Florida middle and high schoolers completing Algebra I this year won’t ever have to take the state’s end-of-course exam.
They’ll be able to replace it with the state geometry test instead and still qualify for graduation, Department of Education spokeswoman Taryn Fenske told the Gradebook.
It’s a one-time deal, never offered before and only for current algebra takers, Fenske said. Department officials figured it would be only fair to give the students an alternative graduation requirement, given the unusual circumstances of this coronavirus-interrupted school year.
If students otherwise pass algebra and then do well on the geometry exam, “That shows they’re progressing as they should be,” Fenske said department officials reasoned.
That doesn’t preclude anyone from still taking the algebra assessment — or seeking a concordant SAT or ACT score — in the future, she added. They just don’t have to.
The rule wasn’t always so clear.
When Gov. Ron DeSantis canceled Florida’s spring testing season, the algebra exam fell by the wayside along with all the others.
Because the test is a graduation requirement, the news raised concerns among two sets of students — seniors who hadn’t yet passed, and those currently taking algebra who might have to wait a year to show what they know.
The department quickly resolved the matter for the Class of 2020, waiving the test so the teens could graduate on time, provided they met grade-point and credit standards.
The situation was more murky for the others. They wouldn’t have to take the test in the spring, to be sure, but then what?
Some educators and others suggested it wouldn’t be right to make the students sit for the exam a year after they completed the course. Lessons fade, and new material takes its place, they observed.
The department issued a statement that referred to students using the geometry exam instead. It read:
“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.”
But it caused confusion, because no one had heard of that before. Some people questioned whether it was simply a mistake to include the geometry test.
It was no misstatement, though. Just yet another way that COVID-19 has changed the Florida education system.