hendrick told lawmakers in a recent letter requesting the delay.
The bill would set the alternative test scores this year for Algebra 1 at 420 or higher on the SAT math test, or 16 or higher on the ACT math. For language arts, the scores would be 430 or higher on the SAT evidence-based reading and writing test, or 19 or higher on the ACT reading section.
Next year, the scores would return to the levels that were supposed to take place this spring.
HB 1537 still must go to the Senate, which does not have a companion bill. Co-sponsor Rep. Alex Rizo, R-Hialeah, said he collaborated with the Senate and Governor’s Office in putting together all aspects of the bill, and anticipated their support.
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