Teenager Stumps Gov. Bush On FCAT
July 6, 2004
UPDATED: 5:13 pm EDT July 6, 2004
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Gov. Jeb Bush had come to pitch the virtues of
reading, but instead got stumped on a math question Tuesday.
During a speech to high school students who mentor younger
children in reading, a teenager asked the governor a basic geometry question
taken from the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, which Bush has championed.
"Me and a couple of my friends ... we know that the FCAT is a very
important part of schooling in Florida and we were wondering if
you could answer one of the questions we remember from the FCAT?" said Luana
Marques, 18, who just graduated from Freedom High School in Orange County and is
heading to Flagler College in the fall.
The luncheon crowd at an Orlando hotel, gathered to honor 200
students who take part in the Teen Trendsetters Reading Mentor program, laughed
and Marques posed the question: "What are the angles on a
The governor gave a steely grin and then stalled a bit. "The
angles would be ... If I was going to guess ... Three-four-five.
Three-four-five. I don't know, 125, 90 and whatever remains on
Marques had an answer, although it wasn't the right one: "It's 30-60-90."
The correct answer was 90 degrees, 53.1 degrees and 36.9 degrees, said Michelle
Taylor, a graduate student in mathematics at the University of Florida, when
told about the governor's pop quiz.
Bush thanked Marques for the answer and then launched into a
defense of the FCAT test. To graduate, every Florida public school student must
pass the FCAT or, after three failures, a college entrance exam like the SAT.
The FCAT is also the basis for the grades each public school
receives. Those grades govern which schools get an extra $100 per student as a
reward and which failing schools stand to see students receive tax-funded
vouchers to attend private school.
Critics of the test have long complained that it's unfair to
black and Hispanic students in urban districts. Critics also have argued that
students in predominantly white districts are better prepared for the exam than
students in urban schools partly because of financial disparities.
"If the point is, I haven't been in school for the last 30 years,
that's true. But if I'm going to be graduating from high school and I
can't pass a 10th-grade aptitude test, then I'm fooling myself," Bush said. "The
fact that a 51-year-old man can't answer a question, is
really not relevant. You're still going to have to take the FCAT and you're
still going to have to pass it in order to get a high school degree."
Marques said later that she had asked the governor the math
question only as a joke but she does believe the governor and others who call
for the use of the test should be able to pass it.
"I think I offended him," Marques said of the governor. "I don't
think he had much of a sense of humor."