What is going on?

Treehorn Express:

Shared opinions soaked in knowledge & experience – all well tested.


What Is Going On?

For Parents

Many parents will have only heard of the word, NAPLAN, and wondered what it means and, perhaps, why it seems to be causing a lot of fuss? Why is it the cause of all the fuss?

This Treehorn Express here tries to provide a compendium of terms and issues and references for those who would like to understand and use the associated terms with more confidence during discussion with their child’s teacher or principal. This is for you, Mum or Dad.

NAPLAN is an acronym for National Assessment Program Literacy And Numeracy. It is a program that is fully controlled by the Federal Minister for Education. State Ministers are required to follow.

National – Every school in Australia is expected to provide pupils from Grades 3, 5, 7, 9 for testing during May each year. It is ‘expected’ that every child will participate. The tests themselves are compiled by a central authority. The scores are gathered by the same authority, which then makes various judgements about standards of schooling, pupil ability, teacher ability, administrative effectiveness. Scorers and measurement experts are in charge of the detail. While this notion breaches basic tenets of the principle of subsidiarity when applied to evaluation of pupil progress, it remains in force.

Assessment is the term applied to this gathering of scores and assignment of opinions for public information. Only political leaders are allowed to express an official opinion. The reliability and validity of the tests and their use in this manner for assessment purposes has been criticised by school-oriented expert statisticians and by classroom experienced educators. [See ‘testucators’ or ‘educators’] from around the world. The scores are released in September. Being so remote in time and distance from the measuring authority’s conclusions, the results are, obviously, of little use to anyone.

Program – Test construction has an range of sources. The Testing Industry, world-wide, is one of the most profitable. Once test questions have been purchased or arranged by the central authority, there is intense security in the arrangements made for testing procedures. Since 2008, Australian-issued tests have been of the paper-and-pencils variety. Pupils, for most of the tests, fill in ‘bubbles’ next to compiled questions. [Samples are readily available on-line and practice tests can be purchased. www.nap.edu.au ] Intense test practice is generally encouraged and supported in schools that want to get higher scores than some other school. Manipulation of testing administration’s orders is generally called ‘cheating’ and the guilty are ‘counselled’. Some details of such misdemeanours are available on-line in a subtle name-and-shame way. There has to be strict loyalty to good order and routine. Cheating on a wide scale, however, is approved and encouraged. That is : schools may practice as much as they like using published and supplied practice tests. That creates impure results, but it doesn’t matter.

Literacy refers to Reading, Writing and Language Conventions [once called ‘Grammar’]

Numeracy refers to the usual measureable mathematical basics.

History of Standardised Blanket Testing of which NAPLAN is a sample. Every now and then a cultural meme spreads around the world without apparent sponsorship. It could be a philosophical or political thought [e.g. Domino Theory, Reds under the bed, fascism, democracy], fashion statement [e.g. tattoos, torn jeans. long hair], health care [e.g. sun screen, water bottles] that cross national and cultural boundaries speedily in mysterious ways. Ever wondered? See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme  Some are beneficial; some can be loosely classified as ‘peculiar’; some are downright dangerous.

One of the most dangerous educational meme was a persistent criticism of basic school achievements that spread world-wide during the nineties, sponsored and supported by corporate interests and managerial mis-fits. Increased enrolments at tertiary institutions had reduced the quality of the left-over intellectual pool, so businesses who had to hire lower level workers thought that schools were not doing their job properly. The meme spread. The previous scato-memo of the seventies had started for similar reasons. British University snobs could only handle top-quality intellectuals in their classes. When attendance of the mere-bright students grew through the 1960s and 70s and challenged their teaching ability, some academic British chappies wrote ‘The Black Papers’, a series that blamed schools for a fall in standards; then academic snobs in other countries adopted their forte. Australian children of this second decade of the 21st century are now tolerating the 1990s’ scatty notions of a New York macabre system, which based its schooling philosophy on left-overs from the 70s. Education policies, powered by stubborn political behaviour has yet to be successful in advanced countries.

Schooling per se has been a busy host to quite a number of memes over the past few decades. There have been some really beneficial ones that have assisted the delivery of the school curriculum. Some, such as Standardised Blanket Testing, however, are pure scato-memes, more scatological than epistemological. When the 1970s’ scato-meme cut loose, it had more drastic consequences for U.SA. and U.K. than anywhere else. In the U.S. the Black Papers ‘Back to Basics’ scato-meme of this time led to the destructive Minimal Competency Movement invented by legislators to control graduation requirements in almost all school districts in the USA. The establishment of the Assessment of Performance Unit in the U.K. at the same time, proved to be a very costly exercise that led to the cessation of the kinds of British-based classroom activities that the rest of the world envied. [The world described what the Brits had been doing by semantic tags like ‘Integrated Day’, ‘Open Plan’. ‘Freedom to Learn’, all sorts of tags. The Brits just went ahead, however, teaching with the belief that a child’s natural love for learning can be happily integrated with a deep-seated desire to learn more and to achieve to the limits of personal ability….forever. No tags.]

Over the centuries there have only been quixotic responses to such ‘school basics’ issues, powered by mediocrity-bound sciolists who move into control positions where they exert their coercive and reward powers on schools with such detrimental damage to children’s cognitive development, that it takes years to repair. As Forest Gump observed, “It happens.”

The term Standardised Blanket Testing ensures that exactly the same test is given to the same sort of school cohort at the same time, without account for individual, social or human differences. NAPLAN is the Australian version compiled by non-school measurers following strict orders… for three days each May. ‘National Standards’ tests, as they are called. are imposed on schools in New Zealand and the UK countries; NCLB [No Child Left Behind] and Race to the Top tests are names given to required SBTs in the U.S.A…..all the same dogs, different leg action. It’s a pandemic which only child-oriented curriculum-wise countries [e.g. Finland] have avoided. Finland decided to call a halt to schadenfreude-based teaching and think about how children learn best at school and then put the thoughts into action…. over 30 years ago. It now avoids SBTs, recognising their threat to learning outcomes. SBT is opposed in each and every GERM-ridden country by highly reputable educators whose concern for basic achievements and children’s love for learning is obvious. Testucators are a different brand of fish. In each GERM country, Testucators maintain a high-stakes testing climate as compliant glautiers and kleinists, who have suspended normal educational principles to follow, blindly, all government directions without question.

If enough serious teachers and loving parents said that they wanted to re-introduce child-oriented learning into schools, NAPLAN and its dysfunctional cohort or SBT-freaks would disappear forthwith. There is no doubt. Australia would take that Finnish step…and think.

Sadly, children in classrooms in each GERM country have no sincere advocacy. That’s the basic problem. They have been deserted by those they love and respect. Fictional Treehorn typifies a contemporary school child.

GERM stands for Global Education Reform Movement, a term that Pasi Sahlberg created to describe those countries that believe in the use of fear to motivate higher achievements in ‘basic’ subjects, that concentrate on basic subjects, high stakes testing and then construct opinions about teacher quality and school leadership based on children’s scores. As a rule, they compile SBT tests, then write curriculum material without learning in mind, without classroom knowledge of the teaching-learning, pupilling exchanges. GERM-infected SBT relies on zombic functionalism to survive.

By the way, Mum and Dad, we imported the current Australian GERM system of schooling direct from New York with little to no modification. Fear-based, it was the modus operandi of a NY lawyer called Joel Klein who [as some American states are wont to do with inexperienced ‘know-it-alls’] was placed in charge of a large school district. His fearsome tactics, based on the coercions surrounding test performance. worked to a degree for a while, so much so that he was head-hunted by Rupert Murdoch to run his test publishing industry, worth billions. Get the connection? Klein proudly claims ownership of the Australian system. We call it Kleinism in his honour. He must be proud of how Julia, his protege protects it.

One day we might be able to have a system all of our own….based on love for learning and for achievement, teaching our children how to test their own progress as they are self-motivated towards high-level personal achievements while they outreach their diverse learning needs.

Let’s try a “Love for…..” rather than NAPLAN’s “Fear of….” credo, when we talk about schooling. One day SBTs will go! It’s up to you, as to how quickly. You’re a voter.


The seventh heresy is the apparent belief that the sole purpose of education is academic achievement. High marks, good test scores – that’s all that matters. No one denies the central importance of academic achievement in schools. But it is not all that matters. not historically. Schools are places where children come together to learn, and it turns out that the coming together is as important as the learning. Or rather the coming together enables learning of a different kind – establishing an identity among peers, taking responsibility for one’s own actions, learning to tolerate and maybe appreciate diversity, balancing one’s own interests and desires with a sense of the common good. A good education helps children become competent, wise, and just. Competence is not enough. Our education system efforts need to be informed by a deeper and more spacious conception of teaching and learning.

Reducing the potential richness of a child’s education to a standardized test score is indeed heretical.”

Tom Sobo, former N.Y. State Commissioner of Education. 2003. http://practicaltheory.org/serendipity/index.php?url=archives/757-A-Smarter-Mind-than-Mine-Takes-on-NCLB8serendipity[cview]=linear


Let’s make sure that NAPLAN eradication becomes a top election issue.

Click: ‘Care for Kids’

Phil Cullen

January 31 2013


Power of Free Will

Treehorn Express:

Shared opinions soaked in knowledge & experience – all well tested.


The Power of Free Will

The Bartleby Project

But whoever causes one of these little ones to stumble,

it would be better for him if a millstone were hung

around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.

Mark 9:42

John Taylor Gatto opens his proposal for the Bartleby Project with this biblical extract as he invites us all to join in an Open Conspiracy to rid schools of the “glorified jig-saw puzzles” that generate unreliable, misleading data for a gullible public. Australians call it NAPLAN. It’s generally known as Standardised Blanket Testing.

In his compelling article http://bartlebyproject.com/gatto.html Gatto suggests that those who do well in the tests are more likely to become circus dogs than leaders of the future. “Nothing inside the little red schoolhouse does more damage than the numbers and rank order these tests hang around the necks of the young.” He has, in my opinion, a most worthy, simple proposal to get rid of Standardised Blanket Testing that now wags the tail of the entire system of institutional schooling in GERM countries. His proposal is one that suits individuals to live with their conscience, to be as compliant to stern managerialism demands as one wishes to be; and unobtrusively help to get rid of the cancerous ethic that now pervades our schooling …… without bruising professional colleagueships.

It is, simply, to follow the lead of Bartleby the Scrivener, and write “I prefer not to do this” on anything that effects one’s professional ethics or interferes with basic learning principles.

So, a high school student can write “I prefer not to do this” on a NAPLAN test paper or practice paper. It’s not disobedience nor would be it treated as such. It’s an expression of democratic anti-evil free-will. A classroom teacher can write it on the instructions and hand them back to the principal or just remain compliant and write it on any material anyhow. It’s an expression of professional ethics. A principal can do the same to the dominators that issue the instructions. It’s a gentle way of saying, without fuss, “This standardised blanket testing is unethical and a waste. I want you to know that this is how I feel, but I don’t want to argue about it.”

This exercise of Free-will needs determination and resolve, a sincere love for children-at-school and a genuine concern for what is happening to them. It can be an awesome instrument for good. If it is exercised, as Gatto suggests, without emotion or enlargement or dramatics or demonstration or adversarial politics, it has enormous potential for good. It is simply a matter of writing this short sentence or saying it at a staff meeting, seminar, subject association, union meeting or professional group as often and as politely as possible.

Imagine that you are a Year 9 teacher who has collected a NAPLAN test paper from a student with such a comment on it. Imagine you are a coordinator for the testing program, a principal, a district officer who has received such a comment from a teacher with no additions. There’s nothing you can do, is there? That’s the end of it. Gatto’s notion has to be a winner.

“The simple exercise of free-will throws consternation into social order – it contradicts the management principle. Refusing to allow yourself to be used as a mechanical piece of machinery, is more revolutionary than any revolution on record.”

‘Civil disobedience’ and ‘passive resistance’ [Ghandi-style] that is quiet, unobtrusive, courteous, pleasant and personal even private….self-generated, flying solo without a collectivity; unorganized, just happening as an opportunity presents itself, will create an irresistible tide in classrooms across the country. As J. Gatto suggests, any opposition or firm stand by diehard testucators will be a house of cards, any retribution against pleasant refuseniks an illusion. Even the attempts to marginalise and denigrate experienced educators, who publically oppose fear-based national-testing, will bounce back. The cause is decent and honourable.

The furphy that private schools will not admit pupils with no NAPLAN results has no currency. Private secondary schooling is big business. It craves customers.

Saying “NO to NAPLAN’’ in a quiet dignified manner, has great potential.

The Bartleby Project expects to enlist “… 60,000,000 American high school students [Yes. 60 million], one by one, to refuse peacefully to take standardized tests or to participate in any preparation for these tests; it asks them to act because adults, chained institutions and corporations, are usually passive; because these tests pervert education, are disgracefully inaccurate. impose brutal stress without reason, and actively encourage a class system which will poison the future of the nation.”

Growing Numbers of Bartleby-type Parents in Australia

During the past five years, Australian parents have been deliberately deceived into believing that all school pupils MUST contest all of the NAPLAN tests. There has been no departmental nor prominent media statement that draws attention to the optional nature of the tests. It is seldom mentioned on school web-sites or newsletters. Most learning-oriented principals are not game to express any views that might draw attention to ethical teaching principles. At the same time there has been a deceitful claque of departmental officers and testucating principals in all states, who have force-fed the mandatory nature of the tests to parents who want to do the right thing by their children. This is nasty and cruel. There is absolutely no requirement whatsoever. All that a parent needs to do is to drop a note to the school indicating that you do not want your child to undertake the tests nor the special test-preparation classes … “I prefer…….” One short sentence. No more. No further comment. No discussion.That’s all a parent needs to do.

[In a true democracy, parents shouldn’t have to do this, but…. When the ‘Captain picks’ the system that our schools must follow, this sort of dictatorial management comes with it.]

AND TAKE NOTE: Most parents do not like being treated as dumb-clucks and there has been a large and rapid increase in the numbers of Austraian parents withdrawing their children . Check http://saveourschools.com.au of 23 and 27 November where researcher Trevor Cobbald has details. He concludes “….to summarize, data on participation rates clearly shows that parents are increasingly exercising their right to withdraw children …and the numbers continue to move up as more and more parents become aware of their rights.”

Well done, Aussie parents. Bartleby and your children will be proud. By saying “NO to NAPLAN”, you are helping to prevent the further use of a dangerous, oppressive instrument.


Parent & Teacher Friends Up-Over: http://morethanascorechicago.org/ & www.unitedoptout.com


THE FUNNY PAGES : http://www.nap.edu.au/information/faqs/naplan–participation.html


“If we pull this off, a great many will bless us, and few in the school industry will curse us. This is about a project to destroy the standardized testing industry, one in which you, personally, will be an independent unit commander. Keep in mind as your read about it, this has nothing to do with test reform. It’s about test destruction”

An old man’s prayers will be with you. J.T.Gatto: Afterword: The Bartleby Project

Aussies : Let’s make NAPLAN a top election issue.

Vote for the good guy who cares for kids.

Click: ‘Care for Kids’

Phil Cullen

January 29 2013


Senate Inquiry

Treehorn Express:

Shared opinions soaked in knowledge & experience – all well tested.


Senate Inquiry

A report from the Inquiry is due in March. It means that now is a busy time for the dedicated Senators and their support staff. Those of us who have been involved with and in such inquiries appreciate what can happen. So much depends on the quality and independence of the support staff from receipt of submissions to delivery of the report. Few Australians know of this inquiry because its announcement, although probably advertised in all newspapers, did not receive any ‘press’. There was and has been a heavy and depressing cone of silence over the whole inquiry. It’s just not fair. It’s no fault of the members themselves who, no doubt, are concerned that the matter is not being treated seriously enough . A suspicious person would wonder if The Press has hidden it deliberately, and if so, why. A selected number of departments, educational institutions and organisations must have been contacted directly by Senate officers, because 75% to 80% of submissions received to date, have been supplied by such organisations. Overwhelming, really. There has been none from any school nor school P&C and just a few from every-day, grass-roots educators/parents and we poor mortals.


For unknown reasons as to the origins of the inquiry, the terms of reference were set on 11 September, 2012 with submissions to close on 26 October. Since few knew of the existence of the Inquiry and the busy school pre-vacation period slowed down the normal school-based bush-telegraph processes to mention its existence, there was a ‘ruddy blush’ for interested educators to ‘make it’ on time. Literacy groups, maths and science education groups rushed to have their say before the closing date….and many who needed or may have wanted to do so, missed out. Submissions 7 and 23 testify to this hurry-scurry.

Submissions now close on 30 January. I wonder how many know that. Where and when and how was this announced. Any ‘press’ cover?

I found out yesterday. It’s a worry. Take a look if you think you can make it…..


The release of the report in an election year boggles the mind. It’s of special concern to anti-NAPLAN educators. Will the committee have a proper chance to consider the impact of Standardised Blanket Testing [e.g. NAPLAN] on school operations and how much does such SBT cost a country like Australia that has committed itself to the worst features [curriculum wreckage, wasted school time, fear-and-stress school culture] of the GERM scato-meme. The five years of NAPLAN have cost billions in money terms already. We don’t know precisely, but the Inquiry will probably reveal this as difficult as the details are to chase. The planned conversion of every school in Australia to on-line testing and scoring should cost a pretty penny on top of it all….for what purpose? Most of us have reasonable ability with mathematical calculations. We should be able to judge if an investment in any form of SBT is worth the money, shouldn’t we? When we know the amounts, we will all be able to judge also the kind of educational leadership that school children need.

SBT fear-based styles of schooling, over the past 5 years, according to NAPLAN;s own measurements, have produced flat-line, mediocre results in most aspects of literacy and numeracy at enormous cost. As a result, decisions have been taken at the political control quarters to intensify the efforts… ‘Top 5 by 25’ sort of thing. [Some of us studied Logic as a subject at secondary and tertiary level, but one hardly needs to have done so, to ask “What is going on?”….unless elements of deductive logic have been altered. Perplexing? You betcha.] Shouldn’t NAPLAN be replaced by a teaching-learning program? If we did, we could make ‘the top 1 by 21’ even if we were silly enough to bother about PISA placements. I sure hope that the Senate Inquiry can help us ordinary tax-payers to understand why this hasn’t been done earlier.

In general….how much enlightenment have you found from reading the submissions ? Think of the poor members of the Inquiry.

Where does the money spent on this high-stakes testing go, anyhow? Billions on preparation and administration for no results! Whose pockets?

Most importantly – can an estimate of the loss of intellectual potential be determined for those children now between the ages of 7 years and 18 years whose cognitive development has been curbed or damaged during the NAPLAN years, 2008-2012 ? Now that is serious stuff. [I’m tempted to yell, ‘They’re my grand-children, you testucating rotters.’…but I’m not brave enough.]

I don’t envy the senators. Party loyalties. Party policy. Party politics. Leadership loyalty. School memories. Child welfare. Influence of report on election results. Influence on schooling. Personal beliefs. Personal spunk.

How loud would the cheering be in all political party rooms if the report suggested that NAPLAN, already revealed as one of the least motivative learning-based instruments of SBT in the western world, an accident of history, a political misology and a danger to children’s learning, be abandoned forthwith! Imagine ! Yes. Just imagine.

Ho hum. That’s life with NAPLAN.


“ I believe fervently that our political leaders and their army of like-minded testucators will one day look around and see piles where their painstakingly-built sandcastles of reform once stood, and they will know the tragic frame of Ozymandias. Billion-dollar data-sorting systems will be mothballed. Value-added algorithms will be tossed in a bin marked History’s Big Dumb Ideas. The mantra “no excuses” will retain all the significance of “Where’s the beef?” And teachers will still be teaching, succeeding and failing all over the country, much as they would have if the pollies had gone into foreign services and Bill Gates had invested his considerable wealth and commendable ambition in improving law enforcement practices or poultry production.” John Kahn


Let’s make sure that total NAPLAN eradication becomes a top election issue.

It should never have been imported.

Click: ‘Care for Kids’

Phil Cullen

January 22 2013


Educational Readings January 25th

Treehorn Express:

Shared opinions soaked in knowledge & experience – all well tested.


Educational Readings
By Allan Alach
As the start of the New Zealand school year approaches, its timely to restart these weekly reading lists. Bruce Hammonds (http://leading-learning.blogspot.co.nz) tells me that the last 2012 edition was well received, so that’s encouraging. I hope that this and future editions also meet with readers’ approval. Feedback is always welcomed.
This may be a new year but as the articles below show, nothing much has changed. GERMs are still infecting education systems around the world and the need for the disinfection to be an international cooperation is crucial.
I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allan.alach@ihug.co.nz.
This week’s homework!

West vs Asia education rankings are misleading
‘Western schoolchildren are routinely outperformed by their Asian peers, but worrying about it is pointless.’
So much for the fear mongering then.

Deeper Learning: Highlighting Student Work
The difference is that these students’ teachers have helped them develop the skills and mindsets necessary to produce work of exceptional quality, and have built classroom and school cultures in which exceptional work is the norm.’
Guess that these teachers aren’t infected by GERMs, then?

Exclusive: Revealed – Tory plan for firms to run schools for profit
This is out in the open in England. We can be sure that the same strings are being pulled in New Zealand.
Our obsession with ‘natural’ talent is harming students
‘Results released from a major Victorian study on student learning show high achieving children’s performance in tests is “flat-lining”.’
Gosh, really? Who would have predicted this?

Academies report disguises the damage they are doing to British schools

Yawn. What’s new? The same will apply in New Zealand.



The Global Search for Education: What Will Finland Do Next?
Let me guess….. I know….. they will bring in national testing so they can do better in international tests of dubious relevance…….    😉
15 Reasons Why Daydreamers are Better Learners
‘Recent research in both psychology and neuroscience clearly shows that daydreaming is an essential part of mental processing, reasoning and, yes, even learning.’
Another conflict with the educational rubbish espoused by the economists behind GERM. So much for measuring inputs and outputs then. On the other hand, one reason for Google’s success is their provision to allow employees time to dream and innovate.

Competition and Choice Fail to Produce Better Student Results
More research that debunks the neoliberal myths.
‘Another new study has refuted the case that more competition and choice between schools leads to higher student  results. The paper reviewed research evidence in several countries and concluded that it is “mixed and modest”. It also found that choice and competition leads to greater social stratification between schools.’
Why schools used to be better
Another gem from Marion Brady – nothing more needs to be added.
Elwyn S Richardson 1925 -2012 Creative teacher.
For those who missed this over the break – here is Bruce Hammonds obituary for Elwyn Richardson. All holistically minded teachers, world wide, should read this.

Time as a resource

Treehorn Express:

Shared opinions soaked in knowledge & experience – all well tested.


Time As A Resource


On Wednesday, 9 January Minister Peter Garrett announced the introduction of a new chic subject for inclusion in the school time table called Economics and Business. If you did not hear about it, don’t be surprised. It did not make the TV or paper media until 21 January where it was mentioned in an insert called ‘Your Money’ in the Courier Mail . [It may have received a headline in other Australian newspapers. I looked but could not find it.] It was introduced this time by ASIC executive Robert Drake in the CM insert, who, with a coaching director, Mr. Ward. explained how a trial will be conducted and its linkages with ‘mathematics, science and English’ will be arranged. Ho hum.

Quite obviously some politicians, business interests, inexperienced curriculators and [too many] school administrators view schools as mere test factories to which another assembly line can be added. Is the new addition important or is Economics just one of a list of endless worthy enterprises who want a piece of school time; but it had an inside run? Research by Des Eastment for the Queensland Primary Curriculum Committee [1987] revealed that it had 33 worthy lobby groups on its books at the time seeking a place on the school time table. There are probably more around now, judging by reports of various public bodies who frequently suggest that “It = whatever it is = needs to be taught at school.” Who decides in the long run who gets the space in the factory?

If the decision on how to use the extra time required is left to the school by the government, then surely the right of rejection must. The issue of school time is too serious to be left as a casual announcement in the back pages of the daily press. A public explanation of how school time would and should be used is essential.

Time is the most precious resource that a school has. It needs to be used in the most economic ways possible. There’s so much to do during a school day. Managing time within a classroom, especially in such a go-go-go intense teaching/learning environment, requires exceptional managerial skills. To add something else, no matter how worthy, is an extra burden. You can’t gain-say it, nor pretend that integration with established subjects won’t cause disruption.

In a busy school day, anything extra means something has to go. Some other aspect of classroom teaching/learning has to pay. If a government introduces something extra to its schools, it has to announce what the innovation will replace. It carries this responsibility. It just can’t dump and run, patting itself on the back.


Now, Let’s apply the issue of ‘time as a resource’ to high-stakes testing of any kind. NAPLAN. What subjects are dumped so that extra time can be given to the intense test preparation required?

Hands up those old Queensland Scholarship teachers who taught music, art, physical education, health and other non-examined subjects right up to the week of the Scholarship Examination? They were dropped as soon as the School Inspector, the Departmental guardian of the curriculum, left the premises, weren’t they? I confess. Of course I did. So do today’s teachers. Mad if they don’t. Their reputation depends on it.

“Please do your best.” I say. “Please don’t make me look bad.” [ Larry Strauss says in The Big Snooze – High stakes Testing and Low Stakes Mentality. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/larry-strauss/california-standards-tests_b_1561196.html ]

Mr. Garret, ACARA and other testucators cannot pretend that no school time is stolen from important school subjects to prepare pupils for a few days of gruelling tests in May.

They are in control. They know it happens. They created the dysfunction. The spy network that reports to them for “Incidents” can tell them what happens if they don’t understand. Australia has copied a fear-based system in which the whole curriculum, except the NAPLAN sections, is back=seated for the production of scores, with little relationship to the learning enterprise or to accountability processes. Manipulating school time to cater for externally imposed tests is a serious business. They know it happens and they prefer to ignore it.

Which subject do they recommend should be ‘chucked out’ first? Which subject(s) does your child’s teacher chuck out first when NAPLAN preparation starts? Just as bad, do they spend the major part of Mathematics and Literacy sessions on examination topics or test practice? If Peter and his ACARA expect and approve of schools to re-order their teaching-learning programs around the tests, shouldn’t they also suggest a hierarchy of the untestable every-day learning topics that they would recommend for dumping…..or….don’t they know enough what happens in schools? Imposing their stern non-negotiable will on the teaching/learning processes in each and every classroom in the country carries a heavy responsibility. They need to start exercising it democratically, properly and decently…..or..

Throw NAPLAN out.

It should never have been introduced.


“Political control of bureaucrats is not bad just because it happens. It’s bad because it is anti-pathetic to an education system that is based on national development and life-long learning. It can lead, too easily,to a maintenance model of schooling and of static standards.”


Click: ‘Care for Kids’

Phil Cullen

January 22 2013



Treehorn Express:

Shared opinions soaked in knowledge & experience that have stood the test of time


Coming soon to a newspaper near you –

for the sake of our kids.


This headline from Seattle, featuring a pencil and the bubbles on a test paper that all GERM test pupils everywhere, even our little Year 3 Aussie kids use to register their answers, appeared last week when the entire staff of a large high school and other schools in the vicinity refused to handle the high-stakes blanket-testing papers called MAP [Measures of Academic Performance]. We call it NAPLAN testing down here which measures the same things. The full complement of teachers at the school said that “…we respectfully decline to give the tests to any of our students this year.”

The teachers went on to say that they had come together and agreed that the testing program is ‘… no good for students, nor is it an appropriate nor is it a useful tool in measuring progress….It produces specious results and wreaks havoc on limited school resources during the weeks the test is administered…..To use this as a tool to evaluate our teaching makes no sense. They’re setting us up;’ The teachers also added that their schools had a proud tradition of knowing the ‘whole child’ and the tests do not adequately describe the story of the child nor of its potential.

The school students applauded the move of their teachers. Said one, “I know when I took the test, it didn’t seem relevant to what we were studying in class. I know students who just go through the motions when taking the test, just did it as quickly as possible so they could do something more useful with their time.’

{In other parts of the USA, Year Nine students are writing on each paper, when they are distributed on test days : “I do not wish to do this test.” or “I prefer not to.{ [see below]; then signing it and being courteous but resolute to teachers, administration staff and principals by repeating the phrase gently and pleasantly if they are queried about their motives or whatever. It’s an easy way for responsible young teenage students to respond to Orwellian control. In most cases, their teachers understand and applaud.}

A former pupil of the school, now a U. of Washington Professor writes :”At the most basic level the national GERM agenda requires teachers’ compliance. So, regardless of individual motives, when a group of teachers collectively and publicly says NO, that represents a fundamental challenge to those pushing the elite agenda….when used as part of teacher evaluation – a purpose for which it was not designed – it makes the test a part of junk science.”

This league of schools at Seattle has said, “The GERM-based test program ought to be shut down immediately. It has been and continues to be an embarrassing mistake. Continuing it for even another day let alone another month or year or decade, will not turn any sow’s ear into a silk purse.”


In describing these events, Valerie Strauss, renowned journalist with The Washington Post said : “The boycotts are part of a growing grass-roots revolt against the excessive use of standardized tests to evaluate students, teachers, schools, districts and states… Parents have started to opt out of having their children take the exams. School boards have approved resolutions calling for an end to test-based accountability systems. Thousands of people have signed a national resolution protecting high stakes tests; Superintendents have spoken out, and so have teachers. It has been building momentum in the last year since the Commissioner for Education in Texas, said publicly that the mentality that standardized testing is the ‘end-all be-all’ is a perversion of what quality education should be.”

It’s happening in all GERM countries.

Australia: Say NO to NAPLAN


The Bartleby Project   John Taylor Gatto, strong opponent of the schooling hegemony which conducts ‘mass abstract testing… only because ‘they prefer to torture those who expect to be tortured.’, suggests that Year 9 people should write on their standardised GERM-tests, “I would prefer not to.”. This is the phrase that Bartleby the Scrivener’, the hero of an 1853 book by Herman Melville, used to write on any stupid work that he was expected to scriven. In a most compelling article, Gatto calls for an enormous uprising by secondary school stdents [aka human beings] to conduct a mass refusal with no sign of acrimony attached to a quiet revolution..


In promoting the Bartleby Project, Gatto says: “Mass abstract testing, anonymously scored, is the torture centrifuge whirling away precious resources of time and money from productive use and routing into the hands of testing magicians. It happens only because the tormented allow it. Here is the divide-and-conquer mechanism par excellence, the wizard-wand which establishes a bogus rank order among the schooled, inflicts prodigies of stress upon the unwary, causes suicides, family breakups, and grossly perverts the learning process – while producing no information of any genuine worth. Testing can’t predict who will become the best surgeon, college professor, or taxi-cab driver; it predicts nothing which would impel any sane human being to enquire after the scores.

Standardized testing is very good evidence that our national leadership is bankrupt and has been so for a very long time. The two-party system has been unable to gives us reliable leadership. Its system almost guarantees we get managers, not leaders; I think Ralph Nader has correctly identified it as a single party with two heads – itself educationally bankrupt.”

Parents. Tell your children’s principal, nicely : “I prefer not to.”

Year 9s. Tell your exam. supervisor, nicely : “I prefer not to.”


A Mass March    It is expected that many thousands of parents and teachers will again gather in Washington to occupy the Department of Education from 4-7 April. Under the banner of ‘CAN’T BE NEUTRAL

The ‘Movement to End Corporate Education Reform’ [ http://unitedoptout.com ] aims to express parent resistance to the present-day corporate-driven neoliberals’ assault on education. This organisation seeks to help educators, parents and members of the public to understand the resistance to the assault on schools, society and democracy. [so obvious in our Australian politico-education system] Since Australia’s fear-based GERM testing regime has organised a level of school-based fear that is the most severe in the world and, therefore, has further to go than the USA has in order to break the chains locked in place by “the social engineers who have seized control of institutional schooling.” [Gatto]

Read about the ‘goings on’ on the United Opt-out website in April while our Aussie kids are doing the annual April sweat through the stress-ridden preparation for NAPLAN in May. You won’t hear about the Washington march in the Australian press. NAPLAN-disrespectful items are usually embargoed.

PARENTS: When you enrol your child at school this year, make sure that you ask for a NAPLAN ‘Yes or No’ form. You do have some rights left.


 “The frequent ceremonies of useless testing – preparation, administration, recovery – convert forced schooling into a travesty of what education should be; they drain hundreds of millions of days yearly from what might otherwise be productive pursuits; they divert tens of millions of cash resources into private pockets. The net effect of standardised testing [e.g.NAPLAN] is to reduce our national wealth in future generations, by suffocating imagination and intellect,while enhancing wealth for a few in the present.”

[ J.T.Gatto: http://bartlebyproject.com/gatto.html ]


Finland admirers will enjoy : http://pasisahlberg.com/finnish-lessons/updates-to-finnish-lessons/


Click: ‘Care for Kids’

Phil Cullen

January 20 2013


A Learning Odyssey- 2060.

Treehorn Express:

Shared opinions soaked in knowledge & experience that have stood the test of time


A Learning Odyssey – 2060

Children who start school this year will still be part of the work force in 2060. They will need to feel competent enough to cope with the basic needs of the time, wont they? What could be more impractical than for present-day school pupils to spend endless school hours practising basic mathematics and literacy skills at school, as a substitute for the kind of learnacy required as an essential life-skill; on the pretext that scoring well in unreliable standardised test scores is all that is needed by them to cope with a future that will be as enormously complex as it is unpredictable? Present day GERM-based testing programs that merely maintain mediocrity [See 2012 NAPLAN results] should not have any place in any 21st century school system.

Basic literacy and numeracy skills will always have prime importance in what children do at school; and high achievement in them will always be part of basic, essential learnings. To concentrate on practising to pass tests in low-level skills to the exclusion of other learnings is so dinosaurish. Indeed, individuality and acceptance of challenges in handling the desire to achieve are essential elements of the joy of learning. The love for exploring the magic of number and dwelling in the wonder world of words combined with what can happen with them, should have no upper limit. Achievement in what we like to do is essential to the human, social and philosophical cope-abilities required of the mid-21st century.

There is no doubt that NAPLAN testing destroys the magic and wonder of personal achievement

These issues provoke a serious challenge for reputable educators, who believe in the power of learnability but are forced by deceitful controllers to provide damaging tests and pedagogies for our young….and for all the wrong reasons. What can be done?. Answer : Little, because we are too timid.

Testucators and measurers demonstrate an unusually high level of non-professional arrogance by pretending that they know what is required; and they are in control.

Testucators and Educators A school curriculum of learning to learn is basic to human need….HERE….NOW. Anyone who threatens a young child’s natural love for learning by promoting fear of and disillusionment with the purposes of learning should not be allowed within the vicinity of a school. Literacy and numeracy evaluation methods are private and personal and are basic to healthy classroom techniques. The intimate parts of learnacy are too important to be fiddled with by politico-measurement junkies’ pressure for mediocrity. To fiddle with the process is to ruin the purpose.

To illustrate: If you have the opportunity, take a good, long, hard questioning look at those Year One pupils who start formal schooling in a few weeks. Visit a school just to look at their faces during the first few weeks of school. Hang around for a few days. Look at the joy in learning about and owning a new word or little poem; at achieving some success with a few numbers; the interest shown in the magic of the world itself. You will see what I mean and what their future in their life of learning should be. If one could only bottle the level of enthusiasm for learning that they demonstrate in these first few months of ‘formal’ schooling. Teachers know how to bottle it; measurers and testucators don’t have the foggiest.

Testing of the kinds operated by testucators in GERM-ridden countries is learning-lethal.

We all know that children will learn more in their first year of schooling than they do in any other year of the lives. Why do nasty people try to quell the desire to learn as soon as they can?

If you get a chance, Australian parents and grandparents should also visit some Year Three classes in May, especially 14-16 May. Just look at their faces for a while. If you are allowed, look at the faces of these little 7 and 8-year old Year 3s at about 9 a.m., just as they are about to start their first NAPLAN test [2×40 minutes with 20 minute break] on what is euphemistically called “Language Conventions”. THAT’S ‘EDUCATION’ 2012 !! ?? OMG Consider as they tear at your heart strings, if each is learning to cope with the world of 2060.

The Crisis of Schooling 2013 Present-day GERM school systems at the beck and call of politico-measurers, who seem so determined to destroy children’s love for learning, should be charged with child cruelty. In most GERM countries, the assault on a child’s capacity and desire to learn is presently mandated to start at 7-8 years of age, not long after they start school, in Australia, What level of cruelty is that? It’s not only cruel, it is grossly immoral to fiddle so abhorrently with the probable accumulation of cognitive strength that each small child is entitled to develop. After a happy and joyful introduction to purposeful, creative, resourceful, challenging and independent learning habits, thoughtless measurement junkies move in to destroy these habits for purely selfish reasons. Ask any Year 1,2,3 teacher to tell you what is supposed to happen in those few years; and what actually happens. When they say that they do as they are told, you will appreciate that eichmannism is alive and well.

Surely the business of 21st century schooling is to teach the children HOW to learn, HOW to cope, HOW to adjust, HOW to enjoy the most recent offerings of technology. of anything., HOW to learn anything with confidence… how to handle life in 2060.

The need for children, not just to earn a living, but to lead creative, humane and sensitive lives has never been more crucial. A major purpose of schooling should be to teach children how to educate themselves, to think about the best ways of doing this and how to self-evaluate personal progress. As A.N.Whitehead [Mathematician, scientist & author of Principia Mathematica ] said: “The aim of education is the acquisition of the utilization of knowledge. A merely well-informed person is the biggest bore on God’s earth.”

Does a progressive twenty-first century country need a future based on GERM fear-driven testing and high-stakes control of curriculum outcomes, or a future in which its citizens can cope with any challenge …because its school pupils have been provided with the desire for high achievements in everything they do at school and afterwards?

Can we afford to wait for 2014 to start a fair-dinkum LEARNING REVOLUTION? Can we wait so long?


“His eyes were as big as plates. He had written a new big word that he liked in his word book and had brought it to me to check the spelling. When I said,’Good work, Fonz [His Dad’s nickname]. That word belongs to you now’, he just beamed and almost glowed with pride. He owned it. I shed a tear. I saw him two years hence, stern-faced sitting in a row of others while his teacher reminds him :’If you don’t do well at this test, we are all in trouble.,,,aged 7….anxious to please his teacher,,,,,he is tense, fingers stiff, ready to grasp his pencil and start the test.” [J. Moroney, Teacher]

Schooling 2013,,,,,,,,Enjoy it kids ,,,,,,,,2014?


WHY? Why were fear-based high-stakes tests introduced to Australian schools?

Who knows the real truth? ASK YOUR LOCAL MEMBERS


“The child from the age of five to twelve years of age has a variety of needs which may be broadly described as intellectual, aesthetic, social, emotional, physical and spiritual. The school has a vital role in assisting parents and the wider society to satisfy these needs”

[Primary Children in the ACT 1981]


Click: ‘Care for Kids’

Phil Cullen

January 16 2013


Minimum Competency Movement

Treehorn Express:

Shared opinions soaked in knowledge & experience – all well tested.


Minimum Competency Movement

and Gene Glass

Education authorities around the world follow America’s lead in almost everything, with little or no questioning. America knows everything. Ever since Binet and Simon popularized the use of numbers to describe intelligence and Termin created a popular scale for its measure, the allocation of a number to almost any cerebral activity has been popularised. We copy such fads with adoration. When the U.S. ego was bruised by Russia’s lead into space and the standard of mathematics in schools was blamed, we shared the guilt and away we went. While we are not sure if New Math[s] would have enhanced scores on a traditional national standardised test, we learned a lot about the magic of number. [The 8th wonder of the world is that we have maintained the ‘s’. We don’t know what they did with it when they abbreviated ‘mathematics’. We’ll get around to using it.] When children started to like mathematics, we all had to do something about it. When the Americans themselves turned critical, [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXx2VVSWDMo/ ] we followed them into making Maths what it is supposed to be : tough, unpopular stuff.

We can say the same about a number of packaged curriculum materials such as structured reading schemes [e.g. SRA]; the study of MAN and numerous structural and organisational arrangements. We’ll do anything they say is ‘good’.

They prefer it packaged and as teacher-proof as possible. We buy it.

However, we missed out on the Minimum Competency Movement that arose from U.S. academia’s concern for the quality of graduating high school students, in the late 70s, hot on the heels of the Standards Debate meme.The reasons we missed out are interesting; too much for now. There seemed to be no standards, no accountability, the US academic elite opined. School teachers got the blame so they had to be smartened up. The movement was taken to the extreme as revealed by legislation in various states and local statutes that made uncompromising demands. Many were ridiculous. For instance a close friend while Superintendent of a school district in California where the school board consisted mostly of scientists from a large weapons research facility, was forced to allocate a graduation certificate only to students who had passed a leaving examination in calculus.

This 70-80s ensuing high-stakes testing movement was quite similar, in many ways, to the GERM based high stake testing demands of today.


One of the most vocal opponents of MCT was Gene Glass, a distinguished, highly respected academic from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Here’s what he had to say in an address: “Minimal Competence in Schools and Life.” in April 1978.

“I favour competence. My friends tell me I probably favour it too much. I prefer classrooms where teachers know where they are aiming. Sloth is as unattractive as litter.. And bad arithmetic is pathetic, and sometimes unfair, and occasionally even dangerous.

But I don’t like the Minimal Competency Movement. It’s bad psychology; it’s bad measurement; it’s bad thinking. It threatens to subjugate what’s easily measured to what isn’t. It’s rooted in the fiction that we know what skills in school insure success in life.

I trust that you and I share an understanding of what’s important to know. We understand it in the same way that we value better gas-mileage, better medical health care, and speedier mail delivery. We value these qualities.

But none of us knows how much must be known. How many words must one spell to be a success in life. How well must one add to be a mechanic, an insurance salesman, or a bus driver? At what grade-level must one read to be a successful farmer?

These questions of quantity have no safe answers. We cannot draw a line that separates competence from incompetence. There exists no test score that divides “skilled” from “unskilled”. Even to pose such questions of quantity is to begin from naive premises. It assumes that human behaviour is too simple. And it assumes that the world is simple and static. The confusions of the time force us back to truisms: Behaviour is complex; and the demands of life are complex; and the complexity of the two interacting is in orders of magnitude beyond that.

A colleague of mine, John Tukey – a statistician – puts the problem nicely: “Life is like a Doublecrosstic,” he says. “We can do far more than we know.” When you read over the clues for a Doublecrosstic, you find that you know only a small fraction of them. But hours later, you solve the puzzle through a nearly infinite number of subtle cues about semantics and syntax and spelling. You can do a Doublecrosstic, and no psychologist or linguist can account for your success in terms of his understanding of your knowledge.

The world is filled with high scorers who fail in life. and low scorers who succeed. Each is an example counter to the Minimal Competence testers’ claims; the testers try to ignore them.

The scientist who claims to know how much skill is just sufficient speaks science fiction. The educator who insists that the the judgement of teachers and board members will reveal such wisdom is guilty of professional arrogance.”


Conclusion :- “The Minimal Competency Movement has nothing to do with science and technology; not with psychology, not with measurement.

It has to do with politics. Some insist it is politically necessary even if it’s technically impossible. These people lack imagination about how to teach and run schools. Some say it will make us work harder; it will bring us back to basics, even if a few students are sacrificed without good reason. These people fail to see that we can change education without any bloodletting.

The Minimal Competence Movement has to do with economics and taxes.

It has to do with retribution and the need to fix blame.

It has to do with adult anger and children’s guilt.

It violates dues process.

It violates good sense.”

For profile and detail on Gene Glass :- http://ed2worlds.blogspot.com


Gene Glass’s advocacy for common sense in matters of schooling are well presented in his book, Fertilizers, Pills & Magnetic Strips. He shows how the central education policy debates of the 21st century (vouchers, charter schools, tax credits, high-stakes testing, bilingual education) are actually about two underlying issues: how can the costs of public education be cut, and how can the education of the White middle-class be “quasi-privatized” at public expense? Working from the demographic realities of the past thirty years, he projects a challenging and disturbing future for public education in America.’

Ben Levin [U. of Toronto] says, ‘As he has throughout his career, Gene Glass once again helps us think more clearly about important issues in education.’

‘I can vouch for that, Ben.’ Phil C. [U. of Treehorn] ‘Think of MCT. Think of NAPLAN.’



No fair-dinkum teacher likes NAPLAN.

It breaches all ethical rules.

In a school of repute there is no fan;

There’s learning without measurement tools.

New Link


Click: ‘Care for Kids’

Phil Cullen

January 13 2013


UDLs and things

Treehorn Express:

Shared opinions soaked in knowledge & experience.


UDLs & Shaping Things

Yesterday, 9 January 2013, I was driving along, listening to the latest newscast. Mr. Garrett, it reported, was adding a new subject to the primary school national curriculum for Years 5 & 6., called “Shaping of the Australian Curriculum : Economics and Business” both of which, said Mr. Garret “...are fundamental for a productive economy and the well being of all Australians.” Well! I do declare! I didn’t know that! Did you? Silly moo. Fundamental? Well-being?

My thoughts ran wild. Who the dickens persuaded our great Minister that the curriculum is such an easy thing to handle that our teachers have plenty of time to do more? I later learned in the ACARA literature, that “…it can be taught within 80 per cent of the available school time.” – whatever that means . These ACARA curriculators were able to compute 20 hours per year = half-hour per week as a guide to ‘fitting it in’. ‘Not much’ they must suppose; but some teachers may think differently; especially Year 5ers with the first half-year concentration on ‘Passing Tests 102’. [They can reclaim lost, wasted time when NAPLAN goes, of course.] Meanwhile…

Where did this business-based notion come from? I read a teachers’ union journal each month, a principals’ journal, educational articles in a number of newspapers and educational magazine or good book that I can read about schooling in general and primary schooling in particular. I read a lot. I had not read of any great call from front-line primary school teachers, professional associations or unions for such an addition to the working day. Perhaps, I hadn’t noticed the news foretelling its introduction. When Norm Hart, president of the Australian Primary Principals’ Association came ‘on air’, I thought he pointed out how over-crowded the present curriculum was and that, maybe, this new ‘thing’ could be integrated into something or other.

I’d mis-heard. Of course. Representatives of a primary principals’ association [Norm’s APPA] would have been ‘in’ on the ground floor because it is about the best source of the effects of curriculum additions on school time tables, on NAPLAN test preparation during first term, on the kinds of school work that will mix well, on the resources and literature required, on the teacher development programs required and the like. Not only that, they represent the heavy lifters of professional ethics, protectors of children’s rights. Their advice would be invaluable. Principals would have been quite conspicuous amongst the “…input from a range of stakeholders, including state and territory and non-government education authorities, teachers associations, schools, universities, teachers and parents.” ….just as they were with NAPLAN. Their ‘Yea’ or ‘Nay’ is final.

Besides,any curriculum innovation that does not have the full support of their classroom teachers is doomed. [Yes. NAPLAN is a tough nut, but it is on its way out. Heading for the rubbish bin.]

Searching for answers, I read the ACARA website http://www,acara.edu.au , couched in the language of high-flying, ideal-seeking curriculators. Not enough. One has to search deeper for a source of this persuasive text. I’d reckon that its origins are in the thoughts of some influential business person and the flavoured test came from the current curriculum bible: http://www.cast.org/udl  Practitioners will be familiar with it. I wasn’t. Using the special language of a UDL – Universal Design of Learning – which seems to be a special box into which some influential Americans have packed all that is known [sort of] about learning; as Americans are wont to do. Yep. Check it out. It is so typically American that such knowledge can be wrapped and packaged, using the language of a UDL in one packet located in one place, called CAST- Centre for Applied Special Technology, located just outside Boston. [We move a little further north each year!] There is also a link to PREZI that helps know-it-alls persuade audiences that they should become true believers in the product.

I visualised some bright young folk, fresh from a Ph.D., in a Melbourne or Canberra office, wearing their Joel Klein tee-shirts doing the best they can with this curriculum one-off peculiarity. Not that it wont be useful. Don’t get me wrong. It’s introduction is the perplexing bit…. and its language.

The super-abundance of office-wallah talk combined with clichés, acronyms and meadow-mayonnaise was too much for me. I needed respite; perhaps the words of some person who talks with the real meaning of SCHOOL CURRICULUM : guiding children through learning experiences. I needed a fix. It came to me. I wanted to read Sir Alec Clegg. I’d visited his schools in the West Riding where the atmosphere in each classroom that I visited was thick with zest for learning. I suppose one has to have experienced it to appreciate what I mean. I mean ‘thick’. When Sir Alec visited me in Brisbane, we talked about the issues of the day…”open plan”, ”integrated day”, “family grouping”, “team teaching”, “subject integration” and I recall that we talked from the child’s frame of reference. I found one of his talks. It was a breath of fresh air after reading about testucators’ ‘fundamentals’, “achievements’, UDLs… https://sites.google.com/site/teachchoice/siralecclegg He talked about ….


“From whatever point of view one contemplates the education scene one see at once a marked division between the development of the mind and of the spirit. Now as soon as one mentions the spirit, folk tend to withdraw and to be shy because they do not know what it is.

As I see it, my mind has to do with my ability to see cause and effect, to follow a logical argument, to reason, to calculate, to memorisse facts, to infer and deduce; and it is these attributes of man more than others which have enabled him to make the Concord and the nuclear bomb.

But my spirit is different; it has to do with my fears and joys, my enthusiasms and apathies and my loves and hates. It is this side of my nature which more than my mind I think decides when I shall release the bomb and whom I shall kill with it. It accounts for the emotional mess in Northern Ireland as well as the compassion of Oxfam, and for the fear that Dockers have, not merely of losing their jobs but of being of no account in our society, and it accounts for the driving force of men like Gandhi, Schweitzer, and a whole army of martyrs and saints.

In the school and the classroom the difference between mind and spirit shows itself in simpler ways which are within our grasp. There is for instance the difference between the mechanical process of reading and the enjoyment of what is read; between the mechanics of musical notation and sensitive playing and singing; between writing on a prescribed topic from notes on a blackboard and telling someone in your own written words of something that has excited you; between lessons on perspective and giving the child the urge to draw or model or paint what he sees in his way; between the child whose interest is aroused by how his grandfather and grandmother lived when they were young or by the origins of the local railway or canal or factory, and the child who is made to do the Tudors or do the Stuarts or start with the Ancient Britons in the hope one day of arriving at Elizabeth II; the difference between the teacher who tries to obtain a purely superficial result by frightening children and the one who encourages the child’s ability to achieve; between the teacher who adjusts his own abilities to the needs of the child and the teacher who merely follows the syllabus; between the teacher who tests, ranks and grades children solely on their achievements and the one who can make allowances for handicaps and judges effort; between the head of a school who sees the timetable and the framing and observation of school rules as his main task and the one who, by the use of recognition, expectation and encouragement, draws the best out of colleagues and pupils.

These differences are of course very largely the differences between the Old and New Testaments of our religion. The Old Testament relies on the law, on an eye for an eye, on the promotion of fear of failing, all of which rest in the belief that if a child is trained up in the way he should go, when he is old he will not depart from that way. The New Testament message is less concerned with the mind and the law. It proclaims that love is the fulfilling of the law, that knowledge puffeth up, that charity edifieth, and that whosoever should offend one of the little ones, etc.

Now the interesting distinction between the Old and the New Testament attitudes in education is that one can more often than not measure the things of the mind, the things governed by law and regulations – spelling, punctuation, calculations, the facts of history and geography, science, technical proficiency, the accuracy of the perspective, the effectiveness of the timetable, even the degree of submission achieved by promotion of fear. But you cannot measure the love of poetry, the sensitivity to music or art, the zest or initiative with which the peculiarities of nature are investigated, the extent to which encouragement and expectation and just treatment breed trust and compassion and concern in a child.

Now of course one cannot divide the curriculum into the things of the mind and the things of the spirit. But it is a fact that in our education system we tend to attach more importance to the things of the mind that can be measured, to the subjects that traffic in these things, to the teachers who can teach them and to children who are good at them, than we do to other activities which deal mainly with what I have called the spirit,and whose manifestations defy measurement.

It is because you principals are less likely than any others in the teaching profession to make these harmful distinctions and because you above all others recognise that a child matters for what he or she is at least as much as for principles and practices and beliefs, all of which I suspect will be tested and questioned by the examiners, the measurers and the structures whose practices are spreading over the land like the plagues of Egypt.”

You have no idea of how much relief that I felt when I returned to the unpackaged real world. Thanks Sir Alec.

Now. Believe this. After all this personal trauma yesterday, I searched this morning’s press to learn how the innovation was treated……..


When Sir Alec considered the attributes of the best ten principals he had met, he listed the commonalities of their beliefs:

  1. There is good in every child, however damaged, repellent or ill-favoured he or she might be;
  2. Success on which a teacher can build must somehow be found for every child.
  3. All children matter.
  4. Happy relationships between every one around a school are all important.
  5. The life of a child can be enriched by the development of creative powers.
  6. Encouragement is far more important than punishment.
  7. Teachers just as much as pupils need support and thrive on recognition.


“When Michelangelo was going to Rome to see the Pope prior to his being employed to build the great dome of St. Peters and paint the Sistine Chapel, he took a reference with him : ‘The bearer of these presents is Michelangelo the sculptor….his nature is such that he requires to be drawn out by kindness and encouragement – if love be shown him and he be treated well, he will accomplish things that will make the whole world wonder.’”


Click: ‘Care for Kids’

Phil Cullen

January 10 2013


Problems: High-Stakes Standardised Tests [Marion Brady]

Treehorn Express:

Shared opinions soaked in knowledge & experience.


Marion Brady

Marion Brady is one of my favourite writers. He writes for The Washington Post usually in Valerie Strauss’s column. This is a unique combination of outstanding journalist and great educator. Marion, I believe, has the ability to express an important issue in an unequivocal succinct manner. Here is his “partial list of problems with standardized, machine-scored tests, problems which should be addressed before such tests are used to determine student life chances, …and undermine confidence in public schooling to pave the way to privatization.” One or two have been altered slightly for Australian conditions.


Commercially produced, standardized, machine-scored tests:

  1. Can measure only “lower level” thought processes, trivializing learning.
  2. Provide minimal to no useful feedback to classroom teachers.
  3. Are keyed to a deeply prescriptive national curriculum.
  4. Lead to neglect of physical conditioning, music, art, and other non-verbal ways of learning.
  5. Unfairly advantage those who can afford out-of-school test preparation.
  6. Hide problems created by margin-of-error computations in scoring.
  7. Penalize test-takers who think in non-standard way (which the young frequently do).
  8. Radically limit teacher ability to adapt to learner differences.
  9. Give control of the curriculum to test manufacturers.
  10. Encourage use of threats, bribes, and other extrinsic motivators.
  11. Use arbitrary, subjectively-set pass-fail cut scores.
  12. Produce scores which can be (and sometimes are) manipulated for political purposes.
  13. Assume that what the young will need to know in the future is already known.
  14. Emphasize minimum achievement to the neglect of maximum performance.
  15. Create unreasonable pressures to cheat.
  16. Reduce teacher creativity and the appeal of teaching as a profession.
  17. Are unavoidably biased by social-class, ethnic, regional and other cultural differences.
  18. Lessen concern for and use of continuous evaluation.
  19. Have no “success in life” predictive power.
  20. Unfairly channel instructional resources to learners at or near the pass-fail “cut score”.
  21. Are open to massive scoring errors with life-changing consequences.
  22. Are at odds with deep-seated values about individuality and worth.
  23. Create unnecessary stress and negative attitudes towards learning.
  24. Perpetuates the artificial compartmentalization of knowledge by field.
  25. Channel increasing amounts of tax money into corporate coffers instead of classroom.
  26. Waste the vast, creative potential of human variability.
  27. Block instructional innovations that cannot be evaluated by machines.
  28. Unduly reward mere ability to retrieve second-hand information from memory.
  29. Subtract from available instructional time.
  30. Lend themselves to “gaming” – use of strategies to improve the success-rate of guessing.
  31. Make time – a parameter largely unrelated to ability – a factor in scoring.
  32. Create test fatigue, aversion, and an eventual refusal to take tests seriously.
  33. Undermine a fundamental principle that those closest to the work are best-positioned to evaluate its quality.
  34. Simply don’t work. PISA scores for Australian 15 year-olds have slumped considerably over 5 years.

In public lectures, Marion Brady is fond of allocating this list of problems to each member of the audience to encourage dialogue. Every reader of The Treehorn Express who has the opportunity, is encouraged to do the same. Marion would approve. Share this list with parents at school meetings; with teachers at subject meetings, union meetings, staff meetings, principals’ meetings, Probus meetings, Rotary, LIONS, CWA, political party meetings, caucus, cabinet, even senate inquiries…any kind of meeting where some people are likely to ‘care for kids’ and are concerned about Australia’s future. Carry a copy with you. It is my intention to use it in this way and to add the tablet that compares GERM ideals [Pasi Sahlberg] with those of Leading-Learning ideals.

PLEASE ENCOURAGE others to think about the 34 points above. Ask your local member to print it out and spread it around.


Australia’s version of high-stakes testing is called NAPLAN. It is a feature of a political dystopia that is ruled by demanding feudal lords and ladies who don’t know what they are doing; nor do they realise the amount of damage that they do. NAPLAN, as the backbone of our schooling system, has Stalinist overtones of a ‘state theory of learning’; that the behaviour of individuals can be regulated by fiat. Schools have to carry the baggage of this kind of political disrespect for children. Unfamiliar with the real pupil demographic and unwilling to learn, members of parliament instil fears and stress through schools by their support for high-stakes testing.

2013 needs to be the year when they think about what they are doing to this great country.

The top twenty jobs in highest demand in 2012 did not exist in 2004. Present day school children will be seeking jobs that do not exist using technologies that have yet to be invented. How do schools prepare them for this?  There is a critical choice : TEACH THEM HOW TO LEARN  or  TEST THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS OUT OF THEM.

Click: ‘Care for Kids’

Phil Cullen

January 9 2013