Putting Education Reform To The Test

How Florida Lawmakers Would Change High School Graduation Requirements

kthypryn / Flickr

Two bills could give Florida students more flexibility in earning their high school diploma.

After years of adding requirements to earn a high school diploma, Florida lawmakers have proposed bills which would allow students more flexibility in how they earn a diploma.

A House proposal (HB 7091) would create three diploma tracks: College and career; industry and scholar. All three diplomas require four years of English language arts.

Students seeking an industry diploma would have to take four math courses, but the only required course is Algebra I and its end-of-course exam. College and career track students must add Geometry. And instead of requiring students pass the Geometry end-of-course exam, the bill would make the test 30 percent of the final grade.

The scholar track adds a requirement for Algebra II and Statistics, or an equally rigorous course.

In science, students would still have to take three courses including Biology and another course with a laboratory component. But students in the college and career and industry tracks would no longer have to pass the Biology end-of-course exam. Instead, the test would count for 30 percent of the final grade.

Students seeking a scholar diploma add a requirement for Chemistry and Physics or an equally rigorous course.

The other big change is in electives, where students on the industry track would take eight career education credits in a filed identified by state or local need. That could include earning industry certifications. The State Board of Education would adopt a list of acceptable certifications each year.

Students in the college and career track could also take courses to earn industry certification.

Scholar-track students would have six elective credits focused on liberal arts, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) or career education — one of which must be an accelerated course such as Advanced Placement or a dual enrollment course through a local college.

The bill was opposed by the Foundation for Florida’s Future, the influential non-profit group founded by former Gov. Jeb Bush. Director Patricia Levesque told House lawmakers the foundation opposed lifting the Geometry requirement.

Levesque said they favor a bill in the Senate with similar goals.

That bill, SB 1076, would let the State Board of Education approve industry training programs which could be substituted for graduation requirements.

For instance, a student could earn an aerospace certification instead of taking Algebra II, Chemistry or Physics. Certifications could also replace English language arts courses.

Students could also take multiple Algebra I credits to satisfy their math requirements, but must still pass the end-of-course exam.

Read the staff analysis of the House bill here.

Read the staff analysis of the Senate bill here.

Both bills are below.


  • Jane Teacher

    This is excellent! As an ESE teacher, I am so worried about how some students are supposed to meet the new requirements for chem, physics and Alg. II. THis will make it so much better for those students.

  • I see your point, Jane Teacher. However, I have question as to how these laws might affect Florida state colleges and universities. (Full disclosure: I teach in one of Florida’s state colleges.)

    Here are a few of my questions. Will admission to certain state universities – or even to all state universities — be open only to holders of the “scholar” diploma? It seems likely that UF and FSU, at least, will want to restrict freshman admissions to HS graduates with the “scholar” diploma or equivalent.

    On the other hand, will state and community colleges accept students holding either the “scholar” or the “college and career” diploma? That seems very likely, given their historic open admissions policies.

    But then what will happen to the 2+2 transfer path of community college to state university, A.A. to B.A.? Will it be possible only if a student enters a state or community college as the holder of a “scholar” diploma? Other things being equal, the holder of the “scholar” diploma will be much better prepared for a rigorous university program. The difference between the diplomas is a difference in the high school curriculum itself, not just in students’ grades or test scores. One group will take Geometry and Algebra II; the others probably won’t. Will Florida’s universities consider that kind of differential to have been superseded if the student successfully completes an A.A. degree?

    I can foresee state colleges gradually transforming into technical colleges, accepting primarily “college and career” diploma students and granting primarily Bachelor of Applied Science and other “workforce” degrees. I can also see the “career academies” graduating 18-year-olds with a combination of the “industry” diploma and a clock-hour certificate.

    Essentially these laws will bring us back to “tracking.” I have to wonder whether vertical movement through the levels of the higher educational system will still be possible, as it is now. What will happen if a student begins in a “career academy” but catches fire and decides to pursue a baccalaureate degree?

  • As an advocate for students with learning disabilities, I see this bill as a major step forward. Yes, the top universities may require the scholar diploma. Very few students who struggled with the end of course exams are heading that way. These bills open the door for career opportunities and funding opportunities for additional education that were previously not be available.

  • They don’t mention anything about foreign languages. They think that English and Math are the only subjects in the world to be learn. You could know a lot of English and Math, but if you really want to be someone in a globalized world, you better learn a foreign language, namely Spanish, Portuguese or Mandarin Chinese, these three languages are spoken in the new emerging powers: Latin America, Brazil and China. Get your fact straight.

    • get your Engrish straight

      • Madisen

        that was childish… and I’m a student in highschool

    • Madisen

      Today at my school they mentioned that you must complete two years of foreign language to obtain the scholar diploma? not sure.

  • This bill discriminates against people with disabilities. If enough people oppose it and write to their representatives, somethings have to be changed. I bet it was a Republican idea, they are great proposing things that make no sense at all.

  • It’s about time they realize that not EVERYONE is going to go to college. But I don’t see any relief on the English front. We are teaching crap that NO ONE needs, as dictated by the Gates Grant. Seriously? How do I defend teaching Tim Burton films instead of Homer’s Odyssey?

    • Jess Garcia

      I’m sure there are a lot of great teacher out there who would like to have your job, I mean, if you don’t like it….

    • Madisen

      When did you teach a Tim Burton film?

  • Amy

    Students could also take multiple Algebra I credits to satisfy their math requirements, I don’t like that part one bit….

  • A.C.R.

    umm foreign language, music, art, drama physical education??? no..just me?!

  • Jess Garcia

    It seems that High School graduation requirements will be “a la carte”. But at the same time why the negativity about learning more? It is a fact that high school education in the US is far behind from even third world countries, so then why not push a little more instead…

  • Jess Garcia

    Students pursuing a college education will know how important it is to have a well rounded education in order to be accepted. Standards vary from college to college, so why not prepare for that if that’s the case. And for whatever reasons, no one is making EVERYONE going to college.

  • Madisen

    This is extremely stressful. Being a high school senior, and having these changes hit all at once is overwhelming. Especial when you take into account that when I took biology, and algebra there were no EOC’s. So does that mean I am going to have to cram EOC’s into my already busy schedule, and hope I pass an exam for a class I took three years ago? I am so confused. However I must admit that I think this will benift students in the future, this is just crazy to change something so important at the last minute for seniors.

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »