The Treehorn Express

Prepared and presented by Phil Cullen,

proud anti-NAPLAN geriactivist thinking of kids.


Treehorn story?

The Treehorn Express Theme song: ‘Care for Kids’

Politicians :  When will YOU say something?  Aussie kids need your help!  Can you be trusted?



Trust is THE essential element of any form of management, organisation or administration that relies on competent leadership for improvement and success. Trust is a two-way process. If the business or operation or government department is one that has to focus on personal interaction to get things done, the greater the need for trust. Co-ordinated effort and good-will all fall flat and become nasty without mutual trust. Very little can be achieved without fair-dinkum trust. Organisational anomie is the only product of a cold-hearted managerial style, no matter how big or how small the organisation. If an organisation is peopled by tertiary-trained professionals, then any disrespect it shows for the long-held social norms and professional values of their work-face ensures that the organisation has no useful future.

Yes, I am describing the politically-biased establishment of fear-based, number-crunching, lifeless NAPLAN blanket testing to Australia, its modus operandi and its predicted future. NAPLAN has a limited life.

1.Trust depends on open-ness and frankness.  NAPLAN was introduced to Australia without thought; unrequested by any professional body, by any teachers or education academics, by any political body. There was no need for NAPLAN, because trust in teachers had kept Australia up there with the best, as far as international comparisons of any sort …even the number-based PISA tests…went. Educators were visiting Australia in increasing numbers to learn about teaching and learning and school administration. The provision of post-school academic courses became an industry that rivalled the tourist industry in terms of numbers and dollars. Australian schools needed some thoughtful renewal;- discussions about teaching strategies and their application to local curriculum requirements,sharing evaluation and assessment devices and making the most of their links to the teaching act….but certainly not GERM-ridden, heavy-handed impositions that destroy the joy of learning.

An obvious sub-purpose of NAPLAN is to destroy the morale of quality teachers and force them to return to the use of crash-bang-wallop, practice, practice, practice techniques of old.

There was no discussion with school people nor debate with the public before fear-based testing regimes were copied  from New York. How could this infusion of fear-ridden schooling, and contempt for pupil welfare have happened? Who knows? Perhaps the children of some corporate executives or managerial freaks were not performing at school, so they pulled rank within their own organisations….cloned managers flexed their financial muscles….political leaders jumped…their jelly-fish swarms flowed aimlessly behind with the tide …school principals apostatised. ..teachers and their invertebrate organisations submitted under pressure….AND…. our child-despising leadership was able to pronounce to the public: “ NAPLAN is here! .  Ready? FIRE! Aim!”   The next step for all of the aforesaid, ever ready to do as they are bid,  is to go to the battlefield and kill  the wounded. The field is strewn with victims.

That’s a speculative scenario…..but… could be close to home.

[Ms.Julia Gillard, as Minister for Education, realised that her best political support would come from business executives and banking CEOs. They’d been on her back and that of her master, K.Rudd. When she met a like-minded, sweet-talking New York lawyer, who had taken over a school district through his political manipulations, she thought that he had a solution. He warned her not to trust Australian ‘academics, teachers or unions’ who would only criticize high-stakes tests’….so she followed instructions. Skilled sycophant, she knew that her P.M. would approve of her wild-cat idea. He could trust her. Unfamiliar with US schooling operations [and, indeed, Australian schooling], she bought the lawyer-cum-test-addict’s packaged ideas [fear-ridden tests, teacher sackings, school closures, funding threats] all wrapped up – devoid of any humanity or respect for children and their teachers.Her commitment to the top end of town enabled Joel Klein, the numbers man from New York, to come to Australian to speak to influential groups and opinion makers; at the expense of UBS, Australia’s largest banking firm. Educational personnel were kept at a distance..At a dinner in his honour on 26 November, 2008 she opened :Let me thank UBS for their generous hosting of this evening and of the hosting of Joel Klein and his wife Nicole Seligman in Australia. It is an extremely generous and valuable gesture that we greatly appreciate – one example of how companies can contribute to the common educational goal. Peter thank you very much.” Her post-prandial postulations are now part of Australia’s sad history.]

2. Trust infers a lack of deceit in any form.  It is patently obvious that the right to say ‘no’ to testing has been deliberately concealed. Further to that, ACARA appears to have encouraged its operatives, to insist or pretend that taking the test is mandatory. After five years of effective deceit, few people realise that their children do not have to participate in the tests nor the practice periods and that they should send their children to school for normal school lessons during the practice sessions and on the three days of the test.

Illustrations of Mass Deceit? :There has been no public notice of any kind supplied, to date, about the rights of parents and pupils; that they need not do the test. [ It gets a mention in the entrails of the copious instruction manual]

No option to do or not to do the test has ever been provided to families. 

Schools are forbidden to announce the options. 

State School principals are not allowed to express a professional view.

This climate of deceit and distrust has been a feature of NAPLAN testing for five years.

3. Trust does not need Strict Controls nor Threats of Punishment. NAPLAN Protocols are replete with do’s and dont’s. There are endless pages of NAPLAN literature that dictate the preservation of the operation’s code of control that must be followed because measurement-possessed educrats do not trust teachers. If an ‘incident’ has been reported and the suspects have been identified and their ‘incident’ labelled, their misdemeanours are published in an official report. There are strict processes to be followed once a suspect has been dobbed. See “Process Map Overview For Managing Test Incidents.” The press can have a field day then with guilty NAPLAN breachers of protocols. They are not hard to find, poor beggars. This part of the ‘name and shame’ process can be quite frightening and demeaning.

The term ‘cheating’ is grist to the press mill. NAPLAN defines it as ‘gaining an unfair advantage’.  ACARA would want, no doubt, for everyone to play fair and square. It’s operations and its integrity would be suspect if schools pushed the boundaries and tried to gain advantage over others by, say, using practice tests to try to do better than other schools. Faint hope.  In any ordinary human undertaking, the more you practise the better you get….golf, reading, knitting,  cricket, quizzes, netball, crosswords, football, swimming, passing tests….

The integrity of the results would be upheld if no one practised, and conditions for test days was an ‘as is’ pause in school operations.  You know what happens. ‘Practice makes perfect’ syndrome. Talk about a debacle!  NAPLAN even produces its own practice tests and publishing companies have no respect for protocols. Cheating by practising is a rampant scourge. Those who steal school time from other school learnings are plainly dishonest and are cheats.  How can such miscreants be named on the ‘cheat sheets’? Too tough, so on it rages.

Also, will ACARA  name schools that start practising NAPLAN style testing in Year 2, even using the practice tests where they apply?

4. TRUST  !!!??? When class teachers are not allowed to view their pupil’s work immediately on completion, nor take a copy, one has to doubt the authenticity of the arrangements, the integrity of the tests as a diagnostic tool and the use of them as an evaluation device. They make a mockery of effective teaching interlaced with shared and self evaluation. Returning results some months later and then describing them publically as useful diagnostic devices is a giant hoax.

Mention of the margin of error in the results is not made nor revealed to parents. They can’t be trusted to understand.  “If results are sent to parents, the margin of error should be plainly marked on the report and it should be explained”  said David Hornsby and Margaret Wu in “Say NO to Naplan”

[ ]

[A re-reading of “Inappropriate Uses of NAPLAN Results”  by Margaret Wu and David Hornsby; and “Misleading Everyone with Statistics” by David Hornsby and Margaret Wu is worthwhile]

Suppose a child is in Year 5 and competing a Reading tests. The only honest way to report to parents about NAPLAN results is to say, “Your child’s reading ability is somewhere in the range of Year 4 to Year 6 as it is for most of those pupils who also took this test.” The allocation of a number or a limited grading, beyond this, is a sham; as any crap detector will reveal.

NAPLAN tests are not diagnostic and no strict control nor threats of ‘disciplinary action’ can make them claim any measure of importance except to tell us that pupils in a status suburb are better at taking tests of these fragments of literacy and numeracy than the pupils in an outback Aboriginal community school. Big deal. Don’t we know this?

The absurdity of blanket testing and the application of numbers to educational decision-making and inferring that one school or teacher is better than another from the results and the use of totalitarian forms of control to do these things, demeans us and our school children.


Have you ordered your bundles of “Say NO to NAPLAN’ stickers yet?  Order in bundles of ten.  $1 each plus postage. Quick delivery.

Contact while they are still available.

Postage for 10 : $1.20

Postage for more than 30 : $2.40

Bank: ANZ       Branch : Carlton North

    BSB:  013-374               A/c Number : 5697-99435         

Account  Name :  WILSON,  LORRAINE

[If you should want just one or two for your car – free – be quick – limited number – contact me and I shall post asap]


Parents !

‘Say NO to NAPLAN’



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Maintained by outstanding NZ educator, Allan Alach

Phil Cullen AM,FACE, FACEL

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443


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