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Teenager Stumps Gov. Bush On FCAT Question

Susan Notes: In any Q&A with any politico, ask them a question from a state exit exam.

The TV station is running a poll with this article:

Do you think the state of Florida should get rid of the FCAT?
Choice Votes Percentage of 5490 Votes

Yes 3807 69%
No 1502 27%
Not sure 181 3%

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 three-four-five-triangle?"

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 180?"

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."



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