Tougher high school graduation standards could impact thousands of Florida students

State lawmakers may delay implementation of stricter test requirements
Palm Beach County high school senior from the graduating class of 2020.jpg
Posted at 4:49 PM, Apr 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-27 20:22:49-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — We are just weeks away from high school graduations across our area, but stricter graduation requirements from the state could keep thousands of students from getting their diplomas.

School leaders from all around Florida have been lobbying state lawmakers, asking them to hold off on the tougher standards.

Palm Beach County Superintendent Mike Burke and the Palm Beach County School Board each sent letters to Florida legislators, detailing the 2,000 students that may not graduate if those higher standards are in place.


High school graduation is one of the biggest moments in a student's life.

"To see them make that achievement is absolutely priceless," said Tameka Robinson, the principal of Santaluces Community High School.

Robinson said about 150 of her seniors are on the edge of missing that moment because of elevated test score requirements.

"We're making sure we're providing students with remediation opportunities or extended learning opportunities. So we've hosted boot camps," Robinson said.

"We will do everything we can to help them get to that finish line," Burke told WPTV education reporter Stephanie Susskind on Thursday.

Burke explained to WPTV the change this year that threatened to rob students of graduating.

"They have to pass Algebra 1 end-of-course exam and they have to pass their tenth grade English language arts test. There's another avenue if students are unable to pass those two tests. They can utilize scores from the SAT, ACT, or PERT test to substitute that requirement," Burke said. "There would have been higher standards on the SAT and ACT and it eliminated the PERT entirely.

Burke said the tougher standards are an unfair expectation for students who started their high school careers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There's been kind of a ground swell of support to delay this implementation one more year, given the impact of the pandemic, and allow the class of '23 to have the same requirements as the class of '22 and the class of '21," Burke said.

And it's working. The Florida House approved an amendment Wednesday that would restore most of the prior graduation standards.

"Both parties, Democrat and Republican, received emails, phone calls, and contacts about concerns from their districts. And now they can go home and confidently announce this is no longer an issue," bill sponsor Rep. Kimberly Daniels, D-Jacksonville, said on the House floor.

Robinson said all at-risk students have a mentor and she's hopeful they will all experience that big moment on stage next month.

"We're pulling out all the stops, making sure we're exhausting every option possible to ensure our students graduate high school," Robinson said. "If the requirements from last year were in place, we'd be in really good shape."

Burke said principals know what students are impacted and are working with them around the clock.

"I think the majority of them are now going to be in much better shape," Burke said.

The Florida Senate still needs to vote on the bill, and then it would go to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his signature.

Graduation ceremonies in the School District of Palm Beach County are scheduled to start on May 11. To see a complete graduation schedule, click here.