Principals Conference – Darwin Effect

The Treehorn Express

Treehorn’s story : Open attachment.

[Maintained by NZ educator Allan Alach]



The Darwin Effect

I remember the day  when the first news came through that Darwin had been bombed. The Japs knew how to spoil my 14th birthday. We school kids mirrored the grim faces of our parents and teachers; another  ‘Pearl Harbour’ was right on our door-step. Things were very, very serious.

As far as almost all Australians knew, Darwin was bombed for a couple of more days after that …and all was clear. It wasn’t until the end of the war, over three years later, that the Australian population learned that Darwin was bombed over fifty times, but the news was hidden for morale purposes. Someone somewhere controlled the supply of news.


Over one thousand primary school principals from Australia and New Zealand gathered in Melbourne on 18-21 Sept. 2012 to discuss issues attached to ‘LEADING LEARNING’. It was meant to be huge and it was. It was meant to be forthright and meaningful and it was. For those who attended, it was a huge event. For many, it was a once-in-a-life-timer.

The conference had been advertised and marketed  with outstanding style for world to see, for the Australian and New Zealand public to learn more about the principal’s place in leading pupils through vital learning experiences during these tumultuous times; and press releases were made on Conference Eve and through the period. All sections of the media knew what the conference was about and where it was located.

For parents, grandparents like me, teachers, and for those interested in primary schooling, there was a promise of headlines in the daily press to inform us of the world’s best practices and what Australia and New Zealands’ pupils and parents could look forward to….especially the place of NAPLAN and ‘National Standards’ in the processes of leading learning in schools.

Things looked so promising. Treehorn and his overlooked, constantly-ignored school friends were optimistic that their school-learning conditions would change for the better, as a result of the conference.



Should we imagine that a covert embargo on expert-based professional comment is an extension of the overt government control of professional opinion and action at the school level?

Too close to a conspiracy theory isn’t it….but …it is weird, isn’t it?  How?. Why?


Thank God for Google. Here you can find audio clips, abstracts, a full text or two on a well organised site. Click…

I have listened to the learned presenters and authors on this site. An hour each spent on the provoking opinions, statistics  and anecdotal evidence with Andy Hargreaves, Pasi Sahlberg, Kishore Mahbubani and Yong Zhao means four hours well spent….and to then read their books! Trust me. Their cogent, thoughtful views should be of enormous assistance to those principals and officials, whom we trust to Guide Our Nation’s School Kids Intelligently.  One such person, a local keynote speaker, Tony Cook of the Department of Education etc., forewarned the unsure, however,  with his well-presented, well-organised paper illustrating that Australia principals will be required to get their NAPLAN scores up to scratch according to the 2025 Gillard Goals. They will! He concluded his address, “ And if you have done that, then you will truly have helped to make the world a better place, and your contribution will have been an immeasurable one.”        ?


Tony Cook’s viewpoint was unremarkably similar to that of Peter Garrett, the Australian Minister for Education and other things, who spoke of his government’s plans for the future. Peter boasted to our visitors:-

“We now have a national curriculum, national teacher standards and a national teacher performance and assessment framework.”

“And there is more to do – a second wave of reform is underway.”

“Between 2000 and 2009 our performance overall, declined relative to other countries.”

“ By Year 9, a student from the poorest quarter of Australian schools is, on average, up to three years of schooling behind a student from the wealthiest quarter of the population.”

“We are prepared to invest substantially more in our schools, but only if there is agreement from state governments to a National Plan for School Improvement.  Our plan will help us to see Australia ranked as a top 5 country in the world in Reading, Science and Mathematics by 2025. The Gillard Government intends to continue to work in good faith with state and territory governments, the Catholic and Independent school sectors to deliver our plan. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get this right. It is an objective that has escaped us as a nation in the past.”’

“I know it’s an objective that you share.”

It is fortunate for Peter that he was not present for all of the conference, because he prefers hard evidence from tests and tends to ignore child-oriented provocations. Testees are children and they have no feelings nor thoughts….can’t vote. Classrooms teachers don’t care….and Principals are on side….as he indicated. The presentations by world reputed thinkers would have made him feel uneasy. But then…

He’s on a roll.   The objectives are shared with Australian principals [he said]. {Are they? That’s a worry.}  2025!  Here come the heavies!


 Preferring to trust the opinions and anecdotal evidence of experienced commentators, I went seeking through the papers to find some solutions for the needs of Treehorn and other maltreated, ignored present-day school children. I went looking deliberately for statements about leading-learning that might apply to NAPLAN [Aus.] and National Standards ]NZ] testing; and help such pedagogical purulence to be banned. The tests are so evil and nasty. I found a gem.

Paul Drummond   Paul Drummond, President of NZPF, said directly to both NZ and Australian politicians…to their face : ”You have unravelled a first class schooling system [NZ has always been near the very top on PISA]; you have removed the right of every child to follow the richness of a sound curriculum along multiple pathways; you have not invested wisely; you have replaced collaboration with competition; your adoption of GERM principles has caused great sadness; your gimmickry [e.g. charter schools] is unprofessional. You have altered  our children’s social future.”

He said to his colleague principals from both sides of the Tasman: “ Our profession has been under siege. We share the despair of working in a system that is entirely political and not educational. Morale is low in both countries. It is such a difficult time in which to live. We are being used as political pawns. We need to strengthen our moral purpose and stress our professional ethics courageously and loud.”

“Let’s stay true to our moral compass.”

This was the most profound address of the conference. Listen to it carefully. My summary does not do it justice.


Some extracts and quotable quotes from other distinguished visitors ….

Kishore Mahbubani [Singapore]

“ The West’s domination has been an aberration in world history, and all aberrations come to an end. Now that the west is receding, the two western countries left in Asia are New Zealand and Australia. They will have a positive future but they will need different mental images.”

“China is having a sputnik moment; the US needs one as well.”

“The most optimistic people in the world are young Asians.”

Andy Hargreaves [Boston College] 

“Globally, we are poised on the edge of a great transformation of what teaching and learning will look like and how schools will appear to us. It will be the greatest change since our present industrial model of schools started in the 19th century.”

“The issue is about Professional Capital. We need to promote the concept widely – Capital includes social capital, human capital, natural capital. It you want a return, you need to make an investment.”

“We cannot replace teachers with technology

“We must be proud of who we are and what we do. Teaching is the most valued profession in the world. BE PROUD.”

How does your government see you? Does it understand? Do politicians appreciate the joys of teaching and learning?”

How many years at the work-face does it take to become an efficient, experienced teacher?  [Listen to Andy’s statistics on this!]

“Unions need to become the agents of positive change as they used to be.”

Pasi Sahlberg [Finland]

“There has not been a miracle in the education system, in Finland.”

Equity rather than choice is the keynote of the system; co-operation rather than competition; individualisation rather that standardisation [the enemy of creativity].

“GERM Global Educational Reform Movement [market-based thinking about education]; competition [among schools], standardisation [setting standards and then measuring], school choice [private vs public], test-based accountability [high stakes testing] has become the way of thinking for a number of countries. Australia is hot and strong on this, as well as NZ.

                                GERM                                                             LEADING-LEARNING

                     Test core subjects only                                   Teach broad & Creative Learning

                     Standardise – same skill for all                       Customise – ‘each one is different’

                     Encourage pre-test panic                                Each at own pace – NBT [No Blanket Tests]

                     Adopt ideas of corporate world                       CHILD as inspiration for change

                     Rant measurement numbers                           Share evaluation as part of learning

                     Drill and skill                                                    Look to future, play & dare to dream

[Refer The Treehorn Express 20 May, 2012 for this version of GERM vs Learning]

“Does GERM work ? Maths results are declining in GERM countries. Finland’s results are up.”

“Students in Finland have less classroom time [190 days per year] and are given less homework, so they have more time to play [that’s what a kid’s job is – learning to understand how their mind and imagination and body work.”]

“When they take the PISA test at age 15, Finnish kids have had 4 fewer years of schooling all told than Australian and New Zealand kids. Finnish kids start school at age 7. Australia and New Zealand start at age 5.”

“People think that choice enhances equity and equality – it does the opposite. Highest performing countries combine quality with equity.

“Lessons from Finland:

  • More collaboration, less competition.
  • More trust-based responsibility, less test-based accountability.
  • More professionalism, less bureaucracy.
  • More personalisation, less standardisation.
  • More pedagogy, less technology.”

[By the way, Pasi recommended the movie ‘Detachment’ – the story of a supply teacher’s experiences with incompetent, unthinking school administrators and languid pupils. It disturbed Pasi..]

Yong Zhao [Oregon]

“Where are we? How did we get in this mess?

What do you want to do?

What kind of education do you want for your kids?”

“There’s a new middle class – the creative entrepreneurial class – filled with new ideas, confident, developmental, exerting leadership qualities with ease.

Global homogenisation is not the way to go. The drive for higher test scores does not produce confidence, energy nor passion to succeed. Why teach a fish to climb a tree?”

Fortunately for NZ and Australian politicians and testucators the Conference material has been kept secret and not made public!

Our children will be stuck with NAPLAN and National Standards.

Darwin will continue to be wrecked; and the public won’t know.


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Educational Readings September 28th

The Treehorn  Express
[Maintained by NZ educator Allan Alach]
Educational Readings
By Allan Alach
The usual potpourri this week. The quantity of valuable educational articles available online is an excellent illustration of how the internet is being used to sidestep traditional communication sources, leading to the internationalisation of educational developments and activism.
I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at
This week’s homework!
Tests and grades are just tools — it’s how they are used that matters most.
Two articles from Canadian teacher Joe Bower who is always on the ball. Here’s a quote from an earlier article:
When learning is enslaved by the quantifiable, we fall victim to the MacNamara Fallacy which refers to the quantifying of success while ignoring other variables – particularly variables that are inconveniently difficult to measure.”
The end of testsandgrades
Our Numbers Obsession Will Kill Us
Will Richardson is yet another very valuable commentator on matters educational. Here he reviews the problems with quantifiable assessments that fail to record what really matters.
Nineteenth Century English Schools for the Poor in Yuma, AZ: Only the Monitors Have Been Swapped Out
The great neo-liberal dream for education is for computer based instruction, using online delivery – hence their raves over the Khan Academy. Here is our ultimate GERM future, unless the forces of rightness prevail!
Five-year-olds put to the test as kindergarten exams gain steam
“A national push to make public schools more rigorous and hold teachers more accountable has led to a vast expansion of testing in kindergarten. And more exams are on the way, including a test meant to determine whether 5-year-olds are on track to succeed in college and career.”  
Is further comment required?
Studies Find Payoff in ‘Personalizing’ Algebra
Thanks to Bruce Hammonds for this link about algebra. Can’t argue with the findings, however – did it need research to work this out? Personalising any learning is going to make it more relevant to the learners.
The future is a big place
Another article from Steve Wheeler, discussing topics from a recent Windsor Debate he attended. Seems the consensus was that the future is going to be much different from today and so we need to be preparing for that. Obvious, yes? Then why are GERM minded governments taking education back to the late 19th century?
From Metaphor to Global Nightmare: The World Bank’s Influence on US Education Reform Policies
Want to know where GERMs breed? Not just USA GERMs but international GERMs.
Socio-economic conditions determine educational under-achievement
This is an analysis of New Zealand ‘national standards data’ but the message is valid elsewhere.
Background information on Mike Feinberg and KIPP (Knowledge is Power Programme)
As part of the agenda to promote charter schools in New Zealand, power brokers calling themselves “The Aotearoa Foundation” (comprised of business etc) brought Mike Feinberg from USA to extol the virtues of the KIPP schools. Here’s an article on the Quality Public Education Coalition website (NZ) that explains the other side of KIPP.

Naplan Testing Fails Test.

The Treehorn Express

Treehorn’s story : Open attachment.

[Maintained by NZ educator Allan Alach]

World rankings in PISA tests show that Australia has slipped from 2nd in 2000 to 7th in Reading in 2012;  from 5th in Maths in 2003 to 13th in 2012; from 4th in Science in 2003 in Science to 7th in 2012.
While there has been no change in schooling operations in the ‘top five’ countries, the most significant change to Australian schooling has been the introduction of NAPLAN testing in 2008 at a cost of over half-a-billion dollars per year.
Despite the warnings from experienced world commentators, education academics and statistics specialists, Australia governments have persisted with protocols  based on an urban New York system of schooling introduced by the federal government in 2008-9. The chief of the system in New York at the time was an influential lawyer, now heading a Murdoch-owned test-publishing and tech-ed enterprise. His efforts at transforming schools were less than successful on any terms.
The system has been described as high-stakes reform, based on standardised [one size fits all] modes of testing that have only tenuous links to evaluation of learning effort.
Experienced school educators [see LINKS below] insist that children learn best and achieve at their highest when their natural love for learning is fostered; and evaluation of effort and progress is part of the learning act. They see the fear-of-failure routines and the constant practice of past tests as preparation for a new one,  as deleterious to child development.
The lack of public exposure of experience-based opinion and the embargoes on professional comment have also concerned former principals and teachers of state public schools.

NAPLANISM Just Gets Stupider and Stupider.

The Treehorn Express

Treehorn’s story : Open attachment.

[Maintained by NZ educator Allan Alach]

“In contrast to the evidence based approach to the development of NAPLAN testing the position expressed in The Treehorn Express newsletter in relation to NAPLAN are largely opinion or anecdotal and are not supported by evidence.”

[Peter Garrett, Federal Minister for Education 12-09-12]




WHAT IS NAPLANISM?   NAPLANISM is a belief that learning is best in school classrooms when the following conditions prevail :-
  • Testing is the essential element.
  • Fear is the best motivator for achievements in learning.
  • Manipulation of a school’s daily time table for more time to be spent on NAPLAN preparation is essential and is officially encouraged.
  • Cheating through extensive daily repetition of test-taking is ignored.  This kind of cheating has high-level approval.
  • Children must be denied access to other essential elements of child development during preparation for NAPLAN testing.
  • Established professional ethics of the teaching profession and of school leadership have to be suspended during the NAPLAN period.
  • Normal teacher compliance and willingness to work with authorities has to be exploited. Teachers are nice people. Use them.
  • Teachers, principals, all school personnel and P&C members are forbidden to discuss the crippling effects of NAPLAN.
  • Testimony from outstanding educators, statisticians, academics and practitioners must be hidden, silenced or ignored.
  • No choices are offered to parents for their children to participate in the tests or test preparation.No mention allowed on enrolment forms or on websites or newsletters.
  • If scores aren’t high, teacher ability has to be denigrated. They can’t spell, numerate, teach, always want to strike. Useless lot.
It is a cruel, nasty, shady system.

There are so many other essentials to be in place for the test publishers and their political fans to have their way:-

  • Semantic manipulation, especially with the word “OUTCOMES”. For politicians and education journalists, this means ‘test results’.  e.g. C.Pyne : “Certainly student outcomes have gone backwards during the past ten years .”  For teachers, “outcomes”  means ‘identifiable improvement across the curriculum’. Quite different.  See. It has a real meaning. ‘Outcomes” has become a colloquialism that is used when you don’t know what you are talking about.
  • Other uses of semantic subterfuge include the hood-winking use of words like…
    • “REFORM” to mean ‘forcing better test results on a testing program’ on measureable maths and grammar items with nothing to do with other school learnings;
    •  “PERFORMANCE” to mean ‘test results’ and not ‘challenges to a beneficial activity’ ;
    •  “IMPROVEMENT” to mean ‘better temporary results on the tests’ and not ‘gains in general ability’;
    • “FUNDING” to mean ‘we don’t what we are doing, so we’ll bribe everybody to get on our side.”
    •  TEACHER QUALITY refers to those who get better results on the tests than others. The higher the scores, the better the teacher.
  •  The list of the best and worst schools and school authorities must be printed and noted for derision and applause.
These conditions are relatively easy to establish and maintain once the compliance of principals, teachers’ unions and educational societies has been obtained by fair or foul means;  and corporate Australia has been frightened by a manipulated and false scenario.  This teacher compliance and corporate encouragement was a first step for the establishment of NAPLANISM in 2008-9 and was embodied in Klein’s advice to Gillard. It was too easy. She went about her duties for Klein and his testing firms with zeal and found the victims to be quite pliable. They remain so.
STOP PRESS Her Immenseness is in New York this week. ‘London to a brick’ she will contact her mentor Joel Klein for further advice and encouragement. Hang in there, kids.
Part of the silliness is evident in the quoted extract at the heading to this Treehorn Express in this childish response from Peter Garrett, composed no doubt by one of his expert testucators, to an inquiry from a respected, former High School principal, who had quoted Treehorn. Of course the Treehorn newsletter is proudly based on opinion and anecdotal evidence, with far more substance than does any NAPLANistic score.
The opinions and evidence are based on over 40 years of chalk-dust and primary schooling face-ups gathered by a once testing-fixated primary school principal who did a complete 180 when he realised, during one school testing period, that he was destroying children‘s love for learning by his thoughtlessness; and  later came to realise that achievements in all school subjects are higher and more permanent than anything that any national testing can do, if evaluation of effort is carried on hand-in-hand with learning and by sharing the ‘outcomes’ [see above]. There is ample ‘anecdotal evidence’ for this stance.
Not only that, but the Treehorn opinions and anecdotes are shared by hundreds of Australia and New Zealands’ greatest educators, academics and statisticians who are familiar with NAPLAN and NZ’s National Standards.
There’s Margaret Wu, Brian Cambourne, David Hornsby, Kelvin Smythe and those 100+ academics who signed that petition to “Say NO to NAPLAN”. All of these and Treehorn are on the same page as the world’s greatest known educators overseas : Diane Ravitch, Marion Brady, John Goodland, Neil Postmann, Sir Ted Robinson and so on, who challenge their own politically-based GERM viruses….and Pasi Sahlberg who doesn’t have to.
Then there’s those thousands of anti-GERM articles, a few of which are provided by Allan Alach each week. Treehorn, typical of so many school children whose intellectual property is being invaded and fracked, would welcome a challenge to any one of the Treehorn  Express statements or opinions,  from any one of the ACARA testors, NAPLAN supporters or St. Custard ‘experts’. Try it.


  1. Mr. Pyne, alternative Minister for Education has yet to answer my letter of 9 September concerning ‘outcomes’, ‘robust curriculum’, ‘principal autonomy’ and ‘teacher’ quality. I have faith in him. He seems to be a thinker.
  2. Can anyone from anywhere provide a comment or opinion on the embargo of news from the APPA-NZPF conference held last week? Please read the Treehorn Express article “What Happened? Why?” on and use the comment section. I am quite bewildered as any normal parent or grandparent would be; and I sincerely hope that our New Zealand guests and O.S. speakers are not offended by the snub. I, for one, just don’t understand. If it was deliberate, it is totally non-ANZAC   I’m a little bit suspicious, of course, that the Murdoch lobbyists have been busy. Your comment?
This is a letter to co-editor Allan Alach of New Zealand, summarising the week on this side of the ditch :  1. Naplan Results Released. 2. McCharter Schools for Queensland. 3.APPA-NZPF Conference. 4.Teacher Strike. 5. Peter Garrett Responds. 6. No Pyne Reply.
It’s been quite a week.
“If they’re [Queensland] endemic as cellar-dwellers, it’s pretty serious systemic problem.”
[Christopher Bantick, Education Expert, Trinity Grammar, Melbourne. Courier Mail 4 18-09-12]

What happened at the Conference?

The Treehorn Express

Treehorn’s story : Open attachment.

[Maintained by NZ educator Allan Alach]

The printing of lists is misleading. Reducing the complexities of schooling to a single number or even a set of numbers is not only misleading; it will undermine outcomes as teachers are forced to teach to the tests at the expense of the remainder of the curriculum.
[Dr. John Kaye, MP  NSW Greens]
Since the beginning of 2012, the APPA-NZPF Conference has been advertised. The Australian Primary Principals Association and the  New Zealand Principals Federation planned and advertised this major conference to be held in Melbourne from 18 – 21 September. The topic was ‘Leading Learning’ 
Giants of the academic education world were invited to lead this important topic – so critical in these perilous times for both countries where high-stakes testing has overcome classroom learning.
Of particular interest to practitioners were the addresses by…
ANDY HARGREAVES from the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, who has held a number of visiting professorships in various countries. He once taught primary school in England.
PASI SAHLBERG from Finland, a known expert on educational reforms whose extracts from his most recent book : Finnish Lessons : What can the world learn about educational change in Finland.” have been keenly awaited.
YONG ZHAO from the College of Education at the University of Oregon is a most popular writer on current issues, especially on topics that apply to globalization, digital schooling and the effects of standardised tests on learning.
The impact of this conference on the future of our ANZAC countries was expected to be significant. We may never learn of what went on.
There was not a word in any major newspaper, radio or TV news.
Standardised tests, when used as the sole measure of student achievement, distort our public education system and discourage educators from creating healthy and high-functioning learning environments.
_______________________[Sam Chaltain 2009]_______________________

Educational Readings September 22nd

The Treehorn  Express

[Maintained by NZ educator Allan Alach]

Educational Readings
By Allan Alach
  Madness has spread to both sides of the Tasman Sea this week, with the publishing of Naplan test results in Australia and of national standards ‘data’ in New Zealand.  As usual politicians and media are making the most of this, regardless of all the evidence to the contrary. This GERM is very contagious and hard to eradicate.I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!

Learning by making

English academic Steve Wheeler is very good value and this article is no exception.

Education Reform: Treating Schools Like Businesses is Wrong

We know this. The problem is that the businesses who see $$$$$$ don’t know, and don’t want to know, the basic truth.

Education Reform Sucks: Driving a Stake through High Stakes Testing

Phil Cullen has covered this excellent article in a Treehorn Express – well worth reading again.

A Global Fund for Education: Achieving Education for All

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Sorry, this is aimed at the GERMing of education worldwide.

Proposed Competencies for Learning Outcomes: Early Childhood, Primary, and Post-Primary

This is a draft of an international set of competencies, linked to the articles immediately above. What do you think? Is this as altruistic as it is framed?

Joel Klein: Enormous Resistance to Change in K-12 System

Murdoch stooge Joel Klein (Mr Naplan in Australia), a New York lawyer, pronouncing on educational change. Time for educators to reform the legal system, it seems.

Free schools are a disaster

‘Michael Gove’s flagship policy is a huge waste of money, socially divisive and won’t raise educational standards’

Free schools in the UK are the same as charter schools elsewhere, and are just as ineffective. However deformers will ignore this, to the peril of real education. Given that the head of New Zealand/s Ministry of Education, Lesley Longstone, was brought over from the UK because of her expertise with free schools, it is pretty clear where NZ’s charter school programme is heading.

U.S. Education in Chinese Lock Step? Bad Move.

The education systems in China and the United States not only are headed in opposite directions, but are aiming at exactly what the other system is trying to give up.’

As Children’s Freedom Has Declined, So Has Their Creativity

Self explanatory!

The 9th problem with the Common Core standards

Another excellent article by Marion Brady, that reinforces the article above about declining creativity. While relating to the USA, his points are valid wherever core standards are being decreed.

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Breaking News for NAPLANers.

The Treehorn Express

Treehorn’s story Open attachment.

[Maintained by NZ educator Allan Alach]

“Normal professional discourse about the nature, shape and value of shared evaluation and allied learning exchanges, has been replaced by sterile chatter about test score and printed tables.”

[ Jan Moroney]


Breaking News for NAPLANers


Yes, Dear Naporners. [Jan’s term.] That ‘learning belongs to each individual’ will be news to you. Let me explain, Herr/Frau Measurer and Herr/Frau Minister, as you don’t seem to know much about learning at school.

You won’t make me learn anything unless I want to. I love learning and I do it my way. I do it when I’m good and ready. You can bully me all you like in the sternest of conditions with your stupid tests and threats and practice.

I do what you want, even though I hate it, only because I’ve been reared to do as I am told. I’ve always been that way. I’m an obedient child. Teacher, you frighten me, that’s for sure, with your penchant for tests.

I wish that I was brave enough to tell you that I’m bored silly by what we do for a few months before the NAPLAN tests.

The crazy season from February to May doesn’t give me a chance to learn much.  It’s a great big waste of time.  I reckon that I would like maths if I could have fun with it.  I hate the stuff. When can I get old enough to get out of here?  This goes on for four of my first nine school years and here I am wanting to learn something!

How would you like to be in my place?

Do this sum. This year I averaged about 2 hours each day for 16 weeks [80 days] doing practice tests. That’s 160 hours or the equivalent of about 6 full-time school weeks – sitting still, filling in bubbles with a pencil. You try it.



You don’t believe this, do you? This is front-page breaking news for testucators and measurers and politicians, especially Education Ministers:-

The banning of NAPLAN will actually increase the level of mastery of numeracy, reading, writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation.

because children like learning and do their best when teachers are free to apply what teachers know about children’s learning. There is no doubt about this. Unfamiliar as it is to measurers, here’s some information for you….

  • Children believe in their own ability. They grow to be what you expect them to be. [You know, Mum, that you are good at something because someone you liked once told you that you were good at it. Remember?]
  • Children don’t aim for mediocrity in anything they do.  [NAPLAN measuring ensures mediocrity by quelling enthusiasm.]
  • They are naturally curious and interested in the world around them.  [Each one usually finds a special interest in some aspect of living. Testing drives away enthusiasm for aspects of literacy and numeracy. But…Knowledge of classroom    learnacy can and will raise levels of performance in these now-dull topics to dizzy heights, if that is what their controllers want. Just cut the crap.
  • They enjoy play and prefer to be happy.  [Children will make the most of play and happy endeavour for learning purposes. It works for two-year olds. It works for 52-year olds]
  • Their curiosity disposes them to handle things, explore situations and attempt something new. [Watch them and you’ll see.]
  • They are thrilled and immediately motivated by success as much as they feel disappointed by failure. [They apply their own benchmarks. It is their private business. It’s their secret and personal evaluation.]
  • They learn effectively when their own interests are being satisfied. [The confidence trickster aka teacher sets up learning situations where the child believes that he or she really wants to ‘do this’ at ‘this point in time’. We used to call it ‘motivation’.]
  • They learn by doing, observing, imitating and teaching other children.  For them, learning is an active occupation.

For the highest level cognitive development of each child’s learning capacity,  the ability of the teacher to make the most of these elements of children’s natural  love for learning, is essential. High-stakes blanket testing ruins everything.


Office-bound measurers don’t know about this. Children have evaluated how well they are doing at everything from birth. It’s an essential part of the learning process. Children usually want to share anything they do at school with someone for whom they have respect. Any sort of teacher-pupil enthusiasm-raising relationship, whether it is between the golf-pro and the golfer or a football coach and his team relies on on-the-spot evaluation. Each and every school pupil need to have single face-to-face sharing of effort of some kind each day as part of the effort.  If children do not know why they are at school nor appreciate their daily progress, they are not at school. Sharing of effort is a constant during the full time of each school day. This is mandated by the compulsory nature of schooling. Exterior-sourced testing is an unnecessary bother.

If a teacher should want to run a test that might help them to check out any current concern, so be it. One heavy thumping with a barrage of testing in May with results in September and inventing artificial poppycock to laud its usefulness is a rotten betrayal of the spirit of learning.  The numeral scores, by then are useless and outdated. Statistician Margaret Wu [ ] uses hard evidence to demonstrate that the use of NAPLAN scores as a measuring stick to compare schools and authorities is a nonsense, even fraudulent. Sharing progress as often as possible, with parent and child in a three-way partnership, with the child in command of the evaluation, will produce outcomes that will donkey-lick any kind of learning outcome that national blanket-testing can offer. In any case, evaluation of effort is personal and private. It is not the business of anyone beyond the classroom. Public delving and probing and exposing and wielding threats-galore is grossly immoral. Think about it.

We don’t respect a child’s desire to be part of its private evaluation of progress as much as we should. It is the ONLY way to go.

So,  don’t trust your children to any teacher or school that says that NAPLAN results help them to evaluate pupil progress. If a teacher does not know how well pupils are progressing each day of every week, they should quit asap. For a public utility of any kind [newspaper, TV show, Minister, departmental officer] to proclaim that ‘NAPLAN scores show that state school students are performing below national average’ or any similar kind of gobbledegook, demeans the whole schooling process. Certainly politicians want kids to fail. It suits their rhetoric. Measurers want kid to fail. They keep their job. Publishers want kids to fail. It fattens their pockets.


When a class of say 20 pupils enter the classroom, the teacher has to pretend that every one has had a pleasant time with friends and family since they left the room yesterday. None has been bullied nor physically pushed around by anyone else; they all like working with each other; adults at home have not had a loud argument nor any kind of ‘domestic’; there have been opportunities to learn something of interest at home or in the locality; they have had a full evening meal and a full nourishing breakfast; they feel well; they have had a pleasing conversation with their parents and one or more other adults. They are all charged and ready to roll with a meaningful day of learning.

Then the teacher commences a series of context-processes as Michael Dunkin [Researching Teaching. P.17] describes them, that come with  the day’s program. The classroom context has an effect on the processes that involve the 20 souls, each so different in so many ways, in a daily routine that uncontrollably alters for some reason or other each day.  During the day, the teacher, “…smiling, listening, problem-solving, distracting, answering, asking, demonstrating, commending, cajoling, questioning, supporting, expounding, correcting, disturbing, frowning”  keeps the learning efforts on the roll. As the day moves from one kind of learning to another, confidence trickery has to come constantly into play. The pupil must believe they they have total control of the learning. There are constant unplanned interruptions, minor dramas and episodes. It happens. It’ a busy place. A teacher is a very busy person. Appreciate it, you grim testucators.

And then some idiot says things like “Parent must demand that teachers get higher scores on the NAPLAN tests.” What can teachers demand of parents?  Believe me, classroom teaching is a busy occupation. One must love children and the act of teaching and be ready for anything to become a member of the most caring profession of all.

Teachers can do without the criticism and the disruptive and damaging effects of NAPLAN on the way they develop each child’s enthusiasm for achievement.


 A third-party high-stakes testing environment generates unproductive tension in classrooms. Test preparation takes over. A shopping list of minimal competencies ensues.


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Education Experts

The Treehorn Express

Treehorn’s story : Open attachment.

[Maintained by NZ educator Allan Alach]

There are only four words in the English that end in –ous :- tremendous, horrendous, stupendous, hazardous. They all apply to NAPLAN.


Education Experts

“An education expert is a University-based doctor of anything or anyone who comes from more than 100kms away and has a different accent.”

That’s what I was told at a Native-American Educators’ Conference in Oregon where I was invited [jokingly] to go on a speaking circuit because two of the three credentials were so strong.

In fact any word-smith or sweet-talker can now become an expert, once they have been favoured by a publisher of the news-paper kind or have the ability to draw attention or can get the ear of an important personage.  It’s so easy. Joel Klein a New York lawyer is the definitive case-in-point. He was a lawyer-friend of the Mayor and he had been to school many years before; and proclaimed that he could straighten out schools because he remembered how his teachers bashed him around at school. That’s what teachers ought to do to make children learn. Simple. Now his refined system of milder-but-not-much fear-teaching is in place in New York and Australia and any other place where political leaders demand stiff-arm acknowledgement of their expert politico-educative power. Their fear-based scato-memes are so easy to spread through cultures that don’t like children, other than their own…well…maybe their own. One can’t be sure of parents who allow politco-testucators, the flat-world adherents, do as they please with their institutionalised kids. Joel is now their patron saint and most successful education expert of this decade….sort of.

Anyone who believes that pupils and classes and schools and schools systems can be described according to scores on compulsory tests, compiled by non-school personnel from a far-away place, needs to make an appointment with a psychiatric expert. With no disrespect intended, they have a serious problem. It’s quite impossible to use a number to describe a human endeavour. They know that, surely.

Christopher Bantick, whose claim to expertise is that he once taught history and now teaches literature at a Grammar School in Victoria, is now the most highly regarded expert [by the Courier Mail]  dealing with  Queensland education. True. Basing his expert comments [C.M. 17/09/12] on NAPLAN scores, in which Queensland kids did not please their narrow-minded controllers, he patronised every Queenslander with a hefty insult:  “If they’re [Queensland] endemic as cellar-dwellers, it’s pretty serious systemic problem there.” and counsels everybody, “Really, we’ve got to look at the classroom teaching and instruction and say we’ve got to do it better in Queensland.” One is tempted to be rude and exclaim,’, “What utter bulldust!”, because it i.   I’m a proud Queenslander and I certainly take umbrage at such scatter-brain comments.

This is the same ‘expert’  who wrote for The Age: NAPLAN: The case against.[ ]on 7 May [NAPLAN month], a few days after the publication of ‘Say NO to NAPLAN’ by on 1 May and 10 days after a serve from Loon Pond  describing him as “…a senior English teacher at Trinity Grammar School in Victoria, and a complacent, smug, self-satisfied one at that.” and suggested .“Chris, get a grip. You’re not really in the real world, but keep writing for ‘The Australian’ to get that journalism job you are chasing.” “Wash your mouth out with a particularly vile soap, and stand in the corner for the rest of the class.”  [ ] He reminded me of that dung-beetle on the ABC’s Miniscule trying to push his load up hill and losing it.

This gent is being presented by Rupert’s press as the new Messiah for the Queensland public.  ‘All hale’, scream pro-NAPLAN journos! How gullible do they think Queenslanders are? They’ll defenestrate the Bantick ravings asap, for sure.


At the same time there are serious commentators who do not claim expertise but have a deep understanding of what is involved in the serious business of compulsory schooling. They don’t claim expertise. They just care.

Highly credentialed in academic terms they seek to know and share their knowledge and their concerns. As a rule, they apply their academic experiences to what is happening in schools. Their comments are valued by those who think seriously about what school children do, and the effects of high-stakes on pupil performance and welfare.

How can a serious minded parent or teacher ignore the wisdom of Margaret Wu, Diane Ravitch, John Goodlad, Marion Brady, Brian Cambourne, Neil Postman and their wise associates; and still maintain their support for  the indignities imposed on our children by their silence?

SO…. a big warm welcome to Pasi Sahlberg, Yong Zhao and their co-speakers for the APPA-NZPF Conference this week. They carry all three credentials listed above. Let’s heed.


There are those who don’t know; and those who don’t know they don’t know.



Bruce Hammonds’ summary of the book by Linda Darling-Hammond : ‘The Flat World Ediucation” who provides an alternative to the current standards’ approach. Her writing aligns well with the the currently side-lined N.Z. Curriculum;

Bruce also describes the book by UK Maths Professor Jo Boaler whose two main themes are [1] teach children to love maths by teaching ‘real’ maths; and [2] abandon ability grouping to encourage the love for math.


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Thoughts on coal mining.

Treehorn’s Guest.

The Treehorn Express

Treehorn’s story : Open attachment.

[Maintained by NZ educator Allan Alach]

“The circle of children’s learning has been narrowed and impoverished all the year for the sake of a result at the end of  it and the ‘end’ is an illusion.”

[Matthew Arnold  1867]


Welcome to Paul Thomson, the dynamic principal of Kimberly College, an outstanding private school at Carbrook,a south-side suburb of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia,

A visit to the school’s website is well worthwhile, but gives an idea of what goes on.

The parents at the school made national headlines when almost all of them refused to allow NAPLAN testing interfere with the climate of achievement and learning at the school.

They said collectively : ‘NO to NAPLAN’.

‘Enjoy’ this short quasi-allegory by Paul Thomson. It says so much


Some Thoughts on Coal-mining

[Paul Thomson]

The Golden Era of education is easily located by the formula x-y,  x being the average age of those at the apex of power and y the number of years since they left school.

I suspect the Golden Age is also inspired by a more distant gilded epoch when our forebears knew exactly what to do with children of the working class. The blessing for the decision makers lay in the form of coal mines and chimneys.

William Blake wasn’t all that happy with the silence of ‘authorities’ on the plight of the chimney sweeps and there was some discomfort with the use of children as pit ponies. Of course, some of those children never saw daylight, but there were other sources of Vitamin D. For the brighter lads, there was always a career in the military as a drummer boy or naval cabin boy. The less said about the fate of those children, the better.

Dickens loathed the institutionalised abuse of children in factories, schools and child ‘care’ institutions.

In his novel ‘Hard Times’, Dickens slathers ‘educators’ who sought to ‘…..weigh every parcel of human nature to see what it exactly comes to’. He questioned subject-centred teaching, teacher-centred classrooms, the crushing of creativity and learning as definition .

For some reason lost in time it became illegal to use English children as slaves and I don’t think we’ve known what to do with the pesky children of the proletarians ever since. Despite exclusive schooling, various public examination trapdoors,  reintroduced university fees and the constant denigration of public education, the working class and their offspring continue to make nuisances of themselves. Look at the NAPLAN results which have revealed that children from deprived background get lower results. My theory is that those bludging teacher providing breakfast to the offspring of the ‘lower’ class need some lessons in nutrition – healthy minds in healthy bodies. Once again, our teachers have let the nation down.

The solution is before our very eyes. King coal. Australia is rotten with the stuff as we all know and our continuing relationship with the French, British and the Americans depends on our continuing export of 83% of the profit from the black stuff to our corporate masters across the waves.



In Texas, high stake testing is referred to as “the heart of the vampire.”

Information Vampires are the private profiteers who “…suck the life blood from children in order to collect data…and money.” In order to acquire and control information, firms like “…Wireless Generation owned by Rupert Murdoch. king of the espionage and security breaches,”  need an endless supply of blood.

Political Vampires suck the life “…out of workers, the environment, and social resources for their own profits. They force others into positions of servitude, as food or to be made into vampires, who like themselves will be ‘addicted’ to feed off the life of others. They are the same multinational corporations that are working behind the scene to privatize public education, turning public education into a for-profit private enterprise owned by corporations.”

In intellectual terms, the Billionaires’ Boy Club, through its ability to purchase superior intellects, “…has at its disposal, think-tanks which can manufacture ‘research’ and ‘findings’ which lead to policies which are of economic and political advantage to the corporations that funded them in the first place.”  They use simple, underhand tactics:-

Step 1. Create a crisis: e.g. “Certainly student outcomes have gone backwards during the past ten years.” [C.Pyne]  “There is nothing more important than literacy and numeracy. It needs to be done better.” [J.Gillard]

Step 2. Track and Detect Prey: “Through the use of common core standards and high-stakes testing, corporations can more easily prey on poor urban communities and convert their schools to McCharters.”

“The vampire feeds off the mesmerized victims who no longer realize that they are the prey. They are the food. The architects of educational reform (DE-form according to Alach) have mesmerized our communities. We no longer realize that our children, our tax dollars, and our right to a public education are the prey on which they feed. And it will mean the death of public education if we don’t stake their efforts in the heart. How? Refuse them that which they need to live. The data. It’ s the blood they need.   [Say NO to NAPLAN!!]   Drive a stake right through the heart of high stakes testing “ [aka NAPLAN].

And when they ask to come into your school – Refuse to invite them in.


‘……and the profit from the black stuff goes to our corporate masters across the waves.’


“The world can be a terrible place, not because of the bad things that happen. but because of the good people who stand by and let them happen.”

[Albert Einstein]

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Learning from Conferences

The Treehorn Express

Treehorn’s story : Open attachment.

[Maintained by NZ educator Allan Alach]

National testing, such as NAPLAN and National Standards, ensures national mediocrity.”

Learning from Conferences
One has to wonder. What do we learn? Do we attend with a desire to learn…or to socialise….or to catch up with cobbers and share ideas with colleagues? We pay a lot of money to attend them. We expect to come out professionally richer and happier, whatever our reasons.

Apart from four APPA Conferences, I’ve been to quite a number of others and, at this present time, I am wondering what I recall from them. Which ones ‘changed’ my thinking perhaps.
Some conferences were very large; too big to be useful.  The AASA [American Association of School Administrators] at Atlantic City welcomed 35,000 participants – the population of Cairns, where I had lived the year before. I can only recall how well things were organised. Nothing else.  Another of similar size was the NAESP [National Association of Elementary School Principals] at Denver. The real value in this conference, for me, was a 4mat workshop that I attended for a few days beforehand. It was based around  the notion that the hemispheres of the brain process things differently. We participants examined two parts of each hemisphere: – 1. Imaginative [Why?] 2. Analytic [What?] and 3. Common Sense [How?] 4. Dynamic [What if?] sensitizing us to the personal pupilling adaptations that pupils use as they share and construct meaning in their lives with the help of child-oriented teachers. Not much use for NAPLAN-approving teachers.

I’ve attended ACEA [now ACEL] conferences in Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Sydney. In Perth, ACEA members continued the conference while visiting educational institutions in Singapore and Penang.That was a useful experience. The Melbourne conference was memorable as it was held during the Standards Debate, the scato-meme period that arose from the 1975 Black Papers and lasted for over a decade. It can and should be compared with the present NAPLAN debacle as there are some very common features.  Teachers were under attack as they are now, but not from government sources as they are now. The attack came from academics who knew little to nothing about schools. ACEA invited one of them to be a keynote speaker: Lachlan Chipman, a Wollongong academic, because he was chairman of ACES [Australian Council for Educational Standards] a self-styled crusading group of tertiary level protectors of school standards which treated the Black Papers with devoted biblical affection. In accordance with these beliefs, they maintained that ‘children were not naturally good…too much freedom…a non-competitive ethos will produce a generation unable to maintain standards when opposed by fierce rivalry from overseas competitors…etc..etc.” [Back to Drastics, Pp18-20] using the rhetoric now used by NAPLAN measurers and testicators, their apprentices and politicians.

Without supplying his Victorian hosts with a pre-copy of his speech, Chipman gave teachers such a venomous charge that his comments made the front page of every major Australian newspaper; and Education Departments in every state were busy with ‘Ministerials’ for a few weeks.  His description of teachers at a public rally as “….a foul-mouthed rabble of sloppily dressed and grubbily obese unionists….It is difficult to exaggerate just how bad some of these teachers are. Many are incapable of spontaneously generating a grammatically well-formed sentence…..Secondary teachers especially in government schools, represent most of the worst, and few of the best, of the output of the universities” and he then went on to insult them. {Speech available}

In a calmer manner, an earlier Brisbane ACEA Conference featured Richard Carlson of the University of Oregon at Eugene. At the time he was renowned in managerial circles for his easy-to-follow design that featured the differences between the administration of a business organisation and a state-sponsored one; and how each tries to ‘control’ its clients. He referred to them as ‘Wild’ and ‘Domesticated’ Societies. Wild organisations, like supermarket businesses, try to attract clients and exploit public attitudes as adroitly as they can.  His illustration and description of domesticated societies featured schools, gaols and insane institutions whose clients have no choice over being there. I adapted his design for personal use, and it did help me to tolerate some of the less palatable operations that a school leader and other public service administrators must endure or manipulate. It made me think about the level of freedom that I was allowed and what my profession meant to me; how far I could push the envelope and how.  I changed the Carlson design to a school-based model and came to appreciate the differences between being ‘wild’ or ‘domesticated’ within the same professional framework and my place in it:-

If you are a ‘schoolie’, in which quadrant do you operate? What does the level of client-control mean to you and the way that you do things?  If you lead learning, how much ‘control’ do you have?


     So a conference sometimes alters the mind-set of participants and sometimes spreads ideas that benefit school clients. If a conference is about activities of a domesticated organisation, have you ever heard of its organisational elite pronounce its professional ethics and views, in a loud voice during or after the conference?   Union conferences usually do. They issue demands; professional groups seldom  demand; they usually indicate their view on professional grounds if  it believes in its ethics firmly enough. One day they might demand attention for the maintenance of such ethics. They don’t usually.

    Just think. The professional face of our down-under primary principals’ valiant attempts at leading learning in schools over the past four years in the face of child-hostile governments, could be revealed this week. Most of them dwell in the     bottom-right quadrant in uneasy comfort. The public pretty-well ignores them, and testicators make the most of their domesticated compliance. 2012 could be a marvellous year for primary school pupils, principals’ principles and for the South Pacific’s future.  Just don’t bet on it.

“The country that encourages a love for learning in a climate of freedom leads the world.”
     This article deals with the morality of school principals’ supervision of fear-based, standardised blanket testing in any of the GERM countries?  What does one do when one is expected to lead such ‘de-forming’ activities?
Horace Mann said, “Public schooling is mankind’s greatest invention.” This article explains why.
Kelvin Smythe said, “…without classroom experience, it is beyond the capacity of the human mind to understand primary teaching.”  While teachers become more and more experienced and competent with pupilling acts, the nature of political and bureaucratic beasts has not.  Smythe continues, “Because these characters do not understand primary teaching, have no ideas of their own, they borrow from overseas, thinking themselves so sophisticated in the process, so in the  know;  they also become so obsessive, so keen to exact revenge on teachers, they are willing to impose on teachers one alien indignity after the other.”  This article explains the intellectual and intestinal rigour required to understand the nature of primary teaching’s pride in their job. Testicators, measurers and political ‘experts’ just don’t have the experience, the demanding intellect nor personal mettle to internalise its requirements. They prefer to be the bullies.

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