Graduating high school in Florida will soon be harder

Popular alternative test will be eliminated

LARGO, Fla. — This month, thousands of students across Florida will graduate high school. Soon, however, getting a diploma will be much harder. 

Wednesday afternoon the State Board of Education voted to eliminate a popular test that helped students graduate called PERT, or Post Secondary Education Readiness Test. 

Quentin Hunt, Olehja Luma and Ashlee Zientek are excited to will graduate high school next week. The three students, who attend school in Sanford, failed the required end of year state exams. Still, they were able to pass the PERT test or use their ACT or SAT score to graduate.

"If I didn’t take the PERT test, I wouldn’t be graduating. I passed the PERT test with flying colors because it was much easier than the test they give us now," explained Luma.

State leaders say the PERT test is too easy and doesn’t cover the “rigor, complexity and breadth” of Florida’s math standards. Starting with incoming freshmen this Fall, it will be eliminated. That means the class of 2022 will no longer be able to use the PERT test to graduate. 

The idea worries school leaders, like Seminole County's Mike Gaudreau.

“Some students are not good test takers it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t graduate high school," he explained.

Now, students who fail the end of year algebra and language arts test will have to score higher on the ACT or SAT to graduate. After hearing from students Wednesday, the board decided to also add a higher score on the PSAT as an option for students to graduate. 

Under the new rule, students who didn’t pass the algebra exam would need a 16 out of 36 on ACT math, a 420 out of 800 on SAT math or a 430 out of 760 on the PSAT math section. Those who didn’t pass the FSA language arts exam would need a 480 on the SAT or an average score of 18 on ACT reading and English. 

Students across the state worry eliminating the PERT test will hurt future generations from walking across the stage at graduation.

“I’m so glad that test was there for me. I was hoping it would be there for other generations," Luma added.

The change will impact thousands of high schoolers across Florida. Last year, 35,000 students failed the required end of year state tests and needed the PERT exam to graduate. That’s almost 20% of the graduating class.

The new rule kicks in for students in the class of 2022, or those who will start high school in August, so it does not affect current high school students.

Educators from school districts in Seminole, Polk, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties argue the change will disproportionately hurt African-American and Hispanic students, who struggle more than Caucasian classmates to pass the FSA exams.

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