Passing the FCAT is about to get harder.
The Florida Board of Education is poised to adopt higher scores needed to achieve each of the levels, 1-5, on the annual high-stakes test for third- through 10th-graders.
Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson announced that he would recommend increasing scores, including those for high school reading that have prompted the strongest protest from school superintendents.
"I'm confident the students and schools will rise to the challenge," Robinson said in a Thursday morning conference call with reporters. He said the new, higher high school score "raises a new standard for a new Florida and a new era."
If the changes are approved, thousands fewer Florida school children are expected to score at grade level on the test, which in turn would lower school grades and possibly open the door for more students to take advantage of vouchers and other transfers from their assigned school.
Many more third graders likely would face retention, while many more high school students are projected to fail to meet the state's graduation requirement.
The board's decision had been planned for early December. It was postponed, however, amid an increasingly heated debate about the actual number that would mean a passing score in ninth and 10th grade reading.
Superintendents long have called for the state to lower the score, contending it has been artificially high and creates the perception that high schools are performing worse than they are. Some of the state's leading proponents of changing the system in line with former Gov. Jeb Bush's education views argued that the scores should go up in order to hold students to an increasingly higher standard.