State leaders just made it harder for some students to earn their diplomas.

The State Board of Education voted Wednesday to eliminate a popular alternative test that helped many students graduate.

It's called PERT, or Post-Secondary Education Readiness Test. The board said it was just too easy.

It made the scores needed on the ACT or SAT higher. But leaders listened to complaints from school districts and there was a compromise.

Students can now use the practice SAT, called PSAT, as well.

Hillsborough County already has the PSAT in their budget and can offer it to students starting in 10th grade, but it still limits them on the amount of times they can take it.

The new changes:

  • If students don’t pass the algebra exam, they need a 16 out of 36 on the ACT math, 420 out of 800 on SAT math or 430 out of 760 on the PSAT math section.
  • There are alternatives if students don’t pass the FSA language arts exam: a 480 on the SAT or an 18 on the ACT reading and English.

About 200 out of the over 400 seniors attending Hillsborough High School will graduate this year because of an alternative test.

Pierre Alsint is a senior at HHS. He's taken both the ACT/SAT numerous times using a financial waiver but still didn't meet the required test scores.

“I'm like, wow, now I have to pay $45 to get in and one time I was late so it was up to $75. It's super inconvenient compared to the PERT. I have a lot of friends that have a lot going on and some miss the test because they don't have a ride,” says Pierre.

He feels some students won't be as motivated to meet the new requirements needed for graduation.

Despite the compromise with the PSAT, they worry that the changes could lead to a massive decline in graduation rates, especially among minority students.

“The options now are tests that cost money, not administered as frequently. Some will be left out, whereas now they're not,’ says Gary Brady, Hillsborough High School principal.

But Nicole Binder, Hillsborough County director of assessment and accountability, is hopeful that state leaders will adopt an alternative pathway for students wanting to enter trade school or the military and don't need an ACT/SAT score, which is usually needed for college.

“They're going to be getting jobs that are at minimum wage, and unfortunately without their diplomas they're not going to be able to better themselves,” says Binder.

The new changes will not affect current high school students. The state is giving districts four years to help prepare students to pass these new test scores.

There are financial waivers for students taking the ACT and SAT.

Last year, more than 35,000 students in the class of 2017 graduated using alternative exams.

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