PALMETTO, Fla. (WFLA) — Shortly after Jasmine Alvarez took her state math test again on May 15, her guidance counselor called her.
“She called me and told me,” Alvarez recalled quietly. “And that was that.”
Alvarez was told she wouldn’t be allowed to walk the stage at Thursday’s graduation ceremony with all of her friends. Instead, she saw all their posts online.
“I think that was probably the worst part,” Alvarez said. “Seeing everybody out there, graduating together. Yeah, it was really bad.”
The Palmetto High School senior has taken her state math test or a replacement math test nearly ten times. She said she’s just one point away from passing her ACT math test.
“This is stopping me. It’s holding me back,” Alvarez explained. “Because I don’t have my diploma yet.”
She’s using that concordant score to replace her state math test score, since the replacement requirements were recently waived for the Class of 2023.
“One test is just holding me back, while everything else is good,” Alvarez said. “Everything else is done, academically.”
While she wishes one test didn’t decide whether she gets a diploma or not, she’s also a product of a COVID education. She was a freshman when the pandemic began and she was sent home.
“We made the best of it,” Alvarez remembered. “But it was really hard, having to do everything online, and get to your phone, to the computer, sent to the teacher.”
The math she needed to know to pass the state test was being taught while she was in lockdown. She didn’t have a computer when COVID began either — she had to use one from the school.
From 2021 to 2022, graduation rates across the Tampa Bay Area declined, according to data from the Florida Department of Education. In Manatee County, where Alvarez is enrolled, the rate went from 85 percent to 80 percent in one year. Some district officials said they expect even more declines for the Class of 2023, though those numbers will not be available for some time.
“It’s hard to watch, said Genevieve Muniz. “I want her to succeed. And that seems to be the one thing holding her back.”
Muniz is Alvarez’s older cousin.
“It’s a shame that it’s always come down to her just missing by so little,” said Muniz. “And her having to keep going and taking it and going and taking it, it’s not like she’s not trying.”
Muniz also struggled with state tests when she was in high school and had to retake the exams several times.
“It’s sad because we wanted to celebrate while everyone else was,” Muniz said. “I just wanted that for her.”
Alvarez wants to go to Sarasota Technical College and start her career as an esthetician. She’s hired a tutor and plans to take the ACT math test one more time in June, in hopes of getting her diploma in time for Palmetto’s smaller, summer graduation ceremony in July.
“I’m so nervous,” Alvarez said. “But hopefully that’s the one.”
Alvarez has plans for her future that require a diploma — including posting that graduation picture.