The chocolate milk debate as a test writing prompt is dead in Connecticut to all grade levels.
Yes, that old stalwart, “Should there be chocolate milk in schools?” offered to students as a standardized writing prompt was made null and void with one stroke from Governor Malloy’s pen. According to Hartford Courant, (6/12/14) Malloy Veto Keeps Chocolate Milk On School Lunch Menus,
“to the vast relief of school kids, nutritionists, milk producers and lawmakers, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy used his veto power Thursday to kill a bill that would have banned chocolate milk sales in Connecticut schools.”
Apparently, the same nutritional charts, editorials, and endorsements from dairy groups organized in packets and given to students from grades 3-11 to teach how to incorporate evidence in a fake persuasive argument under testing conditions was convincing enough to have real CT residents make a persuasive argument for legislators. As a result, Governor Malloy quaffed down a container of chocolate milk just before vetoing a bill that would have banned the sale of chocolate milk in schools. His official statement (below) on the reason for the veto illustrates a kind of capitulation as he countermanded efforts to prohibit drinks with more than 4 grams of sugar an ounce and no artificial sweeteners:
“Ideally, students will choose to drink unflavored, nonfat milk. Chocolate milk contains unnecessary calories, sugar, as well as sodium….Research shows, however, that when chocolate milk is removed as an option, total milk consumption goes down and milk waste increases, presumably because students who do not like the taste of unflavored milk throw it away..” (Malloy)
The surrender in this skirmish against the battle of obesity or our governor’s admission of the incredible wastefulness of Connecticut students are not the only casualties of this veto. The chocolate milk debate was a “one-size-fits-all” writing prompt suitable for grades 3-11 complete with grade appropriate evidence and a plethora of writing exemplars created by students at each grade level to ensure calibrated grading. This prompt will be hard to replace.
But let us not lose hope. If chocolate milk has been authorized by the Constitution State based on those repeated arguments made by schoolchildren, maybe other prompts could be developed in order to train future residents and provide them with evidence to make persuasive arguments to tackle more serious problems plaguing the state. Every writing prompt could be used as for “crowd-sourcing” solutions, and there could be language for both the elementary school and high school writers.
Here are a few suggestions:
- There could be a writing prompt directed towards the disparity in per pupil spending in the state titled, “What My School Needs to Help Me Learn” (elementary) or “Should We Compete with Money Spent on Education in the Town Next Door?” (high school);
- There could be a writing prompt incorporating information to building a job force for graduates titled, “What Jobs Would I Like When I Grow Up in CT?” (elementary) or “How Can Industries and Jobs Be Sought and Brought to CT?” (for high school);
- There could be a writing prompt to address the increase of time spent in standardized testing itself, a minimum of seven to eight hours of instructional time annually at each grade level, titled, “What I Know that a Test Does Not Ask Me” (elementary) or “Should the Only Measure of a CT Education be a Standardized Test?” (high school)
The debate that led to the veto of a chocolate milk ban pales in comparison with some of the critical issues in public education that CT legislators should be tackling. Maybe, having students research how to address real CT problems in order to make authentic arguments may contribute to legislation that will prove helpful to the future of the state. The writing prompt to “write to your state senator or congressional legislator” could be delivered for “authentic” learning.
Of course, legislators may find many of those persuasive arguments made by students harder to swallow than chocolate milk..