Tallahassee, Florida - The latest round of FCAT scores show only 56 percent of third graders passed this year's reading test and 58 percent passed math.
That performance is about the same as last year but this year's test is harder. The state Board of Education approved higher standards last December for this spring's FCAT.
More Info: 2012 FCAT results
K-12 Chancellor Pam Stewart says about 36,000 students failed the reading test. That means they cannot be promoted to 4th grade unless they successfully complete some alternatives.
"We look at portfolio work and they can do a summer reading camp and their performance in that summer reading camp and a follow-up equivalent test then they can be moved to the fourth grade."
Florida has made a lot of changes to the FCAT in recent years, prompting confusion and frustration for a lot of students and parents.
Stewart says the changes are intended to make sure students are better prepared for college and careers of the future.
"In Florida when we have raised standards, or raised expectations, there has been an initial dip and then over time everyone makes the adjustments that are necessary and our students continue to improve and do better and we expect that as well. We've not sat back and said, 'Well, this is good enough.' We have continued to strive for more excellence and move forward so that does require change."
Stewart says the Department of Education "retrofitted" scores from last year to mesh with this year's tougher test. She says the process of making those numbers line up accurately was not a way to manipulate the numbers.
"Not manipulation. Last year's scale was a four digit scale and this is a three digit scale so a student might have earned an 1100 last year. That would equate to, or be the equivalent to, or retrofitted to a 220 this year."
Of the 36,000 students who failed the FCAT reading test, it's estimated about half will be retained in third grade.