Never passed Florida’s algebra exam? Yes, seniors, you can still graduate.

The Class of 2021 and beyond, though, might not be so lucky.
Florida's graduation requirement to pass a state Algebra exam is waived for the Class of 2020.
Florida's graduation requirement to pass a state Algebra exam is waived for the Class of 2020.
Published March 19, 2020|Updated March 20, 2020

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ message sounded simple enough: Florida’s spring testing would be canceled, and anything depending on the results would be treated as if the tests never existed.

But questions quickly followed. One, from a Pasco County high school graduation enhancement teacher, resonated loudly for the Class of 2020.

What about the algebra and language arts graduation requirements?

Even though the Department of Education’s explanatory memo reiterated the point that the missing tests would not impact graduation or grade promotion — third graders, that’s you — the concern lingered. Because in past years when the state waived the use of testing results toward final grades (remember the 2015 testing debacle?), it generally has held firm that students have multiple opportunities to pass the Algebra I and tenth-grade language arts assessments, so those would stand.

It took an act of the Legislature to grant seniors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School a graduation requirement waiver in 2018, after the tragic shooting massacre there.

So we asked the department for further explanation. The answers took a while to come by, as we’re told that the inquiry led to some lively conversation, with some disagreement included.

The bottom line is this:

“Current seniors who have yet to meet their assessment requirement do not have to take either the grade 10 FSA ELA or the Algebra 1 end of course exam,” department spokeswoman Taryn Fenske said via email.

They will graduate with a diploma, as their remaining chances to complete the expectation before commencement have been suspended.

As for others in the algebra and sophomore language arts courses, it’s less well defined. The state will not count the algebra — or any other — end-of-course exam toward the final grade, despite the law saying it makes up 30 percent of the total.

But ...

Those students who aren’t graduating most likely will have plenty of other opportunities to take the exams, or seek a concordant score on an alternative one, before their commencement arrives. So the department hasn’t ruled definitively yet as to whether non-seniors will have their algebra and language arts exams completely waived, or if they — like other high schoolers before them — will have to try, try again.

“As this is an evolving and unprecedented situation,” Fenske said, “we will be determining the testing requirements for students who are not graduating this year.”

We’ll let you know when we learn more.

March 20 UPDATE: The Florida Department of Education issued a new memo on March 19, in which it clarified that the graduation requirement waiver applies to this year’s seniors only.

Here’s the relevant language:

"The Department is waiving the requirement for non-senior students who are currently enrolled in a course that requires an EOC to take the associated EOC.

"However, non-seniors who have yet to pass the Grade 10 FSA ELA must still meet the exit criteria by passing that assessment during a future administration or earning a concordant score.

“Though non-senior students enrolled in the EOC course of Algebra 1 are not required to take the Algebra 1 EOC, they must still meet the mathematics assessment graduation requirement by either passing the Algebra 1 EOC (offered four times each year) during a future administration, earning a concordant score, or passing the Geometry EOC during a future administration.”