Did you hear the one about the politician who came up with an impromptu plan to change state testing? It goes a little something like this.
“Mudflap” Melton was a newly- elected state representative from Gator Point, Mississippi. He relished opportunities to discuss his legislative agenda with regular folks in his community. One evening, after Wednesday night supper, some church members approached him to ask him his plans to fix a state public school testing debacle they read about in The Clarion-Ledger.
Ole Mudflap was quick on his feet, and had a habit of coming up with his best ideas on the spot, so he handed a notepad and a pencil to a teenager nearby and said, “Write all this down.” The teenager listened carefully and did his best as Representative Melton turned to face the crowd.
“Testing is important,” said Mudflap, “Because if you can’t show off what you know, what use it is? So how are we going to fix the testing situation? Well, under my plan, we’re going to upgrade in order to stay with the times. Starting next year, we’ll take our state tests on computers, not the old, tired pencil and paper method.”
A man in the back spoke up. “But what about schools where they don’t have many computers? Surely the technology situation is different from town to town.”
“Well then, we won’t give the schools just a week. We’ll give them whole testing windows,” beamed Representative Melton, “They’ll be able to test the kids gradually over 40 days or so.”
“Will there be strict rules on how to schedule all that?” asked a woman near the dessert table.
“No. I don’t believe in heavy regulation. We’ll leave it up to the local decision makers to decide how to structure their own testing schedules. They probably know how to get better scores with creative scheduling anyway.”
Now a voice from behind him called out. “And what if the taxpayers don’t like the price tag for this new test? Would you be willing to change tests from year to year?”
“Yes sir,” replied Mudflap, “I’m a supporter of flexibility… That may make the test scores hard to figure out from year to year, but I’ll always make sure I explain to you exactly how I feel public education in Mississippi is doing.”
When the boy was finished scribbling down the gist of Melton’s remarks, he handed the piece of paper to the Representative.
STATE TESTING PLAN:
1. SINCE TESTING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN LEARNING, I’LL EXPAND IT TO A 40 DAY “TESTING SEASON.”
2. I’LL CREATE STATEWIDE LOGISTICAL CHAOS THROUGH COMPETITIVE SCHEDULING.
3. IT’S OK IF THE TEST DATA IS IMPOSSIBLE TO INTERPRET; I’LL STILL BASH PUBLIC EDUCATION IN THE NEWS.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you’ll have to excuse me,” said Representative Melton, “I have just been given a harebrained education scheme that you wouldn’t believe some idiot is planning. I have to get down to Jackson right away to stop it.” And Mudflap Melton rushed out of the crowded dining hall.
Now- I don’t know about you, but I don’t know what’s crazier- Mudflap’s testing plan, or the fact that it’s actually what’s we’re doing in Mississippi schools right now!