TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Nearly 2,000 Hillsborough County Public Schools students are at risk of not getting their high school diplomas if the state legislature doesn’t act soon. Those seniors, plus thousands more across the state might receive a Certificate of Completion instead.

“A high school diploma is so important,” said HCPS Superintendent Addison Davis. “There’s a major differential between earning a high school diploma and having a Certificate of Completion.”

The reason for the discrepancy is concordant scores, or replacement test scores. Florida law allows high schoolers who failed their state Math or English tests to replace those with an appropriate SAT or ACT score. The legislators raised the minimum scores for replacement, and those higher requirements are set to impact the graduating class of 2023.

TestPrevious required scoreNew required score
SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing430480
SAT Reading Subtest24No longer eligible
ACT Reading1918 (Must be average of English and Reading subject test scores)
Postsecondary Education Readiness Test (PERT) Mathematics114No longer eligible
Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) Mathematics430430
SAT Mathematics420420
ACT Mathematics1616

“It’s not these students’ fault, what happened related to COVID,” Davis said. “But we have to be able to give them some type of grace during this time.”

Davis said schools across the state are asking the legislature to give a pass for this year’s seniors. The state House passed a waiver as an amendment to a larger education bill — it’s now in the Senate.

“It could be that they’re not good test takers,” said Veronica Castro. “It could be that they’ve missed a lot of school. It could be that they’re not in the right program.”

Castro is the director of Huntington Learning Center in South Tampa.

“I’m concerned for the future,” Castro said. “Their future. Their ability to successfully be independent.”

Castro said she’s seen more and more kids come in for help to meet standardized test scores.

“It’s a trend that all Huntingtons are seeing nationwide,” Castro explained.

If the waiver amendment doesn’t pass the Senate, there could be serious consequences to Hillsborough’s — and many other Florida counties’ — graduation rates.

“I’m all about increasing high standards for our students,” said Davis. “But we also have to understand what these individuals have been through.”