Who’s doing What to Whom?

The Treehorn Express

Treehorn story? http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/print.asp?article=11697

The Treehorn Express Theme song: ‘Care for Kids’

March 27, 2012


Who’s doing What to Whom and Why?


“We are talking about the vultures. Corporations are poised to supply the artificial heart of learning to a wounded public school system they fully intend to finish off. But they won’t succeed. No, they won’t because our communities are going to fight for our beloved schools, we teachers are going to fight for our students, and our students are going to demand the education they discover.

There are so many intelligent, talented, compassionate educators who were called to this profession. Teaching was a calling for me. I’m in this for the long haul, and by “this” I mean public education. I’m going to stand up for the right that all young people have to a quality education.

I’m not going to lie down while corporations prey on our students. I don’t want to see our nation’s young people at the mercy of a Rupert Murdoch or a Michael Milken [former felon and largest provider of online education].

Finland, not incidentally, doesn’t have standardized tests. They understand that a quality education emerges from a strong community and a humane society.

OCCUPY  Whatever you believe about your political identity, your party affiliation, your status, please don’t forget to occupy your conscience, your activism, and your humanity.

We need to to do more than rouse ourselves from intermittent election cycles. We need to occupy our hearts, our minds, and our capacity for critical thinking. We can’t go back to sleep.”

Those of us who care for kids wish that we could have had the opportunity to say this to the face of every Aussie pollie. The quotation comes from an English teacher in Santa Rosa, California, but it could well come from an Australian or New Zealand teacher, because the same ‘authoritarian education mandated by an illegitimate corporate power,’ exists here .  Simone Harris says it as it is.

Aussie teachers, though, seem too wimpish or frightened to say such things and politely maintain a controlled silence.  It’s galling for those of us who love school kids, appreciate their rights,  proud believers in professional ethics and who try to work in a teaching culture that promoted fearless and enjoyable freedom to learn; and to know that such freedom can produce achievements far above the mediocre levels demanded by time-servers in schools and those who control them. It’s galling because we also believed that none of this fear-ridden, corporate-controlled, politico-totalitarian system of schooling would ever, ever, ever occur in Australia.  It has. It’s an appalling state of affairs.




Professor Margaret Wu, world-respected statistician, tells what happens when measurers, sciolists and number-crazed politicians are turned loose on a placid uncomplaining population. They become so possessed by classroom scores and numbers, that they transfer the results of invalid and unreliable tests of school pupils’ achievements to judgements about teaching ability. In USA, they describe it with Gold Medal euphemism as VAM – Value Added Measurement. Believe it. The Yanks actually perform the crazy calculations; and if educational history keeps unrolling, it will hit down under soon. Margaret Wu in her article (attached)  says…

“I will make two unequivocal statements:

(1) Teacher accountability cannot be established by student test scores.

(2) Statistical inference alone cannot be used for any high-stakes decision making.

In the case of using student test scores to judge teacher performance, the inference made has a huge margin of error, simply because there are so many factors impacting on student test scores  and their gain scores [value-added scores]. Even if we control for students’ socio-economic status (SES), there are many other factors that have large impacts on the academic growth of students, such as parental support, natural academic ability, motivation, interests, personality, and cultural and ethic differences.

…the margin of error in making such an inference about teacher-performance based on this test score is large, in fact, totally invalid…”

Professor Wu’s paper is seminal. If it was nailed to the wall of every staff room in Australia, teachers of the kind described by Simone Harris above, would act as Simone suggests. If such thinking teachers started talking to each other and to parents,  NAPLAN itself, on which all school scores are based, would  go. There is obviously no need for it in any schooling sense, and ‘compassionate educators’ know this.

Professor Margaret Wu concludes her revealing paper with…

“If the ranking of teachers does not stop, I will have no choice but to compile a league table of people by their proficiency level in statistical literacy. I can already identify some people at the bottom of the table. Further, I have far more confidence in identifying people with low statistical literacy than the newspaper has in identifying low performing teachers. As a final note, I hope teachers will file a class action to put abusers of statistics behind bars and the world will be a better place. “

Kids can’t take class actions. Then again… all they need is for their trusted principals to say ‘No!’ on their behalf.



Concern in the USA for hard-data results of measureable school subjects disposed their President to introduce testing programs, based on the belief that children can be coached better to pass tests if they know where they stand in relations to others there will be repercussions if they don’t cope. They even called it ‘No Child Left Behind’ inferring that children would benefit. We called it NAPLAN, a much more honest description. Americans, since they first invented IQ,  have standardized testing embedded in their DNA; and heads of corporations and military superordinates believe that tough test-based control in the classroom works better than any other styles of classroom interaction. Toughness works on troops and office clones, so it is easy to make children quake. Most also believe that the 3Rs are about the only things that children should learn at school and all three are  easy to practise.

Adam Richardson, writing in the ‘Harvard Business Review’ [‘Where No Child Left Behind Went Wrong’] suggests” “To put it bluntly, NCLB should stop focussing on the “Three Rs” and should focus much more on the Four Cs: Creativity, Complexity, Curiosity and Collaboration…NCLB is increasing the gap between students’ abilities to be successful, not decreasing them.

Standardized testing drives home the implication that there is a clear definitive answer to every question. This has never been the case, and is even less so today and in the future. But we are not preparing students properly for ambiguity.”




“In clever language, this report [‘Schools Report: Failing to Prepare Students Hurts National Security, Prosperity” – J. Klein & C.Rice] deems poor educational performance of our schools as a national threat to security The magic bullet? Why reform of course! Somehow this study deduces that corporate-model charter schools, a national Common Core, a high stakes testing, school vouchers, and choice, merit pay, and elimination of collective bargaining rights of public educators (among the largest themes) as the solutions to our security woes.” says Morna mcDermott, Associate Professor at Townson University in This Is Not A Test. She provides an extensive list of readings for those who support NAPLAN and other blanket testing devices used in GERM countries. As Joel and Condis’ report shows, the USA has managed to maintain its low level on the world’s scoring ladder for over ten years thanks to its testing programs; and Australia is now able to head down the ladder hand-in-hand with the other GERMs to join them.  Such blanket testing is a monumental waste of time, money and effort.

Australian principals associations and unions support NAPLAN and, perhaps, also support the absurdity suggesting that teachers’ and pupils’ measureable efforts at school threaten national security. It’s insulting and ridiculous.

What do you think of Morna mcDermott’s three leading questions?     Don’t apply to Australia?  Neither did our participation in Klein/Gillard GERM-ridden antics!



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




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s