School for learners.

The Treehorn Express


Theme song


Treehorn Express is dedicated to the cessation of Kleinist NAPLAN testing in Australian.   Kleinism is a New York version of fear-driven schooling which  uses the blanket testing ‘wmd’ called NAPLAN to destroy the reputation of  public schooling.      This weapon was introduced to schools in Australia in 2009. It disrespects children, devalues teachers’ professionalism and threatens the developmental future of Australia.     Ideologically, NAPLAN is immoral, politically driven, curriculum destructive, extremely costly, unprofessional, interruptive and very divisive. It is clearly aimed in a malicious manner  at public schooling and its teachers.  It also strives for mandated, standardised mediocre achievements in only a very few aspects of a full school curriculum in all schools.  It will survive until enough good people say, “Stop it.”

Click on the Naplan site for more details :


Back to School:

Teachers in most Australian states have returned to school for the final part of the school year, many to prepare their candidates for an examination to test [?] if the last 12 years have been adequate enough for the requirements of tertiary studies. Best of British to all.

For those educators who have spent the mid-semester break at a Conference, one can be certain that they did not spend as productive an hour as they would have on


A Story

When I was Queensland Director of primary Education, I once received a phone call, relayed from the Minister’s office, from a gentleman in another state, who was shifting to Queensland. He wanted to know the name of our best school, to which he could send his two children. I asked him where he was going to live. He replied, “Wherever you tell me the best school is.” With a little explanation, I  gave him the name of a school.

If someone asked you the same question today, what would be your response?

I know that if I had a young family and was moving to Victoria, I would try to find a home as close as possible to SSSPS. [See below] It cares about kids and has a healthy learning attitude. For the same reason, if I was moving to the North Island of New Zealand, I’d head straight for Palmerston North and  Hokowhitu School. I’d like my children to have  good schooling while it lasts. No restrictive pro-NAPLAN school.


A School for Pro-Naplaners

Kennedy High School in La Palma, California requires students to carry ID cards in one of three colours based on their performance on state standardised tests. The cards are coloured black, gold and white. Black is the highest level. Holders of black cards receive  more privileges than the gold; and the white cards receive no privileges at all.

Whites must stand in a separate cafeteria lunch line and receive no benefits at athletic home events, school dances or local businesses. In parts of the school, there are separate entrances. There are about 1400 white card holders.

Black card holders receive free admission to all home events and games and full discount at school dances and in local business.  Gold receive free admission to certain home games and limited discounts. There are about 1000 black and gold card holders.

While the school says that it recognises the achievements of those who do better on the blanket tests, the white card holders don’t feel too excited. Samantha Lee, 15, a white card holder says that the black and gold card holders act as it they are on top of the world. “It just makes the rest of us feel worse inside.”  Peggy Lindeman, mother of a son with a learning disability, says that the notion really shuts such children down. “They’re like,’Why try? You’re already labelled.” Senior student, Danielle Field, 17 says, “It makes you feel dumb, being put down by your own school.” Parent Carol Lopp added, “You are bullying them; you are degrading white-card holders and making them feel inadequate. They used to use a dunce cap.”

That’s where Australia is heading, Treehorn.   External state-controlled blanket testing breeds these sorts of attitude. Avoid such a school, whatever you do


A School for Learners

I was surfing the website that lists the submissions to the Senate Inquiry in the Administration and Reporting of NAPLAN, 2010. It is a really interesting site for those who wish to compare the views of associations,organisations, schools and people who hold certain views of the implications of the effects of national blanket testing. Click :  or google ‘Senate Inquiry Naplan’; and follow the prompts. It’s worth it. The site lists all submissions by number [Mine is No.20].

I paused and checked put No. 232 [from Spensley Street State Primary School] because I had heard of the school’s splendid reputation.  Amongst other things, its School Staff and School Council had this to say in their submission….

We have several concerns about the My School website. We believe that the data will be used to rank schools, and that unfair and damaging comparisons will be made. The ICSEA {Index of Community-Education Advantage} ignores some important factors which influence NAPLAN test results, e.g. differences in the ethnic composition of student populations, proportion of students with disabilities, difference in school size, and major funding differences.

We also dispute the validity and reliability of the NAPLAN test results, and we do not believe that one simple test can provide an adequate measurement of student growth and achievement. Publication of NAPLAN data has resulted in a ‘high stakes’ approach to the test, meaning that this one assessment has taken on a significance it does not deserve. Our concerns about the NAPLAN are as follows.:

Evidence shows that NAPLAN has already narrowed the curriculum. Resources are focused on those subjects which are tested – English and Maths. Schools are spending valuable resources on test-preparation material, at the expense of extra teaching support and other subject areas.

Schools are under pressure to spend class time preparing for the tests taking time away from valuable learning.The learning becomes based on what will be tested, rather than what is worth learning. In many cases, schools are ‘teaching to the test’. Such preparation also makes comparisons of the data unfair.

The tests are limited; they only test what can be quantified. The focus is on ‘mechanics’ rather than higher-order thinking skills. They are also poor quality assessments because they are out of context with what is being taught at a particular time.Test results are of limited usefulness for teachers because the results are not available for months.  The data is not reliable. A single test done on a single day will result in significant errors in data.

Test results have the potential to incorrectly label students. The can have a negative impact on students with learning difficulties or poor self-esteem. The one-size-fits-all approach does  not take into account the different learning rates and styles of individual children. And because the results are standardised, success for some is based on failure for others.

The current system of publishing NAPLAN results is demoralising for teachers and for schools. Teachers experience high levels of stress, and many are now resisting taking responsibility for Year 3 and 5 classes. Creativity and new ideas are not encouraged. Teachers are becoming de-skilled at assessing student progress. Schools are failing to provide sufficiently broad and reliable information abut individual children.

Parents are confused by the data and teachers are forced to defend their own judgements about student progress as NAPLAN marking scheme is inconsistent with VELS. The current approach will deepen the inequalities in our education system. It is extremely damaging for schools that do not do well, which are often in poorer areas.This will results in greater isolation for struggling students in marginalized schools. It is likely that there will be a  drift of higher-achieving schools from public to private schools.

The way that NAPLAN results are currently used to make comparisons between schools is clearly having a damaging effect on our education system. It undermines the real purpose and achievement of schools, and it is demoralizing for teachers. And we know that teaching, not testing, that makes a difference to student learning.”

It was noted that the parents of the Spensley Primary School refused to have their children contest the NAPLAN tests. It appears that the parents and teachers genuinely appreciate learning, like school children; and want to protect them from nasties.


As Principal, Anne Nelson, says, “We are very proud of our school and we make every attempt to place the student at the centre of everything we do. We have resisted NAPLAN since we first had the state-wide standardised tests in Victoria [LAP,LIP,AIM etc] in 1995 [or thereabouts]. We inform our school community every year about our own assessment practices and how they inform our teaching and learning program, and about the national tests. Our parents are highly engaged with their children’s schooling and they are extremely supportive of the school’s view.”


Spensley Street’s website is well worth a visit It’s a gem. It’s view of a successful learner is far, far more than the restrictive NAPLAN testing encourages. In a multi-age teaching atmosphere, spanning three of four year levels, it says:

“Our view of a successful learner is one who:

*is thoughtful, curious, reflective, critical, a problem solver, makes references, provides reasons

*is industrious, stays on task, is motivated, has perseverence, is a good worker

*is generative, creative, original, imaginative, fluent, has lots of ideas

*is empathetic, aware of and concerned about the feelings of others, gets along with others

*is a risk-taker, takes informed calculated risks, willing to try something new.

*is strategic, organised, tidy, resourceful, able to set goals

*has knowledge and is able to demonstrate expertise, understandings and skills and to use this confidently for appropriate purposes

*has a strong sense of self and is able to show feelings of self worth, self confidence and self respect.

We believe that multi-aging is the most effective classroom organisational structure for teachers to meet the individual needs of students.

A multi-age class has children from different ages intentionally grouped for learning. At Spensley Street a multi-age group of students.”

It looks like a lot of pupilling and community sharing takes place at Spensely Street.  There’s too much productive learning, for interfering Naplan tests to be tolerated, right?


Like to check the recent ‘Treehorns’?  Click on Recent Posts or Archives in the side bar.

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443


Extra – curricular Reading {Allan A.}  A succinct list of ideas and suggestions for Australian politicians. test publishers, corporate giants and Naplanners to follow to devalue public education.  Splendid reading that invites participation. Ask a question. The site is concerned that “…the high-stakes testing cannot shake off the collateral damage that is too great for any benefits it may bring.”  Diane Ravitch writes to Deborah.


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