About 1,550 Palm Beach County high school seniors may not receive a diploma this month after failing their final chance to pass the 10th-grade math or reading FCAT before graduation. Those students – 87 percent of those tested – didn’t pass the reading portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, according to figures released Wednesday.

Another 510 students – 72 percent of those tested – didn’t pass the math portion. It was unclear how many of those students also failed the reading portion.

A passing score for both tests is required for graduation, which means the FCAT alone prevented nearly 14 percent of the district’s seniors from receiving diplomas.

While the rate of seniors passing the reading exam held steady since 2006, the passing rate for math dropped from 34 percent to 28 percent. For some students, the exam marked their sixth attempt and failure.

To pass, students don’t have to be working on a 10th-grade math or reading level. The minimum scores are lower than grade level.

Students who earn the required number of credits and maintain a passing grade-point average, but don’t pass either of the tests, will receive a certificate of completion on graduation day, which is not equivalent to a diploma or GED.

Students can retake the exam again in June and as many times as they want until they pass. They also can take another free year of public education to pass the tests.

According to state officials, about 8 percent of seniors statewide who otherwise meet graduation requirements won’t receive a diploma because of FCAT failures.

Some failing students may be redeemed with a good performance on other standardized tests. Students who score a minimum of 410 on the verbal portion and 370 on the math portion of the SAT or earn at least a 15 on equivalent sections of the ACT can earn diplomas as long as they have failed the FCAT at least three times.

At Royal Palm Beach High, the percentage of seniors who passed the math or reading test was equal to statewide figures, but "there is still room for improvement," Principal Jose Garcia said.

Fifteen percent passed the reading test and 26 percent passed the math exam.

At Palm Beach Lakes and Lake Worth, where a combined 223 seniors took the reading test, only 9 percent passed. At Pahokee Middle-Senior, only one of the school’s 23 students tested earned a chance for a diploma.

But there were triumphs in the mostly dismal day.

At Wellington High, all but one student passed the math exam. More than half passed the exam at Boca Raton.

Palm Beach Central High officials learned Wednesday that the percentage of their students passing the tests exceeded district averages, capping an "up-and-down kind of day," Assistant Principal Kristi Smith said.

While some students rejoiced – about 44 percent of seniors passed the math exam, ranking Palm Beach Central near the top of district schools – others were left with broken hearts, Smith said.

"A lot of these kids have been trying and trying and trying, so it’s disappointing," she said.

The news was better for Palm Beach Gardens senior Gineth Leon-Tellez, who learned she had finally passed the reading segment of the FCAT after four tries.

"This morning when I came to school, somebody called me to the office and gave me a notice that I passed the FCAT," said Leon-Tellez, who emigrated from Colombia two years ago. "I was so happy, I couldn’t concentrate in my next class."

Via Palm Beach Post