Education Readings September 19th

By Allan Alach

Guten tag!

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!


Study: Music Education Could Help Close The Achievement Gap Between Poor And Affluent Students

Why does this only help poor students? I suggest that all children benefit from music education. The poverty problem needs be solved by reducing inequality. Anything else is a cop out.

“These findings are a testament that it’s a mistake to think of music education as a quick fix, but that if it’s an ongoing part of children’s education, making music can have a profound and lifelong impact on listening and learning.”

Look at Life Through Autistic Eyes

“For their senior film at the Ringling College of Art and Design, Marisabel Fernandez and Alexander Bernard created an animated simulation of life through the eyes of a non-verbal child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) “and her constant struggle to cope with the world around her,” as they write in their artist statement.”

Link to video included in this article.

Ray Bradbury on How List-Making Can Boost Your Creativity

Here’s something to incorporate into classroom written language.

“How to feel your way toward something honest, hidden under the trapdoor on the top of your skull.”

5 reasons why we need physical activity in schools

“So, in closing, let’s increase opportunities for our students when it comes to physical activity. When we add physical activity to our overall instructional programming rather than cutting it, we might just get the results we are looking for…”

The Myth of Monotasking

This is a timely counter to GERMers spin to justify standardisation.

“… I hope, helps lower anxiety about how well we are or are not doing against some mythical standard of sustained, focused attention.  Bottom line:  the mind wanders a lot because the mind’s task is to wander.”

Teacher: Finnish schools let down two-thirds of kids

Here’s a provocative article!

“A provocative new book by teacher Maarit Korhonen calls for urgent action in Finland’s classrooms to stop children being marginalised by what she sees as outdated and uninspiring teaching. The outspoken Korhonen says Finland’s high scores in the PISA international rankings have spread complacency among the educational establishment.”

An End to the “Close Your Door and Do Your Own Thing” Era

More than ever before, we need to work together to better ourselves and our profession. In this age of high stakes testing, the need to prepare students to be college and career ready, and with a changing teacher evaluation system we need to support one another. Our success and our students’ achievement are directly tied to our commitment to learn from, with, and on behalf of one another.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

The Lowdown on Longhand: How Writing by Hand Benefits the Brain

Bruce’s comment: This sounds mighty old fashioned in this era of digital communication but the act of penmanship has a positive effect on learning. Just as the act of conservational drawing has more positive learning effects than using a digital camera. Both give the brain the time to absorb ideas, to consider alternatives, pose questions – some of us older teachers ( retired) used to believe in the importance of ‘slowing the pace’ – ‘doing fewer things well’ – to develop a more reflective mind-set ( and also allowing time for the teacher to come alongside the learner to assist and/or challenge). Students who rush to finish ( assisted by fast moving digital technology) miss out on thoughtful learning.

“So in this age of technology, I’m suggesting that students take notes with paper and pen. It’s a crazy idea, but hear me out.”

How the Maker Movement Is Moving into Classrooms

“The Maker movement is a unique combination of artistry, circuitry, and old-fashioned craftsmanship. Certainly, learning by doing or “making” has been happening since our ancestors refined the wheel.”

The Student Side of Making

What do a jacket, a set of paintings, a wood sculpture, and a series of photos have to do with a student’s success in life? Maybe everything.That’s because making these pieces requires skills for modern learners — namely, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, innovation, and persistence.

Mastering the Teaching Game

Bruce’s comment: These eight ideas by Carol Tomlinson  synthesize what four decades in classrooms have taught her are the most important principles for teachers to understand

“There are several paraphrased points that I hope will resonate with other educators as affirmations, challenges, or both. These eight ideas synthesize what four decades in classrooms have taught me are the most important principles for teachers to understand.”

Education Readings September 12

By Allan Alach

I’m early with this week’s readings list. As I’m still travelling in Croatia, it pays to make use of good wifi reception when I find it!

There are so many good articles floating around at the moment that I could post next week’s list as well, but I will spare you from that torture!

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!

STEM is incredibly valuable, but if we want the best innovators we must teach the arts

“A foundation in STEM education is exceptional at making us more efficient or increasing speed all within set processes, but it’s not so good at growing our curiosity or imagination. Its focus is poor at sparking our creativity. It doesn’t teach us empathy or what it means to relate to others on a deep emotional level.”

The Fatal Flaw Of Education Reform

“Nevertheless, I believe that this “movement” (to whatever degree you can characterize it in those terms) may be doomed to stall out in the long run, not because their ideas are all bad, and certainly not because they lack the political skills and resources to get their policies enacted. Rather, they risk failure for a simple reason: They too often make promises that they cannot keep.”

Boys Learn to Interrupt. Girls Learn to Shut Up.

“When boys and girls play together, boys interrupt more. A lot more.”

“The more boys there are in the group, the less often girls in the group interrupt.”

“When girls play together without boys, they interrupt more. A lot more.”

Why replacing teachers with automated education lacks imagination

The corporates behind GERM have this fantasy of classroom where computers do the ‘teaching’ with adults available purely as backup. All to make money, of course, and nothing to with actual education.

“The belief that technology can automate education and replace teachers is pervasive. Framed in calls for greater efficiency, this belief is present in today’s educational innovations, reform endeavours, and technology products. We can do better than adopting this insipid perspective and aspire instead for a better future where innovations imagine creative new ways to organise education.”

Are You Ready to Join the Slow Education Movement?

Education must be personalized – responsive to the real needs of each student. This could mean the abolition of grade levels based on age. When education is personalized, it emphasizes student interests, teaches skills using worthwhile content – and most important – shows kids how to tap into their own innate motivation to learn. It puts the onus of learning on those who have the most at stake in school: students.”

Beyond Caricatures: On Dewey, Freire, And Direct Instruction (Again)

This week’s ‘heavy duty’ article but don’t let that stop you from reading it! This is important.

“The empowered student necessarily requires the classroom offered by the empowered teacher. Any who teaches must first work through the philosophical evolution that Dewey and Freire represent—as well as continuing beyond the possibilities offered by Dewey’s progressivism and Freire’s critical pedagogy.”

Dispelling the Myth of Deferred Gratification:What waiting for a marshmallow doesn’t prove

By Alfie Kohn:

“Underlying self-discipline and grit is the idea of deferring gratification—for example, by putting off doing what you enjoy until you finish your “work.” The appeal to many educators of transforming kids from lazy grasshoppers to hardworking ants explains the fresh wave of interest in a series of experiments conducted back in the 1960s known as the marshmallow studies.”

Gifted primary school children need more than special classes

“Many gifted boys and girls find the gifted label stigmatising, and go out of their way to dodge the dreaded nerd status. Would these children be better off in specialised school environment? The gifted education community is sharply divided about this issue with some educators perceiving that the specialised school environment is the ideal setting for gifted children, whereas others believe that they would be better off in the regular school milieu.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Common Core’s Five Big Half-Truths

Bruce’s comment:The US has a Common Core Standards that are neither  common nor core (Sir Ken Robinson calls them a ‘race to the bottom’) New Zealand has National Standards that are neither national or standard. Both are political and populist. Both narrow the curriculum, encourage teaching the tests and side-lining of creativity and  the arts. Both are the equivalent to the ‘McDonaldisation of education’.

School is back in session, and debate over the Common Core is boiling in key states. As governors and legislators debate the fate of the Common Core, they hear Core advocates repeatedly stress five impressive claims: that their handiwork is “internationally benchmarked,” “evidence-based,” “college- and career-ready,” and “rigorous,” and that the nations that perform best on international tests all have national standards. In making these claims, advocates go on to dismiss skeptics as ignorant extremists who are happy to settle for mediocrity. The thing is, once examined, these claims are far less compelling than they appear at first glance.”

4 Big Things Transformational Teachers Do

Bruce’s comment: Are you a transformational teacher – read this then decide.

“Transformational teachers don’t react. They anticipate and prepare. Lee Shulman, as reported by Marge Scherer, suggests that expert teachers demonstrate the following, despite enormous challenges:”

Planting the Seeds of Innovation in Education

Bruce’s comment: An innovative high school class/teacher.

‘Don Wettrick is on a mission: revolutionizing the world of education by training the next generation of innovators. A reformed teacher (he taught to middle and high school students for 17 years), Don started planting the seeds of innovation at the Franklin, IN High School 3-and-a-half years ago, having found inspiration in Daniel Pink‘s book “Drive”.’

Leading the Shift to Digital: School, System & City

We’re living through the most significant shift in how human beings learn—it’s bigger deal than the printing press and happening a lot faster. Almost everyone has a stake in the quality and speed of transition from the old model organized around birthdays and books to personal digital learning. In the near future, in cities and across networks that lead the shift, we could see a significant improvement in career readiness and economic participation.”

From Bruce’s oldies but goodies file…

The corporate takeover of society and education.

“Since the early 90s society has been reshaped by a neo liberal corporate ideology. An emphasis on private enterprise and self-centred individualism has replaced an earlier concern for collective good of all members of society.   As a result of this ideological shift a wider gap has been created between the rich and poor causing a number of social concerns. Schools as part of this shift have been transformed from a community orientation to being part of a competitive cut throat ideology.”

Creativity – its place in education

Wayne Morris’s essay on education for creativity. Brilliant  – from one of Bruce’s closest associates.

“Creative students lead richer lives and, in the longer term, make a valuable contribution to society. Surely those are reasons enough to bother. Creativity in the classroom – what does it look like?”

Howard Gardner on creativity – are schools encouraging creativity? The challenge of creativity.

“By definition all life is creative and schools ought to be the best place to develop the creativity of all their students but this is currently not the case.”

Education Readings September 6th

By Allan Alach

Apologies for the delay in posting this – I’ve been in an internet free world for a few days, at Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia. Add this place to your bucket list!

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!

The ministry of education and Whale Oil: an introduction

This article describes what seems to have been a coordinated dirty politics attack (as part of a government wide dirty politics programme) on New Zealand primary principals (including me) in 2011, for daring to object to the government’s national standards in education agenda.

“And if deep collusion has occurred and basic human rights have, indeed, been transgressed, I look forward to the day when a test case for damages to individuals is undertaken, substantial damages awarded – and with that done, a process of truth and reconciliation following.”

Welcome To The Teaching Profession: Are You Ready To Go To War?

“The teachers who stay in the profession have realized that they are in the fight of their life. Teachers can no longer do what they love, what they spent years being educated to do; they have to fight for their students, their parents, their colleagues, and their selves. They have to fight against the education reformers who have never been teachers but somehow are allowed to make policies that impact other people’s children while their children go to private school.”

The Cult of Order

Yet another gem from Peter Greene – education’s version of big brother?

“Many, many, many reformsters are members of the Cult of Order.

The Cult of Order believes in blind, unthinking devotion to Order. Everything must be in its proper place. Everything must go according to plan. Everything must be under control.”

Newspapers are Bad News for Teachers

Some research from Australia that is applicable all over.

“As such, an accumulation of negative and critical media reportage about teachers is likely to erode public trust for teachers and the teaching profession. This is an unacceptable situation where a teacher’s role is made more difficult with the gaze of non-educationist onlookers ‘second-guessing’ teachers’ every move; and the status of teaching become less attractive for those contemplating their career opportunities.”

Parents, I Cannot Protect Your Children

“Parents, I cannot protect your children. I must be honest in telling you that the war is alive and well in our classrooms, and children are being harmed every day. What is happening is evil, cruel and abusive.”

Scientists Say Child’s Play Helps Build A Better Brain

Don’t know why we need scientists to tell us the obvious!

“When it comes to brain development, time in the classroom may be less important than time on the playground.”

“Got Grit?” Great on a T-shirt, not so good in a gradebook.

“Without rehashing the entire story, the basic premise is that to teach grit, the school and its teachers create an artificial obstacle or challenge that students must overcome (almost like a washout course in college).  Along the way, the mantra of “growth mindset” and “grit” are common, but the basic positive regard for students seems to be deliberately hushed.  The teachers and leaders actually avoid confidence boosting statements like, “You are a smart kid”, they discourage the usual positive comment as “dirty words” in favor of the new language of grit, “failure is success”.  This story struck me as a decent idea gone awry.”

OECD Says That Competition in Education Has Failed

The OECD has issued a damning verdict on education policies that promote competition between schools. Its latest PISA in Focus brief says bluntly that the PISA international test data shows that more competition has failed to improve student results and has increased social segregation between schools.

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

‘Grit’ May Not Spur Creative Success, Scholars Say

Seems Bruce has been following this grit meme as well…

‘Ms. Grohman found that neither grit nor two related characteristics of consistency and perseverance predicted a student’s success in various types of creative endeavors, including visual and performing art, writing, scientific ingenuity, or even creativeness in everyday problem-solving.”These are ‘no results’ that we are actually excited about,” Ms. Grohman said during a presentation on creativity. “Creative achievement and grit, intellectual creativity and grit, everyday creativity and grit: no effects whatsoever.”’

Back to School: Looking beyond the 3 R’s

Bruce’s comment: Ontario could be the first province in Canada to measure not just what students learn in school, but also how well the needs of the whole child are being met. A new programme launched this week aims to objectively examine how schools promote creativity, develop social skills and teach citizenship.

‘“These are the things schools say they have been doing for the past 100 years — developing a child’s ability to relate to others, to understand society, to appreciate the arts, to become a citizen, so let’s take it seriously and measure it,” he said. “We can measure creativity, we can measure whether a school attends to students’ mental health. We can measure whether a school provides a positive school climate.’

3 Ways to Plan for Diverse Learners: What Teachers Do

Bruce’s comment: So what do you think – formulaic teaching or student centred learning?

“Differentiated Instruction (DI) casts a spell on educators as to how it meets all students’ needs. The skillset required to differentiate seems mystical to some and incomprehensible to others in this environment of state standards and high-stakes tests. Where does one find the time? The reality is that every teacher already has the tools to differentiate in powerful ways for all learners.”

6 Scaffolding Strategies to Use with Your Students

Bruce’s comment: Some useful ideas to explore.

“What’s the opposite of scaffolding a lesson? It would be saying to students something like, “Read this nine-page science article, write a detailed essay on the topic it explores, and turn it in by Wednesday.” Yikes — no safety net, no parachute, no scaffolding — just left blowing in the wind.”

Education Readings August 29

By Allan Alach

Buon giorno from Siena, Italy. It’s a tough life but I am coping ….

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!

 Equipped for the Future

Continuing down the Common Core “road” with ELA standards that focus primarily on selective and specialized literacy skills instead of broad-based, applicable, and transferable literacy skills, make as much sense as the US Education Department announcing a new initiative to improve U.S. bike riding skills by mandating that all children learn to ride a bike without the use of training wheels, and declaring the new National Standard for being a proficient and globally competitive bike rider is…NO HANDS.”

Deskfree strategy turns classrooms into creative learning hubs that see student engagement soar

Another article on Stephen Heppell inspired developments in Australia.

“Teachers, parents and students across the state have been briefed by Professor Heppell, a global expert in learning spaces who claims students learn more effectively and behave better within “borderless learning” designs; when they have freedom to work in smaller groups and even learn standing up.”

Teaching Is Not a Business

While technology can be put to good use by talented teachers, they, and not the futurists, must take the lead. The process of teaching and learning is an intimate act that neither computers nor markets can hope to replicate. Small wonder, then, that the business model hasn’t worked in reforming the schools — there is simply no substitute for the personal element.”

How We Think: John Dewey on the Art of Reflection and Fruitful Curiosity in an Age of Instant Opinions and Information Overload

“Dewey examines what separates thinking, a basic human faculty we take for granted, from thinking well, what it takes to train ourselves into mastering the art of thinking, and how we can channel our natural curiosity in a productive way when confronted with an overflow of information.”

The Rise of the Helicopter Teacher

“The risk that helicopter parents run is that they will raise children so coddled that they have a hard time functioning on their own in the larger world. So too with the way we have infantilized our students. Afraid or unwilling to challenge them, we pass them through with perfectly good grades but without much of a sense of how to work on their own or think for themselves.”

How A Popular TV Doc Has Learned To Explain ADHD Simply

Implications for teachers?

“ADHD is like having a Ferrari engine for a brain with bicycle brakes. Strengthen the brakes and you have a champion.  People with ADHD are the inventors and the innovators, the movers and the doers, the dreamers who built America.”

The McDonaldization of Education: the rise of slow

“In regards to education, McDonaldization attempts to wipe out any of the messiness or inefficiencies of learning. Instead, it attempts to reduce it to a commodity that can be packaged, marketed and sold. Rather than cultivating a deep, holistic love of learning that touches every aspect of a student’s life, learning has been reduced to an assembly line. In reality, we’ve imposed a mechanistic view of life onto how people learn, which is largely an organic process, and at a great cost.”

Teaching Critical Thinking in Age of Digital Credulity

“Now, the enormity, ubiquity and dubious credibility of the information available to most of the world’s population is requiring each of us to become something of an expert on figuring out when we’re being misled or lied to. Perhaps, unfortunately, for the future of life online, few teachers or parents impart to young people the always useful but now essential skills of how to question, investigate, analyze and judge that link they just got in email or the factual claim they just found through a search engine.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

The New Zealand Election coming soon!!

Bruce’s comment: If you were to listen to some politicians you would think the sky is falling in but New Zealand education is in good heart. I was particularly impressed with his positive experience of secondary education. Well worth a read.

Looking back

Bruce’s comment: The Labour Manifesto’s education policy of the time made it clear what was expected in education and when elected Peter Fraser, Minister Of Education, asked the Director of Education Dr Beeby to rewrite the then Ministry of Education report to the new government to capture his ideas. Overnight Beeby wrote the following principle:

‘…that every person whatever his level of academic ability, whether rich or poor, whether he lives in the town or the country, has a right as a citizen to a free education of the kind best fitted and to the fullest extent of his power……(and that this ) will involve the reorientation of the education system.’

With the New Zealand election drawing near the choices are sharpening – or ought to be.

Bruce’s comment: It’s time for all people share in the apparent growing wealth of the few – the disparity between the rich and the poor is still growing. In schools the government talks about an ‘achievement gap’ , ignoring the effects of growing poverty and sees the solution as developing ‘super’ principals, cluster principals and lead teachers as the answer – such people obviously chosen because of their adherence to National’s policies – National Standards.

Education Readings August 22nd

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!

Rational And Evidence-Based Responses To Standards Advocates And Critics

This article will provide you with a valuable tool to support all those debates you are having  with pro-GERMers!

“A practical logic problem also exists for those advocating or criticizing standards: If I am teaching, my job is to identify where any student is in her/his learning and then to take that student farther, both in terms of direct teaching and by motivating that student to learn. That fact of real-world teaching renders detailed standards irrelevant because it doesn’t matter what a standard deems any student should know and when since the reality of that student supersedes those mandates.”

What’s the real purpose of educational benchmarking?

Very good article by Andy Hargreaves:

“Is there a second purpose of educational benchmarking then? Is it to delineate the weak from the strong, inciting nation to compete against nation, Americans against Asians, and school against school. After we have pinpointed schools that are failing, does this just make it easier for invading opportunists to set up charter schools in their place, or to market online alternatives, tutoring services and the like?”

The Opposite of Excellence

Another excellent blog by Peter Greene:

“When they talk about highly effective teachers and excellent schools and proficient students, all they are talking about is the scores on a standardized math and reading test. That’s it.”

8 Needs For Project-Based Learning In The 21st Century (thanks Tony Gurr)

“We tend to think of project-based learning as focused on research, planning problem-solving, authenticity, and inquiry. Further, collaboration, resourcefulness, and networking matter too–dozens of characteristics “fit” into project-based learning. Its popularity comes from, among other characteristics, its general flexibility as a curriculum framework. You can do, teach, assess, and connect almost anything within the context of a well-designed project.”

Let’s Stop Trying To Teach Students Critical Thinking

‘The philosopher most associated with the critical spirit is Socrates. In the 1980s, Australian philosopher John Anderson put the Socratic view of education most clearly when he wrote: “The Socratic education begins … with the awakening of the mind to the need for criticism, to the uncertainty of the principles by which it supposed itself to be guided.”’

Never Again! Now The Evidence Is Irrefutable…

Read how three separate groups have taken over American education, then use this to analyse the situation in your own country. Are there any similarities?

“Finally, each group attempting to destroy or reform public education and access the tax dollars citizens pay for public schools, violates some or all of the tenets that guide the education profession. What are some of these tenets?”

Reformers Standardize – Teachers Individualize

“Only in the field of education do we find The Professional completely superfluous. Much has been made of the public’s disregard for teachers: the idea that since you’ve graduated high school, you know what it means to be a teacher. You don’t. You don’t get a teaching certification digging around in a Crackerjack box. People earn genuine college degrees in this – many of them get masters and doctorates. Those degrees even require you to go out and do some actual teaching! Let me assure you, none of it entails reminiscing about your old high school days and all the teachers who were mean to you.”

Shifting The Point Of View

How to best develop the use of technology in education?

“Technology is advancing too fast and its effects on society for today and future are observed clearly by many institutions and they are changing themselves accordingly. Unfortunately educational institutions can not follow them since they are the most resistant ones to change. Most of the schools who are having their technology transformation nowadays are only changing their shop windows. A deeper and more realistic change can not happen until they really shift their perspective from technology to pedagogy.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

The Science Behind Classroom Norming

Bruce’s comment:Use this primer on the five stages of norming to establish a positive classroom community.

“Does the norming process take time? Yes, but when students share important values, beliefs, and goals, they accomplish more. Don’t trust me. Trust the science.”

The 5 Critical Categories of Rules

On a similar theme:

“Regardless of whether a school is open and free or traditional, limits or rules are necessary to teach students responsibility. I have identified five areas that I call critical categories which are useful when deciding what rules you need. Because rules work best when students have a say in their selection, I prefer teaching students what these critical categories mean, and developing rules together.”

Back to School: A Surefire Strategy for Building Classroom Community

And another – back to school time must be approaching in the USA!

‘… this post does not address anything related to technology or the CCSS. It addresses a topic of much greater importance — the emotional environment of the classroom. Without an excellent, intentionally designed, emotional environment (one which builds authentic community in the classroom), the standards and the technologies are of little value. As Steven Covey and many others have said, “First things first!”’

20 Things Educators Need To Know About Digital Literacy Skills

Bruce’s comment: Something to think about – even for those who struggle with digital technology.

Teaching digital literacy is about more than just integrating technology into lesson plans; it’s about using technology to understand and enhance modern communication, to locate oneself in digital space, to manage knowledge and experience in the Age of Information.”

Difficult Discussions Are The Most Important Discussions

Bruce’s comment: Making difficult decisions before your ‘train’ goes off the track!

“The best way to prevent a train from heading down the wrong track is candid discussions about the facts and clarity around why the journey should happen. But we need to do a better job at having those tough discussions earlier in the process.”

Universal Design for Learning: A Blueprint for Successful Schools

Bruce’s comment: An excellent 18 minute TED Talk – lessons from flying a jet – personalised talent based learning. A very simple message.

“Teachers confront this challenge with every lesson, activity, and course as they acknowledge that no two students learn the same way. With the added pressure to address standards, integrate technology, and prepare students with 21st Century Skills, consider the potential if school leaders could offer teachers a single strategy that would address all of their students’ needs. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) does just that.”

NAPLAN results. Teachers’ fault.

No NAPLAN Improvement – Teachers to Blame.

While many thought that results would be announced in September, NAPLAN results are available now….at least to the press. Monday 18 August S.M.H. reveals that “ Students Perform Badly in Writing Test”. The article highlighted a confusing question in the test of literacy.

1. ACARA will investigate the writing question “but suggested the reason students across all years scored lower in writing compared to 2011 may have been because schools overprepared for the test.”.

Of course it’s the teachers’ fault. “Please explain”…how? Testors know more about classrooms than teachers do, it seems; so blame is apportioned by all-knowing testor to testee. That’s professional behaviour?

2. “Some schools prepare for the test at the expense of the curriculum in order to achieve better marks.”

Now there’s a revelation for ACARA. It did not know this; so, It tried to be tricky this year and “did not reveal whether the writing task would be a narrative or persuasive piece.” The children were asked “which law or rule would you make better in your view?” One wonders how many marks the pupil who wrote about getting rid of NAPLAN received. All we know is that his mother gave him 10/10 and was very proud of him. That’s something.

3. Test expert Dr. Randall conceded that the test “…may have been confusing for some primary school students.” That’s testing expertise in action! Reliablity used to be an essential in test preparation!

4. The test experts reveal that “…teachers are teaching to the test.” Well! Fancy that ! These experts tricked the teachers this year! “In a bid to stamp this out, this year ACARA did not reveal whether the writing task would be a narrative or persuasive piece.” ACARA is now one up in the dirty tricks department. They hoodwinked the kids and blamed the teachers. Since such activity reveals that the aim is not to assess performance but to score points in the contest between testor and teacher, what is being proved? Will Tom Waterhouse be allowed able to run a book. on next year’s contest? Pupils and schools will now have to purchase more test-practice books, attend more tutoring shops, take more performance-enhancing supplements and listen more to testucator’’s advice than to educator-classroom-teachers. It could be called the Pyne/Murdoch solution. Robustness! Phonics! Direct Teaching!

5. “In NSW we have seen a substantial increase in the number of students undertaking the writing test who received a zero score, indicating that they did not attempt the task at all.” said a spokesman for the NSW Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards. “This is most evident for the younger years, particularly year 3.” What do teachers and test experts make of this ? How can statements be made about performance if the animals can’t or don’t perform?

6. In this kind of State of Origin contest, the blues have won hands down. “NSW also has the highest participation rate in the country.” That’s a win?.

The case for the abandonment of NAPLAN rests. Now, what should be the punishment for those who dare to corrupt the intellectual development of our young with this sort of nonsense? Where’s the ethics? Is the a code of ethics for testucators as there is for educators?

Teachers over prepare! Schools neglect the curriculum! Young children can’t answer a question! ACARA will investigate itself!

Assessment? Reliable? Effects on Classes? Effects on Learning?

Phil Cullen {……… for the kids that are damaged] 41 Cominan Avenue, Banora Point , Australia 2486 07 5524 6443    http://

Education Readings August 15th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!


A Big Problem with Ed Research

If this article is accurate (and there’s no reason to suspect otherwise) then the basis of Hattie’s mega-analysis research may have been severely undermined.

‘It means that very likely a great deal of what’s passed off as research-based knowledge is information that has never been checked, the result of just one piece of research. Imagine if you were seriously ill and your doctor said, “Well, there’s this one treatment that only one guy did only this one time, and he thought it turned out well.”’

Revisiting Content And Direct Instruction

This is a very important article about the battle for education in America (and applicable elsewhere) over the last century. The seeds of today’s problems were sown a long time ago, and survive, in spite of visionaries such as Dewey and Freire.

“Before diving into the content and direct instruction debates, I want to address what is really going on. You don’t have to read George Orwell or Ray Bradbury to know this (although you should*), but the powerful in any society recognize that those who control knowledge (and language is knowledge) ultimately control everything. Thus, to codify what is known, what counts as knowledge, and what facts mean is to establish power.”

A Conversation On Lessons From Finland

More from Pasi Sahlberg, this time in conversation with an Australian educator. Very applicable all over, especially in the usual five Anglo-Saxon dominated countries.

“Your question about the value of PISA is like asking what do you think about fire! They are both useful and can benefit our lives significantly if we know how to deal with them. Unfortunately PISA is often like a box of matches in the hands of a child. PISA certainly has had negative consequences in some places where it has taken the driver’s seat in determining priorities in national education policies. There are a number of countries now (including Australia) that have formulated their goals in education to be on the top of the global league tables. An over-reliance on reaching such targets, by insisting that schools and teachers focus on a narrow area of academic achievement at the expense of broader learning and personal development goals, may have worrying effects later on.”

The Time is Now

An article by Dr Robert Valiant, sourced from the US website Defend-Ed.

“I have been doing a little reading on one of my true loves, brain research, and would like to take a moment to say that rapid growth in the field is producing astounding findings that are important to those of us in the brain business, teaching and learning. I am, of course, dismayed by the current education reform efforts, most of which appear to be diametrically opposed to the new research findings. I won’t go into detail here, but even on the macro level the predatory reformers have it wrong.”

Manufactured education

Another blog posting from UK academic Steve Wheeler:

“And yet standardisation, synchonisation and centralisation stubbornly persist in a few notable enclaves. Perhaps the most notorious resistance to the technological wave comes from the state education systems.” And:

‘The factory model of education persists, because in the mind of its proponents, it is still the most efficient, cost effective way to train the workforce of the future. And yet, according to critics such as Sir Ken Robinson, this is not the way forward. In a recent speech, Robinson intoned: “We still educate children by batches. We put them through the system by age group. Why do we do that? Why is there an assumption that the most important thing kids have in common is their date of manufacture?”’

“Education As Great Equalizer” Deforming Myth, Not Reality

A very comprehensive article that debunks the neoliberal myth that education is the solution to poverty.

“So, you are 2.5x more likely to be a rich adult if you were born rich and never bothered to go to college than if you were born poor and, against all odds, went to college and graduated. The disparity in the outcomes of rich and poor kids persists, not only when you control for college attainment, but even when you compare non-degreed rich kids to degreed poor kids!”

Growth Mindset – The Holy Grail Of Education?

“The author of mindset theory, Carol Dweck, cited neuroscience research that examined brain activity of students when receiving feedback. Students were asked various questions and then told whether they were right or wrong. If they were wrong, they were also told what the correct answer was. Pretty much every student’s brains were active when being told whether they were right or wrong but only growth mindset students’ brains remained active to hear what the correct answer was if they had made a mistake.”

Ranking and Sorting: The Sordid History of Standards and Tests

Very important article by Anthony Cody, which will give you the essential understanding of the whole testing and standards movement. It’s not nice.

“One of my heroes was the late Stephen Jay Gould, who devoted his life to exploring and explaining the intricacies of evolution. In his book, The Mismeasure of Man, he reveals the roots of standardized testing in the work of Lewis Terman, who brought to us the first widely applied tests, building on the work of Binet, who had pioneered intelligence tests for inductees into the Army during World War 1.”

“This “science” of measurement was also connected to a movement called “eugenics.” It was seen as undesirable for the less intelligent to reproduce, since their offspring would be inferior, and thus a burden to society. And there were heavy racial implications as well.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

6 Things You Should Know About The Future

Bruce: “The future’s not what it used to be!!”

“That’s the funny thing about the future.  It’s never as fantastic as we hope nor as horrible as we fear.  The one thing that’s for sure is that times will change and we will have to adapt. While there is no way of knowing exactly how that change will play out, we can identify trends, make common sense judgments about where they lead and prepare for them.”

Why phonetic spelling isn’t effective

GERMers seem to love phonics as the solution to everything (e.g State of New South Wales in Australia). They obviously haven’t read Frank Smith.
However, it seems to me, that those people who want phonetic spelling have not thought through all the problems that would be created by it. The problem is that different people pronounce some words differently and so would spell them differently phonetically. Amongst people who speak English there are many different types of accents and thus pronunciations.”

15 Things Every Teacher Needs from a Principal

Bruce’s comment:Seems an insightful list to me.

‘“Principalship” entails many things, but at its core, it is—and has always been—about building trusting relationships. We may balance the budget and successfully maintain the building; we may ensure that teachers have the necessary resources and all the professional development opportunities in the world…but if we fail to build trusting relationships, what good are balanced budgets, “SMART” classrooms, one-for-one programs, and squeaky clean amenities?’

From Bruce’s oldies but goodies file:

The corporate takeover of society and education.

This is the GERM that needs to be challenged – the key issue of the upcoming NZ election. One of Bruce’s most popular blogs.

“As part of the corporate strategy was the demeaning the teaching profession through finger pointing and blaming them for student failure while at the same time ignoring the effects of poverty on student achievement. The market forces  corporate ideology places value on hardnosed economic growth and demonizes teachers and schools as failing students and being stuck in the past. To reform this seemingly failing situation a standardised model has been implemented which has resulted in a one dimensional approach to education with success being determined and measured by narrow literacy and numeracy levels in primary school and NZCEA levels in secondary.”

Another expert on teacher quality? Disruptive or dangerous?

While this article is about New Zealand, it discusses a problem common to all GERM countries, and also the OECD, where economists feel qualified to comment on education and teacher quality. Dangerous.

“No one would challenge Makhlouf’s assertion that education is the key to economic success but how one defines achievement ( in a narrow literacy / numeracy sense, or the development of student’s talent and gifts) needs debating. And as for Makhloufs enthusiasm for performance pay, once again, this depends on what is counted as achievement. Performance pay has had a checkered career in the US. Makhlouf , being an economist, believes it is all about collecting data to measure success. Simplistic stuff – important learning  attributes defy easy measurement.”

Basing education around student inquiry.

Bruce’s comment: This popular blog  outlines a discovery approach NZ creative teachers at all levels are aware of.

“Well-executed PBL begins with the recognition that, as in the real world, it’s often difficult to distinguish between acquiring information and using it. Students learn knowledge and elements of the core curriculum, but also apply what they know to solve authentic problems and produce results that matter. Students focus on a problem or challenge, work in teams to find a solution to the problem, and often exhibit their work to an adult audience at the end of the project.”

The Blue School

“The Blue School in Lower Manhattan was established by members of the Blue Sky Company -a company involved in helping organisations develop creative ideas.They wanted to establish a school that celebrated the creativity and ideas of children – they wanted to establish a school they would have liked to have gone to – a dream school for their own children. They wanted school committed to keeping alive the sense of wonder, play and joy of young children. The school currently caters for children from 2 to 6. The ideas will not be new to creative teachers, particularly those that ‘teach’ younger children but their emphasis on making student inquiry central is a challenge to us all in these day of making literacy and numeracy achievement central.”

This week’s contributions from Phil Cullen

A History of Blanket Testing

This is a powerful article from Phil that discusses his experience of Minimum Competency Testing in the USA in 1980. You will notice that apart from a change of name to common core standards, not much has changed.

This is a must read.

“Did I hear you say that things are different these days? Well. This is a personal account from back when. In 1980, I visited the USA and the UK for the express purpose of studying the Minimum Competency Movement in the USA and the Assessment of Performance Unit in the UK, both politically-produced ordurous reactions to the Back to Basics meme of the 1970s. The 70’s “standards debate” had been a vicious attack on schooling that was lasting far too long. In Australia, it was led by “The Bulletin” and one or two conspicuous non-teaching attention-grabbers in each state. It died in Australia as it deserved to do before the the educational dementia of national blanket testing set in. Not so in USA. Sad consequences there as reported below.”