How did Florida's students go from among the lowest performers in the nation on federal reading exams to among the top in the nation in just 11 years?
That was the question posed to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who was in Oklahoma for two days promoting Florida's education reforms and stumping for two GOP candidates on the ballot in November: Janet Barresi for state superintendent of schools and U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, who is running for governor.
"It was a suite of reforms that yielded slight student improvement each year, which yielded us above the national average over time," Bush said Wednesday morning at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel after a fundraiser for Barresi.
Bush took office in 1998 when students were scoring below the national average on federal reading tests. When he departed eight years later, student scores were well above the national average.
Florida students have made huge gains on the gold standard of standardized tests, the National Assessment of Educational Progress. In fact, Florida's large Hispanic population, a group of students that historically performs poorly on standardized tests, are outscoring Oklahoma's student population.
Oklahoma students have remained stagnant on the exams, showing little improvement or regression over the past 10 years. Gains have been made in a few subjects and a few grade levels over the years, but by and large test scores have remained the same.
Bush's day in Oklahoma proceeded from there with a presentation to members of the Oklahoma House and Senate about Florida's comparative educational success.
He encouraged Oklahoma lawmakers to cut through bureaucracy.