Inquiry submission; Australian idol; child advocacy; Young person’s view; Suffocate identities

Please note : Queensland state school principals are not able to receive emails of this size. They cannot receive, through the official network, largish items e.g. Allan Alach’s “Professional Readings”. They will need to access all Treehorn Express articles through [If you are talking to one of them, please…]

The Treehorn Express

Treehorn is the hero of an easy-to-read, sad children’s book, “The Shrinking of Treehorn” by Florence Heidi Parry. She cleverly exposes adults’ couldn’t-care-less attitude towards the needs of children, even when the circumstances of mal-treatment of children are patently obvious. Treehorn found that parents, teachers and principals only pretend to care. His principal ignored his problem but was still able to say, “You were right to come to me. That’s what I’m here for. To guide. Not to punish, but to guide. To guide all members of my team. To solve their problems.” And Treehorn kept shrinking.

When he started to turn green, his mother told him to comb his hair before the Smedleys arrived for bridge.


Senate Inquiry    How can Australia maximise its investment in schools? That’s the subject of the inquiry. David Hornsby of Literacy Educators makes some cogent points in his submission. Click on the attachment and consider what he has to say, part of which he emphasises boldly:

His overall contention is:- We don’t necessarily need extra funds in the education budget; we just need those funds to be spent more wisely.

David then goes on to suggest that : NAPLAN is not an investment in education…..The evidence is strong. Removing NAPLAN in its current form will do more to maximise our investment in education than any other single factor.

  1. The tests themselves are invalid and unreliable.
  2. The tests are not diagnostic.
  3. There is a strong link between poverty and home backgrounds, and educational outcomes.
  4. It is disingenuous of the government to argue that NAPLAN results can lead to schools getting more money.
  5. NAPLAN is placing an unhealthy emphasis on literacy and numeracy at the expense of important curriculum areas such as science, social education and the arts.
  6. The design of the tests advantages shallow thinkers.

His piece de resistance [I thought]….

Standardised tests, such as NAPLAN, have too many problems. Including…

  • they measure memorisation and test-taking skills
  • they ignore the characteristics of good learners
  • they can’t measure initiative, creativity, imagination, conceptual thinking, ethical reflection, judgment, commitment [they only measure and count isolated skills, specific facts, and the least interesting and least significant aspects of learning]
  • they measure how quickly students can do things rather than deep thinking and understanding
  • the multiple-choice test items require a single correct answer and do not engage students in interpretation and evaluation
  • they measure isolated, low-level performance – but society requires effective cooperation, assimilation of other people’s ideas into our own, and group performance.

The list goes on and on.

Teachers “teach to the test” because the NAPLAN results are used inappropriately, turning the tests into high-stakes tests.

Finally : We have imported a failed model from the USA. Research demonstrates that large-scale assessments will not raise literacy standards.


MEET AUSTRALIA’S IDOL Our schooling system, the ‘failed model’ indicated by David, is based solely on the schooling views of this man. His name is Joel Klein, former lawyer and he has been in control of the Murdoch empire’s school-test production and publishing, as well as online delivery of tests and curriculum, since 1 January, 2010. His starting salary was $4million per year. [Rupert Murdoch has estimated this part of his business empire to be worth $500billion in the U.S.A. alone.] Blanket testing of school systems is big, big business. That’s the purpose of Australia’s commitment to its version of GERM:- to help mega-publishing firms in New York to make money. There is no obvious ‘other’. Klein also provided ‘oversight and guidance’ for the Murdoch family during the News of the World investigations in England; and was responsible for the purchase of Wireless Generation, a technology company that developed and managed New York’s school data warehouse. He is good at his job. He is a sweet-talker and publically claims the Australian system as his. He ‘owns’ it. We can’t deny it. We seem to be proud of it. We keep it rolling. All Australian authorities and control agents encourage his philosophy: fear is the best way to force learning progress, threats and shame will maintain it as will repression of professional ethics. It is so obvious. Led by Rudd and Gillard with opposition support, it took over all democratic modes of schooling quite easily; and Australia raced to the fore with its present dictatorial form of political control of schooling. The Klein design. Heil.

Rudd and his Education Minister, Gillard had proposed a tough “education revolution” back about 2007. Gillard listened to a glowing description of one at a cocktail party in New York and bought it immediately. It was a doolally moment for her. At or following the ‘knees-up’, she arranged for Joel Klein to visit Australia and spread his gospel amongst bankers and business executives The Federal Opposition was jealous at the time. It claimed that the fear-motivator model was a copy of one that they had “put forward in 2004 but didn’t carry through”.

While he was here [August- September 2008] Joel Klein mentioned during an ABC interview with Monica Attard [ ] that his discussions with J. Gillard were around the use of hard data for assessment and he had explained how his modus operandi improved test scores. “He infected Julia Gillard with his enthusiasm when the two met.” says Monica Attard.

That’s our hero; the philosophical leader, guide and mentor of Australian testucators and naplanners. His photograph, here supplied, should hang in an honoured place in every principal’s office where NAPLAN tests are conducted.


ADVOCACY FOR CHILDREN Although principals’ groups, teacher unions and well-intentioned associations were press-ganged into service on behalf of the Klein clan and remain stuck there, there are many experienced and thoughtful educators in all GERM countries who are prepared to stand up for children’s rights. That’s what anti-NAPLANNERS in Australia; what anti-Nationals Standards in New Zealand; anti-NCLB in the USA; anti-‘Standards’ in England are about : CHILDREN. This is clearly demonstrated in Stephan Breen’s summary of the ‘Features of GERM’ on behalf of West Australian Primary Principals. As an expression of this fair-dinkum love for kids, more and more parents are withdrawing their children from the despicable, unproductive contest; many parents and teachers are proud to display “Say NO to NAPLAN” stickers on their cars; some principals have exerted their professional ethics and told their parents about the effects of NAPLAN on learning at their meetings and through newsletters; more and more are including the ‘right to withdraw’ clause on enrolment forms. There seems to be an optimistic growth in respect for school children and their learning conditions.

What a whopper statement from WAPPA !

The field of anti-GERM activity that seems to have expanded the most, however, is the field of professional literature. More and more commentators of all kinds are prepared, indeed anxious to have their say. Allan Alach, who complies the Friday edition of The Treehorn Express, obligingly provides the most salient for our week-end reading. Thank heavens for Allan who makes it so easy for us. Although his vision might be wider than most, he does represent the typical primary school principal who must read as widely as possible to ‘stay on the ball.’ Here are some sample extracts from recent articles:

G.Paton {English Education Editor] :The league-table culture and compliance culture have taken the soul out of schools…..Teacher and heads – heads in particular – have become very robotic….Teachers are too used to ticking boxes. – We’ve got to see the curriculum as more than a set of subjects. It’s got to engage all the activities that children engage in.”

Howard Gardner [Renowned Professor.- Harvard] “ In many ways, the education that has been promoted is regressive, It presumes a population that was needed in the 19th or 20th century.We want and need for the 21st– versatile, critical and creative problem solvers, and responsible, decent, well-informed citizens. The curriculum has been narrowed to STEM [science, technology, engineering, math] subjects and the assessments to multiple choice, fact-centred instruments.

Every educator and every parent in America should read Pasi Sahlberg’s book, Finnish Lessons. Finland has catapulted from a country with a mediocre educational educational system to perhaps the most admired system in the world. It has done so by ignoring the GERM approach to educational reform favoured by the U.S. and England.

If ethics is ‘in the air’ and ‘on the street’, young people will notice, and if ethical behaviour is honoured in the breach, that will, alas, be noted as well. Over the last four decades ethics has taken a back seat to the accumulation of wealth; by any means possible. The best political system is NOT untrammelled capitalism, it is the subtle blending of democracy, capitalism, and socialism.”

Marion Brady [Wash.Post writer]: “Think about the long-term consequences of taking control of kids’ minds away from homes and parents, away from neighbourhood schools and teachers, away from locally elected school boards and local press, and handing it over to people for whom quality education is far down their list of priorities, if it appears at all.”

Lorraine Wilson [Literacy Educator] “Education is child and community centred and is relevant, purposeful and ongoing for life. Mass produced schooling is artificial, joyless, without purpose, and is of little relevance to many students.”

Esther Quinero : “Excessive faith in data crunching as a tool for making decisions has interfered with the important task of asking the fundamental questions in education, such as whether we are looking for answers in the right places, and not just where it is easy (e.g., standardised test data)”

Donald Clark [Sussex] : Like the leaning tower of PISA, the OECD PISA results are built on flimsy foundations and are seriously skewed….The problems in the data are extreme, as PISA compares apples and oranges. In fact it compares huge watermelons with tiny seeds.

David Loader & Simon Whatmore:Having a top five PISA goal as the centre of the nation’s educational ambition is clearly at odds with the Gonski panel’s view that ‘An excessive focus on what is testable, measureable and publically reportable carries the risk of imbalance in the curriculum…… Where in Ms Gillard’s crusade is the concern for the broader purpose and goals of education? Education should strive to develop pupils as successful learners, confident and creative individuals. active and informed citizens……Too many of our young people [see below] see the ‘knowledge’ of schools as irrelevant to them and, consequently, become disengaged with schooling.”


A YOUNG PERSON’S VIEW OF SCHOOLING :- In a recent Year 10 art project at Alfred Deakin High School, Canberra, Liam Cullen [yes] presented a young person’s view of the current, education system. His graphic (click on it to see full image) covers all that can be said about Australian schooling as it is now; every thing from NAPLAN to HSCs, the hindersome hallmarks of our education system.

Our warmest and sincerest best wishes, by the way, go to those who contest November’s end-of-school ‘farewell exams’ after 12 years of formal schooling. British-based, traditional systems such as ours, hold paper-and-pencil type tests that have been designed to sort Year 12 pupils out, to make things easier for tertiary level educators, business executives and job interviewers. As Liam illustrates, the ‘graduates’ will, after the examinations, get a tick or a cross for their 12 years of schooling. They will find out, as they exit their school, whether they will follow their chosen path or if their hopes have been spoiled. Let’s pray that the system has produced students of something or other…..self-motivated students of learning in particular. They are, no longer, school pupils. They are, generally speaking, on their own; and their future relies on how much they have learned about how to learn more about favoured life topics. Let’s hope that each individual’s identity has not been suffocated too much by our one-size-fits-all testing mania.


SUFFOCATE IDENTITIES – “ a great metaphor that invokes the toxicity of NAPLAN, “ says Brian Cambourne in reply to Lorraine Wilson, when she wrote : “In the latest Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, P334, Karen Dreher has a good article about NAPLAN. I quote one paragraph (from P336). “New literacy theorists and educational theorists such as Gee (1991&2000), Street (200), Luke (1998&2000) and Pahl & Rowswell (2005), as well as critical theorists such as Paulo Friere (1970) suggest that standardised tests reduce literacy to a few simple skills, encourage passive oriented classrooms, fail to engage a students personal interests and cognitive abilities , and suffocate identities.” [See what Marion Brady said above.]

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