Joel, Condaleezza and others.

 The Treehorn Express

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The Treehorn Express Theme song: ‘Care for Kids’


Joel, Condoleezza and others report

In April 2011, Joel Klein and Condoleezza Rice were appointed to head a group ‘evaluating the U.S.public education system within the context of national security.’ This report on kids at school presently being test-cooked to be cannon fodder [and corporate zombies] will be released next week. The Washington Post of Wednesday, March 14 anticipates its conclusions…

Why OECD ? Why PISA?

Allan Alach, who sends most of the articles mentioned below, asks some poignant questions after reading this article about the determination of Wales to get in the top twenty scoring of PISA tests.

Allan asks: “Isn’t there something paradoxical here? If every country aims to move up the PISA league tables, and succeeds, what happens?  Surely, if all countries are moving up, nothing will change? Also, correct me if I’m wrong here, but with the exception of the Finlands and the like, all the countries who want to move up the ladder are doing the same thing – standards testing, accountability, performance pay and so on. What is the magic difference that moves Wales [or others] up the ladder, given that the prescription is the same all over? Will their testing/teaching system be better than NAPLAN, for example? What else could make a difference.?

It doesn’t make sense to me. If moving up the ladder is so important, why not learn from those at the top?

And, a question that I’ve raised before – how come PISA results have become the be-all and end-all of education? Why do we let the OECD dictate what ‘good education’ is?”

Ouch. Such a comment must hurt those who are possessed by their ranking in the PISA tests; and by those who believe that blanket testing helps children learn. That was a real jab to the short rib, Allan, for the measure-mad.  Remember – Finland does not believe in blanket testing and only entered the PISA contest just for fun.

Since then, PISA has possessed all countries that have little regard for children. What use is it? Great point. Thanks. And yes, what does the OECD know about teaching/learning techniques that we don’t?

Sites to Behold

Kelvin Smythe, outstanding New Zealand educator of has recently commented on [1] ‘National Standards [aka NAPLAN In Australia] is about self-managing schools.’ In this article he speaks of Joce Jesson, a senior research fellow, developing a carefully constructed argument building to a powerful conclusion. [2] A book called I’ve Got Something to Say by Gail Loane and Sally Muir. One of Kelvin’s readers wrote :’I totally endorse the review – this is one of the best teaching resources I have seen in years. It puts writing into a context in which it can be REAL and alive – for teachers and most certainly for children.’ {3] some advice to Mr. Shearer, leader of the N.Z. Labour Party.

For access to these articles, click on ‘LATEST’ to the left of the site.  Very worthy material.

Tony Gurr at provides an excellent launching pad for so much advice on so many issues and learnings, that one can spend a very happy day, surfing from his place.

His latest are [1] ‘Herding cats’ and change (Part 2) ; [2] The Mother of all curriculum ‘Myths’; [3] In Praise of Creativity (Part One}. Tony’s graphics are splendid….the little girl on the pottie getting ready for the IT revolution in the ‘Care for Kids’ theme song above is one of his.

Random Comments from Readers

Les Treichel one of Australia’s most experienced true-blue schoolies, now part-time retired, ghosts an address from a concerned Principal to parents, teachers and students of his school that illustrates the present-day spirit of NAPLAN. THE NAPLAN SCHOOL OF THOUGHT; LES TREICHEL

Ken W. Toowoomba Home-Schoolers : We were talking to a manual-arts teacher today. He and his [teacher] wife are considering homeschooling their family. He believes that the Nat Curric is just a forerunner to teachers being given supervisory roles while students use computers to complete centrally administrated tasks [possibly in cubicles with little flags they can push up and down for assistance]. See. Those fundi schools [Ken refers to the  of American ACE kind of schools, one of which was run by Rona Joyner] of the 70’s were pointers to the future! 

John H. former Primary Principal and School Inspector of Koala Beach : In today’s SMH there is a piece by Dr. William McKeith on cameras in the classroom. Hong Kong seems to be the leader in this practice where parents and administrators view what is going on in the classroom. Maybe we could run a book on when this will appear in Australia. Julia and co. could see what is going on in the classroom at Upper Scrubby Creek. Surveillance cameras are a way of life on the streets of the UK, but would you have liked one when you were at Baking Board?

{Answer. No John. I don’t think so. Baking Board, by the way, was a fettlers’ siding – 37 kids in six grades, a Scholarship candidate or two every year – long desks and forms. My successor left to become a Jesuit priest; and then Lyle Schuntner – later QTU and QTCU President and Liberal MP, straightened out the place.}

John S-S upon reading of the appalling treatment of some outstanding Brooklyn teachers who were pilloried because of their pupils’ test scores, said

“The story of those wonderful teachers’ heroic achievements in their schools being denigrated with contempt because they fell between the cracks of the testing regime’s flawed ‘measurement’ criteria is the kind of horror story which should cause Australian education leaders to change their policy – immediately.

I would also remind you of the wonderful critique of ‘high stakes testing’ offered with such warmth and good humour by Pasi Sahlberg, the Finnish Education analyst who recently visited Australia.”

Richard Waters of the School of Total Education, Warwick, sent the following newsletter to all parents at the school.


I was talking to some friends recently who had returned from a couple of years working in New York and they were saying that the pressure on kids there is incredible.

The New York system, set up by lawyer Joel L. Klein, so impressed our Prime Minister that she modelled much of Australian’s current education policy on it. This includes the high stakes NAPLAN testing and the publication of schools results on the MySchool website.

Because of Queensland’s relatively poor performance on the NAPLAN test, there has been a lot of pressure on teachers. In some schools, certain students are asked to stay home on test day so as not to bring the results down.

The Prime Minister is also concerned about our apparent slip in performance from 4th to 7th place in relation to other OECD countries, especially since some of our Asian trading partners have passed us.

Ironically, Pasi Sahlberg, Director of Education in Finland, which has been at the top of the OECD rankings for many years, is critical of the way Australia uses its NAPLAN tests and MySchool Website. Speaking on the 7.30 Report on ABC TV last week he commented: “Anywhere these types of things have been put in place, teachers have started to focus more on teaching to the test and the curriculum is narrowed….” 

Sahlberg said, “We believe that co-operation and networking and sharing are the important things to make sure everybody will improve…”

It is important to get the balance right between helping children achieve good literacy and numeracy standards and putting too much pressure on them.

Education is about producing good citizens and helping children to gain confidence in their ability to learn. Is high stakes testing really the way to achieve those outcomes?

Treehorn: The Child’s Representative  Attached is a short article that I have submitted to a local [Tweed Heads] church bulletin.

TREEHORN – children’s representative

Have you found it difficult to emphasize the threat to Australia’s children and the country’s well-being to fine people who haven’t given a thought to kids-at-school for years?  I’ve tried in this article. I’m supposing that almost all are interested but not concerned about NAPLAN and its effects on classroom operations. None with whom I have discussed the issue, has had a view of how to handle the coming high-tech classroom revolution; although one businessman told me that, when he was handing out prizes to nine Year 9 pupils at his local high school, he asked each what s/he thought of computers in classrooms. He was surprised that each one told him that they were boring.  I also get the impression that the public’s view of teaching as a profession is sinking, which must sadden all of us deeply….if it’s true.

Readings for Busy People

IS THE TEACHING PROFESSION DEAD? Shaun Johnson suggest : “Teaching as a respected profession has been on life support for quite some time. Currently so-called reformers appear poised to finally pull the plug once and for all. Teaching is and should ideally viewed as an intellectual profession….

I’m pretty close to admitting that it is indeed dead, or at the very least so deprived of intellectual and professional vigor that it cannot possibly recover. Teaching is now closer to a vocation than a profession; a teacher is what Said calls the ‘friendly technician’. I’m disappointed. I mean: I don’t have a problem with vocations per se. But education, man, I expected something a bit more from them.”

RAISE TEACHER STATUS TO IMPROVE SCHOOLS, SAYS OECD On Wednesday, 14 March [Current News] Sean Coughlin reported on BBC News that a recently released OECD report suggests that a modern economy needs teachers who are able to support the learning of children in a digital age. “People are not attracted by schools organised like an assembly line, with teachers working as interchangeable widgets in a bureaucratic command-and-control environment….At present, teachers across the industrialised world are not receiving levels of pay that reflect their importance, says the report.”

THE MIND OF KIDS  On Saturday, 10 March [Current News] Lisa Cooley wrote: “Kids have an interconnectivity today that we could never have dreamed about…Kids know that the promise of jobs and prosperity that we make to them as a return for knuckling down and getting to work is a myth. [If they don’t know it, if they believe in that prosperity, then we are guilty of lying, aren’t we?]

A lot of kids simply don’t believe the institution cares a fig for them. I should say, some kids have a funny feeling that their needs don’t matter….others know it for sure.

It matters so much that adults will devote time and attention to finding out who these kids are, what they enjoy, what they love, and what they most want to do, and learn, and be.”

PARENTS PULL CHILDREN OUT OF NAPLAN TESTS TO AVOID MySchool RANKING  A parent at Korowal School, a small private school at Hazelbrook in the Blue Mountains, one of 23 who withdrew their children from NAPLAN blanket testing,  said, “Parents at our school are very aware that the use of results from such small groups to rank schools on the MySchool website is as valid as pulling a random number out of a hat and the result could damage the school’s reputation unfairly.” That made Mr. Picolli, NSW Minister for Education, get his knickers in a twist. The Sydney Morning herald reported “ Mr Piccoli said yesterday that he held a ‘dim view’ of anecdotal reports of ‘schools holding children from the tests.’”  “If I get any confirmed cases, I will be taking action on it.” Mr. Piccoli said. “It’s not appropriate. The tests are supposed to be for the benefit of the student.”

I wonder who sold him that myth.  I wonder what he did to punish concerned and thinking parents of the Korowal kind. It happened last May.

TESTING BACKLASH School Districts in these Texas counties have adopted a resolution decrying an over-reliance on standardized high-stakes testing. This report in the Houston Chronicle says: “For years, murmurs of discontent have stirred among teachers tired of devoting class time to test preparation, school administrators saddled by legislative mandates, parents anxious about the increasing focus on high-stakes assessments….At least 40 school boards have taken a stand by passing a resolution decrying the ‘over reliance on standardized, high stakes testing’ that is ‘strangling our public schools,’  The testing culture has become ”the heart of the vampire.” As many as 45 days of the school year are interrupted by tests and third-graders are required to take four-hour-long, high-stakes tests. Superintendent Sconzo said: “It’s a single-moment-in-time assessment that does not come close to measuring all the students are expected to learn.”   “What began as a way to measure student learning…has ballooned into a ‘drill-and-kill’ cycle of test preparation.”

“Administrators stress they are not against accountability, but against a system they say leaves no room to teach critical thinking and simply produces good test-takers.”


Surely we have to wonder how Australia ever allowed the NAPLAN pestilence to infest our learning space.


If you have 4 minutes 17 seconds to spare from your busy schedule, click on the theme song “Care for Kids” above, relax and ‘take in’ the words. Meditate on the plight of today’s generation of Aussie kids.

OtherTreehorns ? :   Check Recent Posts and Archives in the sidebar.

Maintained by outstanding NZ educator, Allan Alach

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443


One thought on “Joel, Condaleezza and others.

  1. Pingback: “Schools Report: Failing To Prepare Students Hurts National Security, Prosperity” | GoodOleWoody's Blog

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