According to Florida law, to receive a standard diploma from a public school, you must "meet all academic requirements," which means that you must pass the Reading and Mathematics Sunshine State Standards (SSS) section of the Grade 10 FCAT. In addition, you must take the required courses, earn enough credits, and maintain overall passing grades.
If you haven't passed the Grade 10 FCAT, you can receive a Certificate of Completion, which just isn't the same as a high school diploma in the eyes of both the Florida government and college admissions officers.
Starting in 2010, you must also pass the Grade 10 FCAT Writing+ exam to receive your diploma.
What exactly is a passing grade, you might ask? The Florida State Board of Education determines those numbers, but at present, here are the scores to shoot for:
That certainly puts a lot of weight on a single test day. On any given day, though, things don't always go as planned. If you're a good student but did poorly on the FCAT for whatever reason — a bad head cold, a distracting family emergency, a bad hair day — you have another option. You can still receive your diploma if you earn a score on the ACT or SAT that is comparable to an FCAT passing score. Since the 2003-2004 school year, those "comparable scores" have been as follows:
If you don't pass the FCAT on your first go, you have up to six chances to retake the test before graduation. That is, you can retake the test during the fall, spring, and summer of your junior and senior years. If you need additional instruction in order to pass the FCAT, you can enroll in school for a 13th year and continue to take the FCAT until you pass.