Some Useful Readings

The Treehorn Express

Treehorn, the hero of Florence Patty Heidi’s The Shrinking of Treehorn is still asking , “Isn’t there anybody out there with enough clout to change things around?  No politician who has the gumption to ask in the party rooms, ‘Why do our children suffer this messy testing business?’   What’s wrong with our parents, teachers, principals ? Must they continue to ignore me as they did when I was shrinking? Don’t they understand children? What’s wrong with you all?”

Maybe, Treehorn, they don’t read enough.


Some Useful Readings

Give yourself an hour or two. Just sit down with a notebook and pen and read the four articles below very carefully, huh? They have special messages. Take your time. Think about the issues.

1.     “Why did I leave my child at a test-focussed school as long as I did?” Jolisa Gracewood seems to ask. She was a very involved, very school-committed parent who worried about the influence of a testing culture on her child’s attitude to learning.  This story is for those parents who let such worries last too long.

2.      Are you sick of hearing about Finland being the end-all of purposeful schooling? Yes? I reckon, too,  that Australia can do better, following similar beliefs of course,  better done. We also have the personnel. Check out these beliefs however before you start writing to your local member. Finland is so very, very learning oriented. Here are two on-the-spot reports of what they do, written by some  experienced folk.

This first one is lengthy – 5 pages. Hang in there. The detail is important.

The second one, from Samuel E Abrams wraps things up succinctly – 2 pages.  Read both and plan a schooling system for Australia that works better. I’ll wager that your first suggestion will be to dispense with Naplan. Finns would.

3.    CURRICULUM Leadership in schools is essential. In most countries, especially Australia, existing quality leadership can be diverted from the ‘curriculum’ component in the face of other imposed demands. Sage Kelvin Smythe, former Chief Inspector of Schools for New Zealand, writes of its importance; and compares it with managerial leadership fostered by our super-clueless administrative theorists a couple of decades ago; and we have been saddled with it’s ridiculousness ever since. Plumbers have been running the garage and square pegs fitted into round holes in too many instances.

“In a way, curriculum-driven leadership is everything that managerial leadership isn’t :- home-grown, holistic, broad-based, curriculum derived and concentrated, teacher informed, practical,  aim and essence based, being-there evaluation, democratic, interrogative, and an art.” says Kelvin.

Enjoy the reading and the note taking.

Thanks to Allan Alach & Kelvin Smythe for sharing.


Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2870

07 5524 6443

Please tell everyone about what you have just read. Don’t forget your local member. There could be a party meeting soon.

Rebel Math Curriculum

The  Treehorn  Express

Treehorn is not feeling well. He was immortalised by Florence Parry Heidi in The Shrinking of Treehorn but it doesn’t seem to have done him or his school friends any good. Nobody with any clout cares about them. No groups of parents; no groups of teachers; no party of politicians…just nobody at all. Well, it’s not obvious.  Adults keep talking about things like carbon tax, illegal migrants, naughty parliamentarians, football finals …evanescent topics by comparison with the learning welfare of kids at school….the crazy inequalities… the country’s future….schooling and learning.

You would think that teachers had enough organisational ability and political acumen to make ‘TESTING’  the Number One issue for the forthcoming elections, wouldn’t you?

Don’t lose hope, Treehorn. Something will happen. When Naplan testing is stopped; is dead, ‘buried and cremated’… you will be able to grow to 10 feet in height and turn purple, pink and maroon in celebration.You’ll love schooling then because it will be about learning and beauty and challenge and fair-dinkum self-activated achievement. Can you imagine, then, what our country will be capable of doing?


Rebel Math Curriculum

School principal, Allan Alach referred me to a blog  Thank you, Allan. It was such fun to read and I know that everyone will enjoy it. Please bear with me while I quote some pieces. Kleinists will prefer not to read the lot, in any case. Learners will have fun. The article opens with an extract from Paul Lockhart’s A Mathematician’s Lament :-

“LOWER SCHOOL MATH. The indoctrination begins. Students learn that mathematics is not something you do, but something that is done to you. Emphasis is on sitting still, filling out worksheets, and following directions. Children are expected to master a complex set of algorithms for manipulating Hindi symbols, unrelated to any real desire or curiosity on  their part, and regarded only a few centuries ago as too difficult for the average adult. Multiplication tables are stressed, as are parents, teachers and the kids themselves.”

Inside the article itself,  the author describes our present-day schooling systems:- “Within the Educational Empire, there are Official Imperial Standards which teachers must adhere to or they will be fired and annual multiple-choice tests that students must take as if their lives depended on them. As Imperial masters routinely state, students who do poorly on these tests will die poor and lonely, and students who do well on these tests will go on to an Empire approved Private Academy where they will accumulate massive debts which must be repaid to the Empire through decades of hard labour.”

In the Conclusion to his advocacy for a Rebel Maths curriculum,  he says, “In this Rebel Education, gone are the days of Algebra, Geometry, More Algebra, Trigonometry and Calculus. Gone are the days of lengthy multiple choice tests. Teachers assess students by analysing the products they create and encourage the students themselves to reflect critically on their own creations. Students are not pressured to meet Imperial standards, but instead be responsible for setting their own goals for improvement each semester. The students don’t feel like they are competing to score higher than their classmates, but instead learn to recognise that each of their classmates has a different set of skills and that by cooperating they can achieve things that they could not do alone. While the Empire is pumping out clone after clone, the Rebels are producing a diverse array of students with varying sets of knowledge and skills.

Which students do you think would be happier and more successful in life? Those with their Empire prescribed cookie-cutter education? Or those from the Rebel academies?”

[Apologies for the oft-mentioned word ‘student’. I wasn’t brave enough to change it to the correct name:- “pupil – one who learns with a teacher”.]

Might I  refer back to two-Treehorns–ago about the beauty and challenges of Maths?  Monday’s satellite photo of hurricane Irene showed Fibonacci’s discoveries pretty clearly, didn’t it? I wonder how many present-day pupils noticed that….or how many Kleinists would care. Just a point.


What do you think a country could do, if it treated Mathematics as a thing of beauty and achievement and challenge – instead of trying to produce  cookies all the same size and shape.



A comment and story, printed in the Washington Post on Monday, [29-08-2011] has just arrived. Thank you Marion Brady. It is certainly relevant to the present discussion on the bastardisation of beautiful Mathematics; and on the government’s use of low-level methods of control of teachers – the reward and coercive powers- which only bring lower-level responses from the teaching force.

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Poinr

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443

Please share this with as many folk as possible…especially your local member,  Naplan is dangerous.

A Test for Your Own Point of View.

The Treehorn Express

Treehorn is a little primary school pupil, immortalised by Florence Parry Heidi in The Shrinking of Treehorn, whom  adult carers preferred  to ignore…just like all primary school children in this new “Age of Stupid’, as it has been described. Forced to go to factory-style schools [See Sir Ken Robinson below], primary school pupils just have to tolerate the controls, whims and dictates of test-publishers and their friends:- the new-age politicians, school-bare measurers and compliant schoolies. Like Treehorn, school pupils have no friends; at least none with enough clout to help them. Treehorn and his friends [we too] know that adults just don’t care much about little kids at school. This little share-it-all, bare-it-all occasional newsletter is dedicated to the unfortunate Treehorn and his fellow school pupils.


A Test for Your Own Point of View

This is a simple test for those who believe that primary and secondary school children need to be helped to develop their idiosyncratic and natural learning potential; and who think that pupils need to feel confident in extending their personal achievements to the  nth degree without restrictions. If you believe this, you will agree with Sir Ken Robinson who describes what present-day schooling is all about. It takes about 12 minutes to view….many more minutes to think about.  Some folk will have seen it already. It is a definitive presentation and pleads for absorption. Keep it as a favourite.

If you subscribe to the tenets of the presentation, please tell others.  Make sure that your local politician sees it. Like the rest of us, they have some learning to do.There is hope for Treehorn and other school children if you just do this little thing. It doesn’t hurt and could do mankind a great deal of good. If you wish to confirm your point-of-view, then  have a look at what Yong Zhau has to say.  When he says”NCLB or ‘No Chlld Left Behind’, substitute Naplan for Australia and ‘National Standards’ for NZ. When he says Arne Duncan, substitute Barry McGaw for  Australia and Gillard for Obama. Simple.

If you, in any way,  support the Kleinist [fear driven] standardised blanket-testing regimes, such as Naplan,  you will not enjoy the presentations. If you know of any presentation that shows that your blanket tests are of benefit to schooling, to children’s learning or to the welfare of the country, I should like to read it. It will need to be as definitive as that of Sir Ken’s, however, and show that the administration of such tests displays a love for children and their learning development. ….and is not used just to gather scores.

I confess to being, unashamedly,  on the same wave-length as these Sir Ken and Yong, together with others who are prepared to state their views publically and loudly about schooling and learning….folk like Allan Alach, Sir Robin Alexander, Peter Beatts, Marian Brady, Matt Damon, John Goodlad, Bruce Hammonds, Goldie Hawn, Douglas Hislop, David Hornsby, Alfie Kohn, Marian Lewis, Mary E Mackay, Susan Ohanian,  Diane Ravitch, Kelvin Smythe, Valerie Strauss, Save Our Schools, Paul Thomson, Margaret Wu.  There must be many many others [I’d like to learn of their work]. Few would wish to join  with the Kleinists :-Gates, Gillard, Klein, Murdoch, Brendan Nelson willingly…would they?….surely not. Whoever does, must have other reasons.

So the test is simple. Click on both sites and absorb the comment. If you agree, you are a LEARNER. If you support or approve of blanket testing [e.g.Naplan], you are a KLEINIST . Simple. Test yourself.

(Thanks to Dr. Marian Lewis, USQ, for the clips)


*You may have heard on ABC Radio 612 on Sunday 28 August, 2011 [Yesterday] the Manager of the Milton Fish Markets in Brisbane tell interviewer Warren Boland that there is a noticeable increase in the sales of fish when schools hold their examinations. He said that many parents believe that a heavy intake of Omega3 clears the mind for tests.  Ye Gods!  Fair dinkum!

*You may also have read where the unfortunate young lady, Madeleine Pulver, who had to wear a neck bomb for some hours, had to recover as soon as possible from the trauma so that she could prepare for another [even greater] trauma…her schools’ trial tests for the forthcoming HSC; the big one! Ye GODS!

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan AvenueBanora Point

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443



It’s Not On the Test

The Treehorn  Express

 Treehorn, immortalised by author Florence Parry Heide and cartoonist Edward Gorey, and his school mates continue to be treated badly to satisfy…..

the greed of  mega-rich publishers;

the election prospects of compliant hench-pollies;

the ambitions of sychophantic, sciolist  ‘educators’……who use

taciturn, confused, obedient teachers… apply fear-driven tests and a distorted curriculum to….

anxious children who do as they are told.

So: Stop Naplan


It’s Not on the Test [Tom Chapin]

You have probably seen this song sung before. Last year at this time…just before the US blanket testing of measureables …the clip featured a father singing the song to his drowsy son who was about to go to sleep; mentioning the things that he and his son would like learn more about :- Music, Art, Debating, Thinking….. that are put to one side.  “They never teach anything not on the test” he sings. It sounds as if the lad’s school was a real test factory. Many are. Can’t blame them.

Click on “Accurate, Though Sad, Music Video on Standardized Test” below and sing along. It’s a catchy tune.

Go on to sleep now little grader of mine,

The test is tomorrow but you’ll do just fine.’

It’s Reading and Math: forget all the rest.

You don’t need to know what is not on the test.

Each box that you tick on each test that you take,

Remember your teachers; their jobs are at stake.

Your score is their score, but don’t get all stressed;

They never teach anything not on the test.

The school board is faced with ‘No Child Left Behind’,

With rules but no funding; they’re caught in a bind;

So Music and Art and the things you love best

Are not in the school ‘cos they’re not on the test.

Sleep, sleep and you’ll progress,

You’ll learn there’s a lot that is not on the test.

zdebate is a skill that is useful to know

Unless you’re in Congress or talk-radio;

Where Shouting and Spouting and Spewing are blessed,

As rational discourse was not on the test.

Thinking’s important; it’s good to know how.

Someday you’ll learn to; but somedays’ not now.

Go on to sleep now; you’ll need your rest.

Don’t think about thinking; it’s not on the test.

 Accurate, Though Sad, Music Video On Standardized Tests

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443

Please share with as many others as possible.

Think of the kids,

Naplan has to stop.

The Beauty of Number

The  Treehorn  Express

Treehorn, immortalised by Florence Parry Heidi in The Shrinking of Treehorn, continues to be treated badly, together with his present-day school friends, to satisfy the greed of mega-rich test-publishers, the election prospects of compliant hench-pollies; and the ambitions of sycophantic, sciolist educators who provide immoral, destructive testing devices,  through sad, unfortunate, obedient schoolies, to small children who also do as they are told. Treehorn understands the shape of what they do, but not why they do it. He’d like to learn properly, but nobody cares about him.


Is it the End of the Beauty of Number?

A recent email from a primary-principal friend was composed upon his return from a meeting with fellow principals where modifications were being suggested for the administration of the national blanket testing scheme [called ‘Naplan’ in Australia, ‘National Standards’ in N.Z, ‘National Testing’ in the U.K.; and ‘NCLB’ in the U.S.A.] for mathematics. He seemed so disappointed, sad and angry that his fellow principals were working on ways to dilute the poison instead of planning to throw it out.  Stakeholders from academia trying to sanctify the measurement of ‘standards’ were there to lead the instruct/assess/analyse discussion ….and many principals co-operated.

Amongst other things in his lengthy letter, he said, “I’m left with this uneasy feeling that this pattern of instruction/assessment does not have its roots in established learning theories and that it reflects some other kind of approach that is akin to the ‘standards movement’ with its origins in the economic supply side of education ideology.

It sure doesn’t feel like anything I would consider examples of quality mathematics programs (carefully avoiding the jargon of ‘best practice’). I guess that I’ve developed my own feel and vision for mathematics over the 35+ years of my teaching career, and the things I heard today are clashing with this mindset. For the life of me, as a teacher who really enjoyed teaching mathematics, I can not see why in-depth ‘assessment’, and the like, is necessary for every area of mathematics. Exposing children to genuine real life [avoiding ‘authentic’ –ugh] opportunities to explore and use mathematics is much better.

The source of my irritation is the relentless talk about assessment being necessary as a lead-in to learning. The phrase ‘assessment to learn’ is a good example. It is a very deficit-focussed model indeed, and the underlying philosophy is that ‘achievement’ [how I hate that word] is measured and ‘deficiencies’ corrected.

To me, that is the wrong end of the horse. We should be feeding the horse with the highest quality nutrition, in the best possible living conditions and not waste our time ‘assessing’ what comes out. The tendency of principals to buy into this approach, regardless of their attitudes towards national blanket testing, suggests that they do not have an underlying knowledge of learning itself, on which to base their school’s teaching and learning. Alternatively, or equally, their view of education is very didactic and dependent on tight school control and class programs. I can think of no other reason why they would ask their teachers to spend so many hours of their valuable time ‘processing data’……

I’ve started reading a book I ordered from Amazon “A Measure of Failure: The Political Origins of Standardised Testing” by Mark J Garrison. I’m only as far as chapter 3, but already it is crystal clear that ‘standards’ serves a political purpose, and in Garrison’s opinion, the idea is to prove that schools are “failing” so that, in turn, ‘reform’ can be justified. By passively going along with ‘standards’ at any level, we are agreeing to this by default.

That’s my sound-off for today.”


Appreciating the analogy of the horse’s end, I replied: It’s such a shame that teachers, especially principals should get together to help duncanise the measurement of numeracy by revamping it instead of ceasing it… which they can arrange in a wink in Auustralia.   [You may have heard that U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan is softening things up in the US]

Why couldn’t we have entered the 21st century by treating Mathematics for what it is….a search for beauty and challenge through numbers and space; a journey of exploration; a conversation about  the wonder of number; the fun of solving exciting and challenging problems; a chance to calculate; a chance to learn. Mathematics is, after all, the essential element of so many other things, especially art, music, space, architecture, almost everything. Maths is one of the most beautiful of things we do.

Isn’t it sad that those civilisations that invented and developed base ten, because we had ten fingers, into the world of wonderment should go and invent papyrus as well; and ruin it all?

I reckon that your Vancouver mate David Wees [ ] has the right idea pleading for the ‘real world’ to be at the centre of it all mathematics curricula. It   must. surely!…Amen. Whoever invented the first written test of mathematics and its parts should be resurrected and charged with extreme cruelty and perverse destruction of social enjoyment. This doofus needs to be treated to very slow, excruciating, painful, special treatment. His legacy over the years has caused eras of enormous pain, stress and social destruction of children’s lives. which societies have had to wear as a consequence.

There is so much joy and excitement in number that it needs to be shared even more widely than it is; not used as a disgusting kill-joy instrument.

Ever wondered how Fibonacci must have felt to discover what he did ?  He needs…as do other mathematicians of his ilk … to be venerated in the same way that great saints are. The history of maths, its heroes and the details of the discoveries is so remarkable, so exciting….so neglected.  Moon landings and the like are almost non-events by comparison with  such discoveries.

What would we do to some-one who destroyed all the works of art in The Louvre, British, Guggenheim, Tate, Vatican, Smithsonian art galleries and museums ?  Our test mongers are doing something far worse to a beautiful thing –mathematics. Disagree?


 Yes, we are well on the way to ruining the challenges and progress of the 21st century, thanks to our political masters in at least four different countries. As Fred asks, “Who would have thought that, behind the brash, bullying, domineering managerial attitude of the 1990s,  were brash, bullying, domineering dictators?”



[Drop the ‘s’ if you are American]

*A surgeon, mathematician and a politician were discussing the origin of the human race. The surgeon claimed that his profession created the species, “Who else could have created Eve from Adam’s ribs?”  The mathematician, however, maintained that, before Adam and Eve, there was chaos; and God needed a mathematician to explain how to use chaos theory. “Ha!” said the politician, “Who do you think are the only ones who can create chaos?’”

* The Daily News printed an article suggesting that, following a maths test, half of the government members had been shown to be stupid. The government was incensed and  called for a retraction. The Daily News willingly printed an apology and retraction, stating that half of the government members were not stupid.

* The MySchool site, revealing the results of a Naplan maths test, showed that 5 out of 4 pupils had trouble with fractions.

* A tee-shirt at the Ekka [Brisbane Show] this week showed : “SUPPORT NAPLAN. It’s hot.” . On the reverse side it showed. “It’s NAPALM incorrectly spelt!”


‘The Treehorn Express” is sent to 131 friends and colleagues in the U.K., U.S.A., N.Z. and Australia.  If you have a contact who might like to receive it, please send the email address to me.

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443

Please pass this message along to as many as possible. Give our Aussie children a fair go. Give them the freedom to learn.

Stop Naplan.

Assessment – The Role of Teachers

The  Treehorn  Express

Treehorn still has problems. Nobody takes any notice of him and his primary school friends. All could have “NAPLAN VICTIM” tattued on their foreheads and few adults would worry about it….or even notice it. Treehorn learned this during his shrinking period as Florence Parry Heide and her illustrator, Edward Gorey, brought to our attention.

Treehorn would surely sympathise with unfortunate Madeleine Pulver, who has to recover from her neck-bomb trauma in a hurry to get back to school for the HSC Trial Examinations….in August !!!


The previous Treehorn Express didn’t quite work out well. I tried to attach a printed document that was too much to handle. Herewith I submit a substitute comment made about Assessment, Evaluation, Testing etc. way back when bushrangers were a nuisance [some think]; and younger teachers had yet to learn how to scare the daylights out of kids with tests, tests, tests.

ASSESSMENT  –  Role of Teachers

                                                                             Phil Cullen 1990 

It is difficult to imagine why a teacher would want to give a test of achievement to a whole class and assign some sort of rating. I know that many do it, as I did before I came to grips with the full nature of learning in the classroom; and I also thought that it was expected of me.

Even the most thoroughly class-wide prepared tests, whether constructed by a professional test writer or expert diagnostician or thoughtful teacher cannot provide much assistance to aid children’s progress. Such tests are given in circumstances that are well apart from the learning experience, have little feed-back value and their only purpose seems to be the allocation of a score or mark for easy-to-test aspects of human behaviour.

A mark is sometimes called a grade, a score or a rating. Professor John Settledge who visited Australia from USA in 1975 had a definition of a ‘grade’. His American version of a ‘mark’ was seen as “…an inadequate report of an inaccurate judgement by a biased and variable judge, of the extent to which an undefined level of mastery of unknown proportions on an inadequate amount of material has been completed.”

Yet, some of us have been perpetuating  such achievement-busters and shrouded the noxious influence that they have on pupil progress by using flash descriptors like ‘assessment’, ‘performance indicators’, ‘evaluation’ and more.

To make things worse, we invented some mystical ways of reporting to parents which, oft times left them confused, angry or disappointed in their children. It was cruel, although some parents, especially those of brighter pupils liked percentages and class placement. The outcomes were bad enough, so we used letters of the alphabet or some other fuzzy indicators that were just as inappropriate as a ‘mark’ aka ‘grade’.

Everybody knows that a reliable measurement of almost any human activity would show that half of the cohort performs at less than average whether it was bowling a cricket ball at a stump, kicking a football through some posts, lobbing a goolie in a spittoon or doing a mathematics test. A bell-shaped curve can be drawn about accomplishments in almost any human activity.  However, we managed to persuade parents that nearly everybody is above average. That’s no mean feat.

Some of us gave tests [I did. Hands up!] and announced the results in public or semi-public arenas in the name of ‘healthy competition’. We violated the sensitivities of children and defied the conventions of confidentiality.  Society, we opined, was intensely competitive and we needed to teach kids how to handle it from as young an age as possible. If this argument was valid, we should have combined other elements of a competitive society – lying, cheating, conning, bad-mouthing and the normal subtleties of a structured free-enterprise system. On second thoughts, we actually encouraged such talents as part of the hidden curriculum, without meaning to do so.

One would hope that things might have changed over the past few decades. Hopefully, we are now able to teach children how to evaluate their own progress in a positive developmental way. For us to assign a mark or grade or judgement to another’s academic performance without sharing the detail is surely immoral. Well, it is not very nice, anyhow. Real teachers don’t do things like that. Pretend teachers may, to satisfy some unfeeling superior being [as Eichmann did] or to waste good time. Those who work full bore with a class group for a full teaching day over an extended period of time don’t need to do this, surely.

For those who persist in testing, appraising, assessing or evaluating or whatever semantic mix we use, we can only hope that they get it right and use the terms properly. It is about time that we sorted out the meanings and pondered over the practices to which they refer. With a positive, cheerful attitude we need to ask ourselves why we do what we do, and consider the possible consequences of our actions.

 EVALUATION   Evaluation is a personal process that helps us to do better. It is a legitimate, useful thing to encourage in schools. It exists. It’s the biggest and most important subject in the curriculum. It is continuous, inlaid into every topic and subject.  It is about building a desire to improve ourselves as we learn and has nothing to do with threatening people, comparing results or classifying people. It is part and parcel of the learning enterprise.

Ask sportspeople and artists about the skills that they require. They will break them up into components and tell you about how they are trying to work on the more important bits. I don’t know of any great sports person who does not share personal evaluation with a coach/teacher or professional/ teacher whom they trust, no matter how good they are.

Evaluation is a careful judgement that we make, in some way or other, about our own performance. A teacher is a person who can share achievements with us and guide us along the way.  Teachers know that, in the learning process, feelings and beliefs are more important that scores. Their efforts are directed at helping children to feel more confident about what they do.

TESTING   Testing is a careful examination of what we are doing so that we can gain on overall view of our performance. It is part of our evaluation processes. There is a natural need to test ourselves on our performances and to try things out so that we can improve. It forms part of our ongoing appraisal of how we are going.

There are millions of testing devices. The worst are paper-and-pencil responses to concocted questions from some distant non-schoolie. The need for testing is personal, applied at the crucial moment.

We can measures our progress in many ways and only a few parts of a school curriculum can lend themselves to a quantitative score of some sort. Sometimes the teacher ‘needs to know’ on a whole-class basis. The teacher needs some information at that point in time and the pupil supports the notion because it helps. It’s a classroom device that needs to be performed sparingly for it is more likely to have a deleterious effect than a supportive.

Announcing or comparing scores on whole-class scores is grossly immoral unless the pupil or its parent has given permission to do so. It can ruin the zest for further learning.  In the TV comedy, ‘Happy days’, Fonzie once remarked, “Grades ain’t cool; learnin’s cool.”

APPRAISAL   There are points along the learning track where we think, quite seriously, about our progress. We judge the quality of our efforts on a largish canvas. Such appraisal does not need to have a scoring function, It is a subjective judgment of quality. Perhaps some sort of test might help us to make  such judgments and our teacher will have advice to offer and provide access to various devices.

It is the sort of thing one does when school progress and personal future is discussed with one’s parents and/or other important adult. It is a generalised thing containing important detail. Such appraisal will help us to make some serious decisions – whether to continue with feelings of confidence or with doggedness or with feelings of inadequacy that might need some repair.

It is different from an ASSESSMENT and of much greater importance. Assessments are used by real estate agents, insurance companies and used-car salesmen. They fix a score or a value; and the learning process is too complicated and too lively to nail any part of it to the wall.

In the school context, when the assessment function does all of the above and assigns marks or grades or scores at each part of the process, like pure testing, it is dangerous.

I conclude with the distribution of a list of quotations assembled by evaluation guru, David Ham, whose own comment I have moved to the top of the list to honour his effort. Take them home and nail them to your office wall……….

‘Failing is more than a simple mark or percentage. It is a state of mind, an attitude, a miserable acceptance of defeat. Children know of their problems long before we do. I wonder how many slow learners have been converted into non-participants because teachers have used sledge-hammer tactics to display to all and sundry what the victims [and probably the teachers] already knew.” Ham

‘Testing should never be carried out without a real purpose. If it is done simply to complete a column beside a child’s name, then the time would have been better spent in teaching.’ Bullock Report, England

‘The purpose of evaluation is not to prove, but to improve.’  Stufflebeam 

‘We all make mistakes…but to lower the dignity of a child and not to be aware that the dignity has been impaired, is a very serious matter.’ Clark Moustakas 

‘For every child who profits from competition, there are several who are harmed by it. There is no greater source of inefficiency in school methods of teaching than the dependence on competition as a motivator. The real business of learning is concerned with performing better today than yesterday or last week. It has absolutely nothing to do with performing better than someone else. Children want to learn any developmental task in order to be the same as their peers – not better than them.’  Don Holdaway

‘Errors are feedback. An error is a judgement, an essential part of learning.’ Labinowicz

‘The general point is that whenever a value is set which can only be attained by a few, the conditions are ripe for widespread feelings of personal inadequacy. An outstanding example of this is the fierce competitiveness of the school system. NO SOCIAL SYSTEM IN THE WORLD has so many examinations, or emphasises grades, rating or marks so much. The superior achievement of one person tends to debase the achievement of another.’ Rosenberg

‘Schools tend to be agencies through which children find out very rapidly how they rank.’ Don Holdaway

‘A positive attitude to errors is perhaps the most important step in controlling anxiety’ Barnes


Now to 2011 with a Settledge version of Naplan :

Naplan is “…an inadequate report of an inaccurate judgement by biased and variable judges, of the extent to which an undefined level of mastery of unknown proportions on an inadequate amount of material has been completed.”

What are Naplan & National Standards & National Testing & NCLB?

“… pseudo scientific incoherent accountability measures´ Bruce Hammonds


A thought : Fred says :”The key to a good education is passing trial tests, passing real tests, passing tests, tests, tests.  If you can’t learn to cheat undetected at some stage, get a life…a proper life.”

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point  2486

07 5524 6443

Please share this massage with as many as possible. Give Treehorn and other kids a fair go. Give them the freedom to learn.      [Trial HSC Tests ?!?! Amazing.]


The Treehorn Express

Treehorn was an ordinary school child who had an extra-ordinary experience; he kept shrinking until he was so small that he could walk upright under his bed. He kept doing the ordinary every-day things, while trying to get important adults to notice his problem. Nobody did. Adults just don’t care much about ordinary children of primary school age. Florence Parry Heide, in The Shrinking of Treehorn, supported by bizarre illustrations by Edward Gorey, brings this clearly to our attention.  It means that, when children, like Treehorn and his friends, are institutionalised, other adults [politicians, measurers etc.] can do what they wish with them.

Treehorn wishes, this week, that he was a boat-boy or a baby whale. Someone would notice him.



SO…The things that ordinary adults endorse, by their disinterest and silence as well as their compliant quiescence, can be demonising for the future of the present-day generation of school children. Believe it. This applies especially to adults in those western countries where governments have introduced forms of blanket testing to schools that clearly destroy important aspects of learning. These western countries pretending to know better than others, become ‘hoist with their own petard’ and allow blanket testing to control their systems system.

Blanket testing curbs and destroys the democratic function of a useful curriculum [aka ‘a guide to the learning of items of interest’] whether such testing is used at class-room level or at national year level. Every trained, professional, child-oriented teacher knows that.

Once upon a time, we believed in schooling as a useful way of helping children to learn as much as they could, because they wanted to do so. Children like learning. Since children value what they do, teachers once included evaluation as part of the learning experience. We believed, then, that the interaction between a teacher and a pupil was an important contract that should not be contaminated by nasty interferences. We’d been there, done that cruel testing business earlier in our history; and had learned our lesson. We had learned that self-generated personal testing is integral to the learning processes and deserved to be expanded.

We used to talk about it. Not enough, of course.  Attached to this Express is a paper that was sent to every teacher in Queensland at a time when Evaluation, Assessment, Appraisal etc. were topics of conversation and became important Conference titles for learned societies and professional groups. In the hope that teachers would talk to each other about the evaluation of pupil effort, Jim Gray and David Ham as co- authors of what was called Primary Viewpoint, sent the attached article to every primary teacher in the state. This particular topic was so popular that it was repeated on request. See the heading and note the year. Only the first two pages are attached. The remaining two will be sent next time. Sorry.

[Page 1   Page 2   I hope that you can expand the printing to a readable size.  Just  twirl the twirler on the mouse.]


Allan Alach Primary School Principal Says

Allan of Hokowhitu School, New Zealand speaks of the situation in New Zealand in Bruce Hammonds Leading & Learning. Please don’t lose heart, Allan. The world’s children need Principals like you. In an article called ‘On the Shoulders of Giants”, he worries that things might be in limbo. I’d recommend his article and the references that one can click.



What children are saying to us – which we adults more-often-than-not ignore.

* I am different. I am different from every one else in the whole wide world.

* From time to time, I need something special from those around me. My needs differ.

* My interests change, although sometimes they match those of my friends.

* When I do something I notice that I am sometimes better at the task than others; sometimes not as good.

* On many occasions I have a different attitude to things than do others.

* Some fellow pupils concentrate on tasks for longer than I do. Some cannot concentrate as long as I can.

* My upbringing has been different from others. It might seem similar to you, but all sorts of things have happened to me up until now.

Please don’t try to clone my learning instincts or brand me with scores and numbers. I’m an individual. I’ll go with the flow; but….fair go!

What motivates me ?

* I am always curious. I like to explore and think and talk about things, if I am not threatened.

* If something attracts my attention. I will explore it without any assistance from anyone else; but I often need a lot of help.

* If you want to attract my attention you’ll need to persuade me that  I should take an interest. There is no way in the world that I will learn from anyone if I don’t want to learn.

Got it?  I can’t be forced to learn. I’ll pass your silly tests for you, but I’ll learn what, where and when I learn… at my pace.

What more can I tell you about learning ?

* The more confidence that I have in my ability, the more that I will want to learn.

* I like to manipulate material when I am learning, if it is possible. Reality stuff.

* I love to play. I really love it when my teacher uses play as part of a learning endeavour..

* I can be persuaded to learn almost anything if it is hands-on fun. However, I decide what I will learn. I chose. Teacher, you set it up.

* I appreciate the opinion of my teacher, mum, dad, friend to see what they think of my progress. If I have to go to the trouble of doing something important, I want it evaluated seriously by one or all of them; but it’s nobody else’s business….ever…..nobody.

* I don’t like being told what I must learn. I have to be interested in the first place and, in a way, give my approval.

* I don’t mind doing drill stuff if there is some fun attached to it. I can even dance to the three-times-table.

* I hate sitting in the same place for too long, unless what I am doing interests me.

* I can only listen to a speaker for a short time [5 minutes max], unless what is said interests me. A few minutes, without being involved, is more than enough. That chalk-talk stuff can be a real bore.

 Gosh. You know this. How come, Mum and Dad and Teacher, you allowed them spoil it all with those sit-down,shut-up, do-as-your-told silly tests? 

What do I do at school to help me learn ?

Well, amongst other things I do most of the following during the day to help me develop my learning techniques.

                         brainstorming                      grouping                        rationalising

choosing                              inferring                         reflecting

classifying                           inventing                        recalling

comparing                           investigating                  repeating

constructing                        listening                         representing

contrasting                          manipulating                 seriating

copying                                matching                       smelling

counting                              mimicking                      taking roles

creating                               ordering                         talking

deducing                             planning                         tasting

evaluation                           practising                       testing

experimenting                    predicting                       touching

exploring                            pretending                      verifying

generalising                       questioning                     watching

[Ed.Note: Unsure of origin of this list]

I’m busy. Why worry me more with that blanket-testing, time-wasting junk?


 A Thought :  ‘There was something masochistic about the way that national blanket-testing was introduced ….the totalitarian “You will do as I tell you to do. Amen” technique. This forceful handling of the introduction of factory-style learning befitted the role of Dolores Umbridge in ‘The Order of The Phoenix” 2007, who said. “You know. I really hate children.

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486

Please share this message with as many people as possible. Give Treehorn and other kids a break.

Give them the freedom to learn.

Geek Education

The  Treehorn  Express

Treehorn was a little fellow who kept shrinking, He is the hero of a Young Puffin 1971 children’s book by Florence Parry Heide [Note her name change] called The Shrinking of Treehorn with some bizarre illustrations by Edward Gorey. It’s a gem. Amazon review says…”Treehorn is clearly shrinking. and his parents aren’t the least bit interested. His mother is obsessed with whether or not her cake will rise. His father, at one point addressing a son who can barely see over the table, states blindly, “Nobody shrinks.” Treehorn doesn’t seem all that bothered that his clothes are hanging all over his extremities; he just feels someone should know. But the adults he tries to notify brush off his claims as either a ploy for attention or downright bad behaviour.

Treehorn’s parents, his teacher and his principal respond [or fail to respond] to his drastically diminishing stature in ways that will ring true to any kid who has tried to convince adults of the existence of fairies, the Loch Ness Monster or things that go bump in the night.

It’s a story for every child who has ever felt ignored by grown-ups [in other words, a story for all]


Geek Education

[Geek : slang term for computer expert or enthusiast]

You will already know something of the immense preparation by the media and digital moguls for the assault on school purses and public finance;  and for schools to be more directly controlled  by the ambitions of Murdoch, Klein, Gates and friends. Only the glib, naive and complacent will dismiss the seriousness. Built on the evils of national blanket testing devices, the control of schooling by geek forces is almost here.

Gary Stager  [ ] says, “We need to scream, swear, pull our pants down…whatever it takes to save our public treasure [schools] from becoming the playthings of Gates, Murdoch and Broad. We are in deep trouble [kids are in worse trouble] if we don’t drop teacher civility and  if we continue to be victimized.”

In another article Stager was commenting on Matt Damon’s support for schools and schoolies at the Washington march last Saturday, “Make no mistake ladies and gentlemen. We no longer engage in genteel debates about the different approaches to spelling instruction.

There are well-funded powerful forces out to destroy public education and  deprive educators of their livelihood. Despite this, most educators remain silent and defenceless.

Educators, if you will not stand up and take care of yourselves, how can we count on you to care for other people’s children ? If you will not stand between school pupils and the madness of ‘the system’, who will?

Matt Damon can’t save you. YOU need to be the action hero for children.”

This lack of teacher interest is serious stuff. Treehorn and his school mates keep being ignored during the most traumatic period of their lives.  On  one will find a really detailed description of the state of play. [If a click does not open this site, make sure you google. It’s worth it.] It is a thorough expose of the intentions of Murdoch and Klein [the founder and patron of Australia’s new schooling system]. It takes a while to read if you click on the important references, but well worth the effort of doing so.  Amongst other things, it mentions, “Murdoch has taken the strategy [of control] by hiring Joel Klein, by using his New York Post, the Wall Street Journal and FOX NEWS to promote the meme that public education is a failure that can only be saved by radical reform of the system and aggressive lobbying behind the scenes for business deals and radical education reforms to support the money-makers’ big visions. [In Australia Murdoch controls three-quarters of the public press – see below for the newspaper that sets your daily conversational agenda.]

The Wireless Generation/ARIS contract is just a little glimpse into that very corrupt process; and Murdoch and Klein should NOT be allowed to get away with this; NOT after the bribing of the London Met. Police; NOT after the attempts to subvert justice in Britain; NOT after all the political manipulation [e.g. by Klein of Gillard in our case] and chicanery.

Frightening isn’t it?  Digital assistance to schooling is inevitable.  How it is used and how much of it?  Such decisions MUST be located in the hands of the classroom teachers….surely…. no one else.   What do teachers think ? How do we parents find out what they think before the Murdoch/Klein tsunami? Geeks on tap or on top? Will teachers be left to decide when and how they access digital information or will they be forced to follow someone else’s programs? Will Murdoch/Klein computer generated  information be linked to the hard-data, high-stakes testing system ?

As Greg Champion says in The Collected Wisdom of Guru Bob…. “Never underestimate the power of uninformed people in large numbers to make huge mistakes.”

Left in the hands of the power-drunk, money-hungry manipulators with their army of geeks, nerds and sciolists, each country that entertains their schooling presence is preparing for a sad future. So mildly stated. that’s for sure. This is very serious business, especially if there is a connection to the screw-ball, evil blanket testings


Some Murdoch newspaper ownerships in Australia…

NSW : The Australian, Daily Telegraph,   Vic : Herald Sun, Geelong Advertiser. Leader.   Q’ld: The Courier Mail, Gold Coast Bulletin, Cairns Post, Townsville Bulletin, Tableland Advertiser, Quest. S.A.: Adelaide Advertiser.

W.A.: Sunday Times, Community. Tas,: Hobart Mercury. N.T. NT News.

Quite a number of community newspapers.


Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia  2486

07 5524 6443

‘Who’s Who in Australia’

Please help our school pupils to regain the freedom to learn. Send this information to as many teachers, parents and politicians [especially your local ones] as you can think of.



A New Breed of Teacher

The  Treehorn  Express

We  all know about Treehorn, the little boy whom adults ignored…just as they ignore all children of school age. Florence Patty wrote about him in The Shrinking of Treehorn.

After this  week-end in July, 2011 [to be remembered], Treehorn will be able to take heart. A need breed of teacher has emerged and selflessly shown that they are on the side of children. It’s a first in my schooling experience. They are determined.


A New Breed of Teacher is Ready to Stand up for Children

After a decade of NCLB, which is a national testing program similar to Australia’s Naplan, public school teachers in the USA have had enough. They marched on the White House on Saturday, 30 July 2011 to tell the President and his legislatorss that they are sick of standardized blanket testing and the inequitable distribution of finance.

This new breed of teacher is willing to express its professional dignity more than any generation of teachers has ever done. Former generations in all western countries have preferred to pussy-foot around professional and ethical issues; thus encouraging ordinary back-bench legislators to ignore the ultimate consequences of their own political party’s stupidity. Principals’ timidity has been rampant and our school pupils have not had a fair go. If principals’ national associations in each country declared their professional ethics, that they really don’t believe in fear-driven schooling; and told their political masters: “It’s finished”, legislators would surely back-off.  It should not be necessary for so many parents and teachers to go to such lengths as they have done on this historical week-end. God bless this new generation of ethical professionals and their parent partners.

On Saturday, July 30, 2011, over 2,000 teachers and parents gathered in Washington DC in a park opposite the White House.  One report says that there were 8,000. Maybe that was the total of teachers who gathered in other major localities as well. When Arne Duncan, the Education Secretary was spotted walking around, he was summarily presented with a symbolic pupil-doll entrapped in a box, wrapped with bubble paper that is used for blanket testing, before he disappeared.

When the Department of Education invited three representatives of the march organisers to meet with them on Friday, the invitation was refused; and representatives of the Department were cordially invited to join the rally .

Buses came from near and far. One from New York came just for the day.

There were speeches from notables, led by iconic Diana Ravitch former Assistant Secretary who once supported blanket testing, but is renowned for having turned 180 degrees and now condemns them with a passion. She recently donated $10,000 from a prize that she has been awarded to the cause; and is revered by this new generation of gutsy, professional, child-oriented teachers for her outspokenness. [I’m pleased that I did my 180 degrees as a test-fixated principal way back in 1968. Two kids showed me how cruel I was to them.] I now detest blanket testing, especially those standardized ones being widely applied by non-school adults to captured kids, too, Diana. Such tests have to be banned world-wide….as soon as the new generation schoolies in UK, Australia and NZ also stand up for their kids.

Matt Damon flew in from Vancouver via New York. His talk was impressive

He said, “My love for learning, passion for acting and my curiosity; none of these came from being tested.”

and “My teachers were empowered to teach me, not to waste time on test prep…they were allowed to be teachers…I had a brush with high stakes testing. My mom went to the principal and said ‘My kid ain’t taking that’”

Diana Ravitch stormed, “Let this democracy work for the many, not the few.”

T.B. Ferman, ” I am a bubble that you [Mr Duncan] cannot erase.”

M.Crunche [Parent], “ Next time you’re ordered by a corporate reformer who’s never taught anybody anything, know that there are millions of us behind you.”

Jon Stewart [Comedian TV Presenter] , “I know all about you teachers with your Toyota Celicas and free apples.”

Another parent asked, “ Mr.President, 8000 of us marched outside your house today. Did you see us? Did you hear us? “

The crowd chanted. “Hey. Hey. Ho. Ho. High stakes tests have got to go.”

The message from a co-organiser, Anthony Cody,  bore some weight:  “If we strengthen the network of people who care about schools, we raise the profile of a positive vision of public schooling, and make it more difficult for the Department of Education to pretend that the majority of the teaching profession supports their policies; and we remind Congress and the president that there are many, many thousands of people who care deeply about the future of our schools.

We don’t want schools sold off to corporate charters, don’t want them micromanaged by standardized tests. Teachers, parents and pupils should be entrusted with the real work of reforming our schools.”

There is an overall description of the great day from top journalist Valerie Strauss on

It was a great day.

Please encourage our teachers and parents to join the new generation and return the freedom to learn to our children. The week-end was a momentous one. Please tell more and more about it.

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443

Have not seen a report in local print press or media.  Strange.  Makes one wonder.  Treehorn smiles….or is it a smirk?