Educational Readings May 31

By Allan Alach

 As you read this, reflect on the attacks on children being made under the guise of school reform.

 Your Children 

Khalil Gibran

 Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you, they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite.
And He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hands be for happiness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
So He loves the bow that is stable.

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!

Class Matters. Why Won’t We Admit It?

Not class size, not year level, but social class – a timely article given the New Government’s miserly decision to spend $2million per year providing a very basic breakfast for children in our poorest schools, compared to the $40million granted to private schools, over $30million granted to the America’s Cup campaign, the $120million paid to advertise the selling of a state owned asset, $60million paid to Warner Brothers on the clearly suspect claim that this would ensure that “The Hobbit’ movie would be made in New Zealand (and so Peter Jackson could buy himself a new $80million corporate jet) and the $1.7billion paid to rescue wealthy investors in the failed South Canterbury Finance Company.

 Adding the involvement of Sanitarium, who use their religious charity status to avoid paying tax, makes this seem a very dubious piece of political headline grabbing but little else.  New Zealand blogger Frank Macskay has used the very appropriate term ‘Weetbix Government’ to describe the NZ government – very appropriate Frank!

 Note: authors Helen Ladd and Edward Fisk are presently in New Zealand, being, I’m sure, ignored by the government...

 The learning gap experienced by malnourished children (via Bruce)

Another very appropriate article on the learning problems experienced by hungry children.

Teachers in Their Own Words: “A Plain Little Thing”

USA teacher Jeff Nguyen write about his concerns with common core standards in relation to five & six year olds, and also their effect on children with special needs. Do similar concerns apply to New Zealand’s national standards?

‘The effects of these standards are far reaching and go beyond the obvious concerns of limiting teachers’ ability to tailor curriculum to the needs and interests of their current students.’

 The bottom line on ‘learning styles’

This example discusses ‘the notion of different “learning styles” and whether there is any real evidence for them.’

What do you think?

 Are classrooms the antithesis to learning?

Are national standards the antithesis to learning? Is standardised testing the antithesis to learning? Is online instruction the antithesis to learning? And so it goes..

 How school reform preserves the ‘status quo’ — and what real change would look like

Excellent indepth article from The Washington Post that provided plenty of material for the anti-GERM debates. Challenge pro-GERMers to come up with evidence to support their claims. To date New Zealand government Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye has not responded to a challenge from Save Our Schools NZ blogger Dianne Khan and me, to produce research backing her claim that charter schools will work.

How Can We Make Assessments Meaningful? (via Bruce).

The whole field of monitoring children’s learning is extremely problematical, yet is a pivotal area in the battle against GERM. We need to ensure, regardless of educational philosophies, that we have alternatives available to counteract the narrow mind killing numbness of standardised testing. Here’s one viewpoint.

And now for something completely different…

What does a teacher’s brain look like?

One Step Closer….

By Peggy Robertson

Reposted from Peg With Pen

Every time a child takes a high stakes test we are one step closer to the end of public education. Keep that in mind next year – especially if you are a student and/or have a child that doesn’t mind the test – know that the action of taking the test in fact is assisting in the dismantling of public education and the end of the teaching profession. I don’t spend my time helping people opt out because of some silly ole non-consequential test; I help people opt out because I know that submitting to the test – whether you do well on it or not –  will result in the destruction of the cornerstone of our democracy.

For some reason the concept of “the destruction of the cornerstone of our democracy” doesn’t seem to really hit home with folks – not sure why – perhaps it sounds like sci fi…ha….if only.

Let’s look at it another way. While public education is being destroyed – whether your community feels it or not – our neediest children feel it in ways you and I could never imagine – that’s the ugly part that no one wants you to know about. Their communities are destroyed and their dreams often go with it.  So, the act of taking the test, while it may not seem to harm your child (although I would disagree), indeed harms many others.

If you refuse the test, you are helping save the lives of our neediest children. For those of us who know these children, just know that your gift of opt out/refusal will have an impact on their futures.

If you do not yet believe your school district is suffering from corporate ed. reform, please consider looking outside of your community and refuse the test for the children who currently feel the greatest impact from the punitive consequences of high stakes testing.  Please don’t walk on by. There is not much time left.

The readiness to do social experiments on the education of children

Reposted from Scoop NZ.

by Gordon Campbell

The school closures in Christchurch really are a perfect storm – the most stressed community in New Zealand is being led by the most accident prone Minister in the Key government, into a social experiment on its youngest and most vulnerable, in the least available time. Nothing could possibly go wrong with that scenario, could it? Even if Education Minister Hekia Parata was correct – and this is contested – about the school mergers she is imposing on Christchurch due to what the earthquake has done to population shifts, school rolls and the costs for classroom repairs and replacement, nothing can justify the speed with which she is rushing through these changes.

Even Parata’s own Ministry, it seems, was advocating a further year of adjustment. The plan is as follows:

Seven primary and intermediate schools in Christchurch are to close outright and another three primary schools will close as part of mergers with other schools. Of the closures confirmed on Wednesday afternoon, most will take effect from January 2014. Branston, Linwood and Manning intermediates are three of the seven schools to close.

 To cater for the gap left by their closure, Hornby High, Hillmorton High and Linwood College will from next year expand to provide for Year 7 and Year 8 students. The principal of Manning Intermediate, Richard Chambers, says the short timeframe places pressure not only on the three high schools, but on his soon-to-be jobless teachers who will be expected to help with the changeover.

This is another galling aspect of the unnecessary haste. The timeframe can only be achieved if the professionals involved are prepared to work their butts off in the interim to make it happen – for the sake of the children caught up in the changes. This has to be the ultimate in cynical politicking. In effect, Parata and her top advisers are exploiting the dedication of the teaching staff to bring about a programme that will ultimately cost those teachers their jobs. And who will get to fill the (lesser) number of teaching positions available? Only the mice who run fastest on the treadmill between now and next January, and who complain the least.

Keep in mind that these teachers, and their communities and the children affected have already been under significant stress for the past 18 months. Is the rushed timetable achievable? Significantly, Parata was using the weasel words on RNZ this morning that she has been advised that it is achievable. Code: if it doesn’t prove to work out that way….blame the advisers, not her.

But that’s how the business of government works these days. Public servants are bullied to deliver outcomes where success is ministerialised and failure is officialised. In the Christchurch case, there is little or no evidence that the children affected – who are the unfortunate lab rats in this experiment – will be better off, or worse off as a result. There’s an information vacuum on this crucial point. The mergers will create bigger schools. Yet do we know anything about whether such education supermarkets do – or do not – improve the learning experience and outcomes for students? (If they don’t, any short term cost savings from these mergers will be false economicsm as well as a waste of human potential.) Intuitively, one would think that as schools become bigger the chance for teachers to recognise and to nurture individual learning needs gets reduced. But that would be only a guess.

The trouble is, Parata seems to be guessing too – and as Minister, she happens to be gambling with the future of thousands of children in Christchurch. For those children in Christchurch, their schools have just become casinos, and with themselves being the chips.

Charter schools meanwhile, march onwards
Charter schools are a social experiment in education into which the government is choosing to pour money, even while it cries poor about its ability to keep open the state schools it is closing and merging in Christchurch. Ironically, the charter schools legislation is being advanced in Parliament this week just as (a) the closures/mergers are announced in Christchurch and (b) the OECD has released a report that generally showers praise on our state education system. Meaning: charter schools seem to be the solution to a largely non-existent problem. On global comparisons, our state schools are high achievers. Rather than create a parallel education system for nutcase Act Party reasons, the government should be funding the due maintenance needed in the existing system.

Look, for evidence, at the OECD findings on NZ education contained in the Better Life Indexcomparative report. On most comparisons of participation in education, New Zealand is at or around the OECD average:

In New Zealand, 73% of adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, close to the OECD average of 74%. This is truer of men than women, as 74% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 72% of women. This 2 percentage point difference is in line with the average OECD difference. Among younger people – a better indicator of New-Zealand’s future – 79% of 25-34 year-olds have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, also close to the OECD average of 82%.

On the quality of that education though, the New Zealand education system continues to punch well above its weight:

New-Zealand is a top-performing OECD country in reading literacy, maths and sciences with the average student scoring 524. This score is higher than the OECD average of 497, making New-Zealand one of the strongest OECD countries in students’ skills. On average in New-Zealand, girls outperformed boys by 15 points, more than the average OECD gap of 9 points, with an overall score of 532 points compared with 517 points for boys.

In passing, it should be noted that the best performer of all in the OECD – i.e., Finland – continues to get these optimum results while resolutely turning its back on the national standards that have been fetishised here by the Key government, and without having any private schools at all. However, there are some warning signs in the New Zealand evidence, which suggest that growing income inequality in this country is having an effect in our school system as well. For example:

The best-performing school systems manage to provide high-quality education to all students. In New-Zealand, the average difference in results, between the 20% with the highest socio-economic background and the 20% with the lowest socio-economic background, is 119 points, higher than the OECD average of 99 points. This suggests the school system in New-Zealand tends to provide higher quality education for the better off.

Are charter schools the answer to this aspect of our performance? Dr Pita Sharples evidently thinks so, and he likens them to kura kaupapa schools. On the overseas evidence though, charter schools only deliver as-good educational outcomes as state schools if and when they receive similar inputs of funds. So – as you might well think – it would make more sense to put the money being earmarked for charter schools into the state school system that is already delivering top results – rather than create a parallel system that will cost just as much to deliver similar results. Unfortunately for the nation’s taxpayers (and not to mention the children who will be subjected to the charter schools experiment) this doesn’t fit with the political and ideological agendas of the National Party, or the Maori Party. Their mantra is that state provision is always bad – and no evidence will convince them otherwise.

Some have tried to convince them, regardless. Reportedly, 65 people including prominent Maori, Pasifika and education academics and children’s advocates have signed an open letter urging MPs not to experiment on children by introducing publicly-funded charter schools. But hey, to cite the failure of charter schools to surpass the performance of state schools – on any dollar for dollar level playing field – would be to rely on the kind of pointy-headed overseas evidence that Pita Sharples refuses to consider as being relevant here. According to Sharples, we should adopt the American model of charter schools, but not consider the American evidence of its performance as being relevant. As he told RNZ:

“You have to try new things and if they don’t work, ditch them….It is about giving charter schools a chance – we’re not England or America and what they’ve done there, and we’ve got to see how it can work here.”

Brilliant. With the likes of Parata and Sharples choosing not to learn from experience and precedent, what could possibly go wrong with entrusting them to steer the nation’s course in education?

Senate Inquiry






Please let me share the first piece of my submission to the senate inquiry, due by 7 June. I do hope that this one and yours make it on time.



To : Senate Committee of Inquiry.

This is my submission to the recently established Senate snap Inquiry. This submission tries to emphasise that NAPLAN testing and any other ruinous substitute should never ever be inflicted on the school children of this country; that NAPLAN testing be banished forthwith; and that the focus of public discussion concentrate on LEARNING IN THE CLASSROOM and the impact that outsides influences have on classroom activities.

Maybe few people understand what LEARNING means in context, especially when applied to classroom activities. Since prevailing political control of schools has dominated classroom outcomes to the detriment of the overall view of learning progress, a halt needs to be called. Politicians and measurers cannot pretend to know that they understand the dynamics of a school classroom. Parents need to talk about ‘Learning’ in a positive manner. Discussions about Learning at the school level need to be encouraged, rather than discouraged using underhand tricks.

Immediately below is a table of differences between a Joel Klein/NAPLAN testing system, now controlling Australian education, and that of a future system that emphasises learning.

This submission suggests that a blue-ribbon, superior education system is possible in Australia, once the public is given the opportunity to talk about the way we treat our children when they go to school; especially to talk openly about the detrimental impact that politically controlled Standardised Blanket Testing has on classroom outcomes.


Here is a short Q & A that suggests open discussion on the critical issues of present-day schooling is urgent. [Questions on the ABC show ‘Q&A’ about NAPLAN are barred, by the way, without explanation.  ????]

Q. WHY is it that countries, like Finland, that represent the right-hand side of this table, lead the PISA test results of 70 countries, even though its tested cohort has up to four years less at school by 15 years of age than do those countries, like Australia….and Finnish educators detest the use of Standardised Blanket Testing regimes? Finland concentrates on how to learn about learning; Australia about testing. Please explain.

A. SEE Items 3,4,5 above. The answer is SO obvious. When pupils are treated with respect – as ‘pupils’ [rather than as over-testucated frightened ‘students’] with total recognition of their individual differences, their personal attitudes to learning, their natural desire to take their developed learnings to the dizziest of heights – there are no limits to their learnacy [learning HOW to learn] outcomes. NAPLAN and other forms of national testing ruthlessly applied by our part-time political employees, whose ‘knowledge of learning in the classroom can be written on a used postage stamp in large font’ [JH], merely standardise learning; and curb development of each child, each system, each country. Our elected servants have become our masters in recent years and there are too many of them who seem to take delight in disrespecting the efforts of our beautiful children and devaluing the tasks of our teaching professionals who love our kids and just want to be able to do the best that they can by them. Democratic principles have been suppressed by corporate saboteurs in the quest for simplistic scores and the mighty dollar. NAPLAN has to be totally destroyed , without modification or substitution. It is a national threat.

Q. WHY is Australia regarded as the most GERM ridden country, so crazed about testing?

A. Excessive totalitarian federal political control of each state’s education systems, linked to unseemly threats; and an unhealthy  attachment to the mega-rich testing tycoons’ greed for more money have a lot to do with it.

[“Why would someone with any conscience think it is okay to degrade the art of teaching in exchange for profit, while denying the love of learning for an entire generation. Sounds like science fiction, doesn’t it? “ Blue Hat Movement]

Q. Isn’t NAPLAN useful as a diagnostic test?

A. About as useful as  ‘…on a bull’. How can results, provided five months after the tests when learners are  in circumstances far different from the circumstances at the time of testing, be of any help? Fair go! On the spot DIY testing surrounding the learning act has a far greater impact, surely. Is NAPLAN so much better than one-on-one individualised evaluation?

There are ample sources for those testucators who need outside assistance, that can provide ‘closer to the special problem’ tests at cost.  A.C.E.R. is a useful test shop; there’s ‘Google’ to pin-point other providers; there’s books. [As a test-fixated principal, my copy  of Sir Fred Schonell’s ‘Diagnostic and Attainment Testing’ became dog-eared, tattered and fell apart from over-use. If only I’d realised the damage that I was doing! I could have dumped it when it was in pristine condition.]

NAPLAN is a useless, dangerous, frightening, dark weapon that seriously threatens our country’s future. Financially, it represents an enormous waste of tax-payers’ money that can be better used.

Let our kids LEARN, for heaven’s sake.

The danger MUST be totally removed from the schooling landscape before May, 2014. Let’s rescue the unfortunate children presently in Years 2, 4, 6, 8 from assaults on their learning capacity, for starters.


Paradigms of social behaviour, such as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs [1954] and French & Ravens’ Bases of Social Power [1959] are recent additions to empirical knowledge, that summarise what has been obvious to man for thousands of years:

1. ‘Man’ hates to be pushed around. It is a lower-order need on the totem-pole of basic requirements. ‘Man’ much prefers to be valued for his/her own worth and prefers to be self-actualised. [Maslow]

2. The use of coercion and reward power by super-ordinates on subordinates brings resistance. Their use stifles enthusiasm and initiatives. [French & Raven]

Why is the Australian system of schooling in the hands of measurement-crazed dinosaurs who believe that fear motivates children to learn? Why are our legislative representatives too timid to stand up for kids? Why do they need this complicated, costly, time-wasting senate inquiry indeed, [sorry Penny] in the knowledge that mostly testucating sycophantic compliers have the time to respond adequately; and our real educating experts are too busy in the classroom and too frightened? It will require a few million anti-NAPLAN voters to convince the present hard-nosed, measurement-biased, tycoon connected regime to cease its NAPLAN antics. Our teachers are too scared and too busy.

While the intentions of Senator Penny Wright are most honourable, praiseworthy and laudable [I just love the lady for her honest good intentions], the call for such a ‘snap’ inquiry could have a ‘diminishing effect’ [P. Darwin 21-05-13]. The warm, well-intentioned belief that those who are most concerned about the effects of SBTs on teaching and learning in classrooms will have enough to say to persuade those in power to change their minds is admirable. It’s a long bow to draw to believe that some of the 1,030,00 parents of kids whose private learning behaviour was assaulted on 14,15,16 May and the parents of other victims might comment. If the number of responses is not up to expectations, the testucators will claim that their notions of schooling have been supported, and some idiotic form of NAPLAN will continue.

LEARNING REFORM should become an enormous public discussion by talking about what actually happens INSIDE the classroom. That’s where our future is.

There is plethora of reliable information that clearly demonstrates that GERM-based Standardised Blanket Testing is a major threat to productive learning. Thank God for ‘google’ that can provide a guide to productive thinking at the click of a button.

Try some of the world’s greatest educators : Sir Ken Robinson, Prof. Robin Alexander, Diane Ravitch, Yong Zhau, Marion Brady, Bruce Hammonds, Allan Alach, Kelvin  Smythe…an endless list. The evidence is so overwhelming and the literature so profuse and convincing. Why isn’t any notice taken? There is certainly no reliable or valid evidence that current measurement techniques create intellectual products of worth. None! Try ‘google’ to find any. Plenty to the contrary.

NAPLAN is just an unreliable, invalid,  test-focussed measurer’s crazy idea. The worst outcome of this snap senate inquiry would be a recommendation for a substitute because many people now tend to go with the flow and prefer not to comment; just as millions of Germans did once when undemocratic, inhumane practices were often noticed and completely ignored. They had a fall-guy. We can blame Julia or Peter or Chris….or any of their sycophantic eichmanns. Not necessary if the the craziness goes! We can all work together towards the establishment of a wonderful open, honest, professional, down-under learning climate that the world has never known before.

to be continued……….

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point 2486

07 5524 6443

Educational Readings May 24th

By Allan Alach

The big issue in New Zealand before the end of May will be the government’s release of  data that will supposedly show children’s achievement against the set national standards in the 2012 school year. For many reasons this is a very dubious exercise of minimal value. One of these reasons is the lack of validity of the national standards process, which has been examined by Waikato University Professor of Education Martin Thrupp. I’ve written an appraisal of a newspaper article about Martin’s findings, and intend to follow up with a review of his full report.

My initial analysis:

New Zealand’s national standards in education are not national or standard.

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

 This week’s homework!

 Skills Versus Content in the Early Grades (via Bruce)

‘For decades, U.S. schools have been engaged in a failed experiment that attempts to cram more content into a typical teaching day than is humanly possible. Schools ask children to learn overwhelming content at younger and younger ages without taking the time to build the foundational skills needed for learning or behavioral success.’

 Dystopia: A Possible Future of Teacher Evaluation

Warning: do not read while holding a hot coffee or tea. May be hazardous to mental health. Antony Cody outlines a nightmare scenario for 2018.

 To encourage creativity, Mr Gove, you must first understand what it is

Sir Ken Robinson, commenting on UK Education Secretary Michael Gove’s view of fostering creativity in education. Gove is a true technocrat and so Sir Ken is able to shoot big holes in his ‘paint by numbers’ nonsense.

 School leadership and the new cult of personality: some thoughts on extravagance in Academyland (via Joce Jesson)

Observations from UK about the pitfalls of Academy (a.k.a. charter) schools:

‘..the new corporatisation of schools, with high salaries, bonuses and performance-related pay for a few are a threat to these public service values. Intentionally.  They are meant to create divisions – between school leaders and teachers, and between teachers and teachers.’

Sussex academy pays £100,000 to use ‘patented’ US school curriculum (via Joce Jesson)

As the proposed model for charter schools on New Zealand allows for free choice of curriculum, the door is open to whatever the proprietors deem to be suitable. The teaching of creationism, in religious themed schools is one example. However there is another probability, the purchasing of complete curricula from overseas, and thus depriving the children of their heritage. I wonder how parents would feel if they were aware of this? Here’s an example from the UK.

The Ultimate Education Reform: Messy Learning & Problem Solving (via Bruce).

Canadian educator Ian Jukes is a must see, if he’s in your locality. He has a farsighted vision of where education should be headed, and his presentations are stimulating and entertaining. Here he introduces an article by Tim Holt.

Parents, Students, Teachers…Meet Pearson Publishing

Following the theme, often expressed, that we need to look overseas to see what is coming our way, this article about Pearson Publishing (including Adobe, Scott Foresman, Penguin, Longman, Wharton, Harcourt, Puffin, Prentice Hall, Allyn & Bacon) is very revealing.

Government to introduce charter hospitals…

‘The National Government has today announced plans to introduce a number of charter hospitals, similar to their charter school counterparts, in major population centres around the country. The hospitals, which would be owned, operated or sponsored by private enterprises, would dissociate themselves from the current public health system and not be required to follow the regulations that most health institutes are beholden to.’

31 Signs You’ve Been A Teacher Too Long

C’mon, ‘fess up – how many of these ring true?

GERM (global education reform movement) is coming our way

By Dianne Khan

Reposted from Save Our Schools NZ


First they came for the trained teachers,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a teacher.

Then they came for the special needs children,
and I didn’t speak out because my child didn’t have special needs.

Then they came for the schools,
and I didn’t speak out because there were other schools.

Then they came for free public education
and I didn’t speak out because I was exhausted.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.

It’s no understatement to say there is an  attack under way in education around the world.  Corporate reformers have realised how much money there is to be made off the back of our kids’ education, and man are they going to damned well get a finger in that pie.

Global reform goes like this:

  • Create the perception of a huge problem in education “Arghghghg the kids are all failing!!!!!!!!!!”
  • Use that perception to justify reforms to solve the perceived problem “The only solution is to sell schools off, test more, de-professionalise teaching!!!!”
  • Use the reforms to create fear in parents that their child may fail the test “Your child might not pass the standardised test!!!!!”
  • Use that fear to sell good to parents “Come buy these great test prep books, apps, tutoring packages, supplements….”

And who profits?  Is it the kids?  Is it the parents?

Or is it the big companies like Pearson, Rupert Murdoch’s Amplify, The Gates Foundation and so on, who are all so fond of promoting education reforms and just happen to have goodies for sale in that arena, too. (But they only do it for the kids y’all…)

RatchetI can’t help recalling the words of Ratchet, the corporation head in the movie Robots:  

Now, let’s get back to the business of sucking every last penny out of Mr. and Mrs. Average Knucklehead.”

Taking Murdoch’s Amplify as an example… the Tablet Plus costs US$349 per device, and requires a two-year contract. That contract will set you back $179 a year.  The tablet itself has just a one year guarantee.  So, over US$700 per tablet and they want one for each kid in each classroom in the whole school.   Yes, that sure as heck looks like a nice money spinner.  And oh look! Mr Murdoch has his own newspaper and TV news empire that can promote such ideas.  How nice for him.

Sure, sometimes they get caught out, like Pearson did here… but how often do you reckon they get away with it?  Walk off with Millions of tax dollars that could have been better spent on the kids’ education?

And it’s interesting how money can be found for these schemes when schools are closingteachers not being paidkids are unfed.

But hey, so long as we go whizzing into the 22nd Century and beyond with a couple of Android tablets and some cool apps, who cares.  It’s not like we can teach using books and pens, is it…

Is this just happening in America?

Well no, there’s a fair bit going on in England, Australia, and it’s creeping into Aotearoa, too.  Let’s look at Aus just last week:

“An urgent inquiry will be held into the impact high-stakes Naplan testing is having on kids,

amid growing concern over the pressure applied by schools and parents to students”.


snake oilChildren are showing high levels of stress around testing in Aus,  just as happens in the UK when SATS take place.

Is this really necessary in order to get a good education?  I do have to wonder, when Finnish students have the shortest school days and only one national test at the age of 15 and yet constantly are one of the top 5 in the world for education, whether we are being sold snake oil.

I look forward to seeing what the Naplan report says, at the end of June…

And you might be forgiven for thinking “Wellll, this is not in NZ, this is Australia, this is the USA, we’ll be right…”

But we have our own schools fighting for survivalour own teachers not being paidour own kids unfed, and our own reforms sweeping through bit by bit by bit.

Speak out about this lunacy.

It is not good education.  It does not improve children’s learning (often quite the opposite).  It is not for choice or for equality or for raising the bar: It is for making money for a small select few.

If you sit by and don’t make a stand, sooner or later the reforms will affect you,and who will be left to shout on your behalf?


Further reading & viewing:

Global Education Reform Movement (GERM)

Government to introduce charter hospitals

Reposted from this brilliant NZ satirical website The Civilian.

This beautifully captures the ideological nonsense behind charter schools.


These minimum wage surgeons may be unsure what to do next, but with enough private funding, the Government is confident they’ll figure it out.

These minimum wage surgeons may be unsure what to do next, but with enough private funding, the Government is confident they’ll figure it out.

The National Government has today announced plans to introduce a number of charter hospitals, similar to their charter school counterparts, in major population centres around the country.

The hospitals, which would be owned, operated or sponsored by private enterprises, would dissociate themselves from the current public health system and not be required to follow the regulations that most health institutes are beholden to.

Charter hospitals would not have to produce evidence to support the treatments they provide, would not have to hire qualified doctors, surgeons or nurses, and would be largely immune from public inquiries such as official information requests.

The announcement was made today at a press conference held by Health Minister Tony Ryall, who said that the new hospitals would provide a way for poor families and their children to get quality health care at a low cost.

“Over the next two years, the Ministry of Health will be working with private companies and community organisations to establish a modest number of partnership hospitals around the country,” said Ryall. “These hospitals will seek to provide services to those patients who the current system has left behind.”

“Because of the high safety standard we demand in our public affairs, public hospitals are forced to waste a great deal of money on conducting internal reviews, hiring qualified staff and cleaning surgical equipment. Partnership hospitals, on the other hand, will be free to take their own approach, providing kiwis with choice and lowering costs for thousands of families who have traditionally been unable to afford care.”

Ryall assured reporters that while regulations would not be as strict as they are for public hospitals, the Government would institute some kind of a minimum standard.

“Contrary to what the Opposition will tell you, we are not going to let hospitals run roughshod over the health system by allowing them to hire just anyone,” he said. “We would expect doctors to have a PhD in at least something.”

He added that charter hospitals would have to demonstrate that their surgeons had used scissors “at least twice,” and fully completed popular video game Surgeon Simulator 2013, “including the secret level in outer space.”

Additionally, those hospitals would be required to have a working fleet of ambulances, where an ambulance is defined as a vehicle with a minimum of two wheels, and at least one emergency room, where an emergency room is not defined.

If the implementation of charter hospitals is successful, Ryall says he’ll consider taking a similar approach with his ministry, which he’s “getting kind of sick of, anyway.”

New Zealand’s national standards in education are not national or standard.

By Allan Alach

Reposted from The Daily Blog

At the end of this month the New Zealand government will release the national standards data that will a) ‘prove’ that their education policies are ‘raising achievement’ and b) ‘prove’ that there is a wide variation of school effectiveness and that teachers’ performance is therefore deficient.

All this, of course, is derived from the school ‘reform’ handbook that has been imported from overseas.

Waikato University Professor of Education Martin Thrupp, a long time campaigner against the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM), for example in his book ‘Schools Making A Difference’, has written an article in The New Zealand Herald that critiques this data release.  Martin’s analysis makes very similar points to those that I’ve expressed previously, albeit in much more authoritative and better expressed way!

“The published data appears straight-forward enough – percentages of children “above”, “at” “below” or “well below” the standard for their year group in each school. But there is nothing standard about what underlies the tidy rows of figures. Schools’ approaches to making judgments against the National Standards are so idiosyncratic and wide-ranging that it is impossible to accurately compare achievement between any two schools, let alone “apples with apples” comparisons across more than 2000 New Zealand primary and intermediate schools.”

Thrupp’s findings are based on a sample of six schools and one can only imagine what the nationwide figure would be like. He has found that the variations in each school’s methods of making their Overall Teacher Judgements (OTJs), such as the differing mixes of judgements and use of the standardised tests such as e-assTTle and STAR, throws doubt on the validity and reliability of any conclusions.

“The numerous sources of variation that underlie schools’ judgments also mean that any claim of overall improvement or decline in the achievement of New Zealand children against the National Standards will be quite spurious.”

Interestingly the government has chosen to produce their own nationwide analysis of results, having accepted the inevitability of the media doing likewise. One wonders if this is a precursor to the release of school based results in a month or so – will the government produce their own league tables to preempt media versions?

Thrupp’s long and well expressed opposition to GERM has naturally seen him denigrated by the government ( e.g previous Minister of Education Anne Tolley), using their well trodden personal attack path. This however, in no way diminishes his authority and so his findings add to the increasing weight of evidence against national standards.

His article also discusses issues with the Progress and Consistency Tool (PaCT) which I have also described in an earlier article. The government, having conceded (off the record) that national standards rankings based on teacher judgements is a very flawed beast indeed, is developing PaCT in an attempt to obtain more objective outcomes from subjective teacher judgements. Thrupp also raises concerns about this, including the possibility (probability?) that we could be looking at yet another government IT failure, to go with Novopay (a very problematic teacher payroll system)  and many others (remember INCIS?).

“But if the PaCT is intended mainly as a form of national moderation (ie informing other assessment processes rather than itself becoming the assessment tool for making judgments), then it can be expected to be an expensive failure.”

Further, the design concept behind PaCT still suffers from the problems of using sampling assessments to determine overall achievement. Sampling like this only measures the very areas that are deemed to be significant, as if learning can be digitised into discreet segments. Different sampling can and does result in different results, and thus the outcomes are likely to be as variable as the teacher judgements. This is especially so when the very conditions leading to variability are ignored – the biggest of these being family poverty, which, as we know, is the ‘ elephant’ that the government doesn’t want to acknowledge.

“By failing to recognise the underlying causes of variation, it is likely to allow the Government to ignore the impact of contextual inequalities between schools, for instance, the effects of diverse and unequal intakes and communities, school locations, staffing and other resources.”

The whole process is a crock. It can’t work, and won’t work. There is a basic similarity with Novopay, where the basic concept and design is so flawed that achieving any kind of reliability is going to be very expensive, if at all possible. The government’s ‘raising achievement through national standards’ policies have similar concept and design errors.

“National Standards may be a government aspiration but they are not national and they never will be while there is so much potential for local variation. It is almost comical – if it weren’t so serious – that data representing such variation is being put into the public domain for comparative purposes when there are so many differences between schools in what it actually represents.”

The whole national standards and raising achievement rhetoric is a farce, a con job being perpetrated on the parents of New Zealand children in order to gain votes and has nothing to do with education.

NAPLAN chaos week.




The Treehorn Express

A tribute to the poor unfortunate blanket testing victims everywhere.

‘Care for Kids’



naplan%20gargoyle%201[2]The NAPLAN idol went crazy this week.

 THE TESTS were held, accompanied by the usual array of impacts on children’s learnings: assault on the cognitive domain of learning, induced stress on children, endless weeks of heavy practice, 3 days sweating over statistically invalid tests, suspension of professional ethics, teaching to the test, side-lining of more important aspects of the curriculum, parental worry and concern, indulging in the blame game, reporting of cheating and of leaks of writing topics. The airways were full of advice to mums of little Year 3 kids on how to handle their stress. Nothing unusual. Situation normal. Unreliable twisted results in about five months!

Heaps of money is available for this form of schooling. NAPLAN WEEK was BUDGET WEEK as well. Who’s worried about costs? A small part of cost includes the printing of the test papers: $46 per paper x 1,030,00 victims = $47.5 million. Now starts the marking of the papers….$10 million. We’ll learn the entirely useless scores in five months. Great system of testucation, we have. Needs re-form or replacement with an education system, perhaps?



The presentation by Channel 7’s TODAY TONIGHT was exceptional. It featured Kimberley College on the outskirts of Brisbane. This is a world-renowned school that emphasises LEARNING through its curriculum patterns adapted from de Bono’s lateral thinking techniques. Its multi-age structure supports a cheerful approach to high-level cognitive development. It’s philosophy dismisses the threats to learning that NAPLAN embraces, but it makes arrangements for its 10 NAPLAN contestants whose parents want their children to contest. 140 parents, whose children were ‘expected’ by ACARA to be part of the test cohort, refused.

The TV program featured parents from other schools who are worried about the damage that the testing does, the distress that it causes to emotional develoment and the impact on enrolment possibilities if they wish to send their children to a high-fee private school. It also showed an ACARA officer defending NAPLAN against the growing criticisms of the tests, saying that the scores were useful. It also showed the founders and beneficiaries of the NAPLAN system – Joel Klein and Rupert Murdoch.

Rupert...’the man who has most shaped the world’ as Tony Abbott describes him. Heil.

It’s worth looking at, again. It’s a doozie.



What an amazing state of affairs. The principal of a school tells parents what authorities should be telling them….their children don’t have to sit NAPLAN. He shares his professional opinion with the parents of his school and it makes national headlines. Mentioned on the front page of Sydney’s finest. Extraordinary!!!!?????

What has Australian education come to? Have we sunk so low– that this sort of school business is even mentioned?

[I wonder what support he will get from his colleagues. Will they render support by following suit[e]….or will they sycophantically comply with the politically deliberate cover-up ?]

The issue at stake: The more parents pull out, the more useless the tests become, the quicker they are abandoned, the more the kids return to learning activities, the more money for the Treasurer to transfer to Gonski reforms. Bingo!



The Courier Mail reported on the number of NAPLAN cheating incidents during the 2012 tests. A principal was sacked.

Queensland had already won the award in the previous NAPLAN tests for the most cheating incidents in Australia. [GO QUEENSLAND!] There is no evidence as to who won the A Grade Award for cheating on the widest scale of all :using all sorts of non-learning test-prep devices as much as possible.

Make sure you read the comments.



Keith Williams of Bargara wrote this week about a book “ David Owen titled ‘None of the Above’. It exposes the SAT as a total sham and nothing’s changed. I’m surprised that Gillard hasn’t followed their lead and charged the kids to sit NAPLAN to help plug her party’s abyss.

I did a quick search to see if anyone has researched the multiple choice answers. From what I’ve seen whoever writes NAPLAN hasn’t got any much of an idea what wrong answer should be. Owen’s book covers this among a lot of other disturbing facts.”

Over to all the holy testucators. Agree? Right wrong answers can be a learning experience, but then… are measurers.



You might recall that a Senate Committee of Inquiry was established in September 2012, following a plea from The Greens, to deal with “Teaching and Learning – maximising our investment in Australian schools”. It was widely representative of states and political parties. Its establishment was not mentioned in public. Controlled Press Silence is still well organised down under. Some [chosen?] institutions and organisations knew of it’s existence, so almost all submissions came from individuals who claimed to represent esteemed groups. Very few submissions came from the chalk face where real teaching and learning operates.

The report was tabled this week in the Senate on 14 May, Not a mention in any form of media. What else?

Its 116 pages are very readable; a tribute to the seven-member secretariat. Don’t anticipate headlines in newspapers any time soon.



disturbed by the Fish Oil, Teddy Bear, Test-prep Booklets and Back-yard Test-prep lessons furore, called for a snap senate inquiry into NAPLAN and it was approved by the Senate. Apparently contributors are protected by parliamentary privilege from the kinds of harassment now being experienced, if they wish to speak their mind.

Check FaceBook:

Link One.

Link Two.



The question now arises : How will all schools be encouraged to tell teachers and parents that there no constraints on expressing their opinion? How will this be arranged? Will the Senate send a notice out to every school in time for the close of responses on 7 June?

In the meantime, please encourage everyone you know to send a comment to or direct to the senate officers. It will be an enormous shame if every teacher and parent is not informed of the rights and privileges extended to them …..under the present totalitarian regime, too.

If the Terms of Reference seem soft and aimed at maintaining the status quo, still send your own sincere comments. There is a need for a few million hard-hitting responses before the present lot of politicians from all parties will cancel standardised blanket testing. They just don’t understand the words of ‘Care for Kids’

A hint for contributors: Claim chairmanship of an organisation or group or anything e.g. GONSKI SOCIETY [Kumagutsa Branch] – (Guiding Our Nation’s School Kids Intelligently in Kumagutsa) – or something. It helps. A doctorate is also impressive. You could follow the lead of one of the authors of 1066 and All That who claimed to be a B.A.[Failed]……Try Dr.[Failed], UHK..not Hong Kong. More notice will be taken and you are likely to be quoted at length.

I’m being facetious…….


ALLAN ALACH of Treehorn Express will ensure complete anonymity if you should like to ‘sound off’ about any issue. In Educational Readings May 17 by Allan Alach, you will find that guarantee.

 PLEASE EVERY-BODY. EVERYBODY USE EITHER ALLAN or PENNY’s offers to help get rid of the NAPLAN scourge – completely.




The attached arrived on Friday from a Treehorn reader. I know nothing of its origin. It’s all part of this topsy-turvy NAPLAN week.



I received this distressing comment from a reputable consultancy firm that concentrates on helping kids in need.

 ‘Phil. I have spent the week talking to stressed-out kids and their parents. They are coming in pale and exhausted. I have children who are not sleeping. Some kids are having their results of preparatory tests rank ordered and written up in rank order on the whiteboard. One Year Five child told me she was really worried because if she did badly she would not get into a good high school. For the dyslexic and Irlen Syndrome children it is completely impossible to do well on the test.

Every year it gets worse as I see an increasing focus on the preparation for NAPLAN in Term One. The curriculum is tossed out.”



To complete a really stunning week, Allan Alach circulated a telling presentation by Sir Ken Robinson. Watch it again…



Julia and Peter, and your replacement Chris, are probably proud to continue doing this sort of treatment to young innocent children; and then have the temerity to pat yourselves on the back for the sake of ill-gained useless scores. It’s a political mess that no one dares to tidy up. Maybe Penny…if you write to her. Don’t forget : ‘Care for Kids’

Phil Cullen

Caring for Kids

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point 2486

07 552 6443

Educational Readings May 17th

By Allan Alach

One of the zillions of overseas websites that I follow includes a weekly ‘Secret Teacher’ blog. It strikes me that there maybe many teachers out there who have very strong feelings about educational matters in their own country, but who are naturally afraid to speak out due to employment matters. Having been hit by the clobbering machine myself in late 2011, I can sympathise with this.

I’d like to offer the chance for any disaffected teacher to sound off in absolute anonymity. If you would like to do this, email your article to me and I will post it as a Secret Teacher posting on The Treehorn Express. Avoid defamatory and abusive language, both for legal reasons, and also because that’s the approach beloved of right wing trolls – we don’t need to descend to their level. Rational, well reasoned and well referenced articles are much more powerful!

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

 This week’s homework!

 The Current School Reform Landscape: Christopher H. Tienken (via Kevin Woodley).

Christopher Tienken, Ed.D. is an assistant professor of Education Administration at Seton Hall University in the College of Education and Human Services, Department of Education Management, Policy, and Leadership.

This video is about the USA educational scene, however it is very relevant, in most part, to New Zealand and Australia. A great watch.

‘Is it necessary to have every child master the same exact material at the same level of difficulty?’

Spelling and grammar test for all 11-year-olds to tackle poor literacy

Up to 600,000 (English) schoolchildren will be required to sit a new exam in spelling, punctuation and grammar amid fears that almost a quarter of pupils are starting secondary education with substandard literacy skills.

While GERM down under may be causing grief, things could be much worse.

The Power of Metaphor

A commonly expressed concern of the intensely limited focus on the 3Rs that is implicit in GERM, is the neglect of the arts. This article by Pat Buoncristiani provides another window on how this will affect vulnerable children’s development.

How to escape education’s death valley

Sir Ken Robinson – no other introduction needed.

Could it be our understanding of ‘Quality’…that is BROKEN, perhaps?

Blogger Tony Gurr, writing from Turkey ( proof of the international nature of the battle for true education) touches on a vitally important issue – what is ‘Quality’? Tony includes the vital reference here, Robert Pirsig’s ‘Zen and the Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance,’  a discussion of Quality. If you’ve not read that book recently, or not read it at all, then you have some homework. I’m on my 3rd copy, having read the preceding copies so many times that they fell apart. This understanding of quality underpins the battle for holistic, rich, child centred education. You will note, in Pirsig’s book, many similarities between standardised education and the lack of quality that he contends is destructive to modern life.

Shonky Data and Shabby Journalism – Must Be National Standards Time Again

Save Our Schools NZ blogger Dianne Khan commenting on the way the NZ government manipulates data to prove that their GERM policies are ‘working’.

Education Should Liberate, Not Indoctrinate

Another excellent link to Yong Zhao – one of the main players in the international anti-GERM disinfectant battle.

How do Finnish kids excel without rote learning and standardized testing?

More of the same but no less valuable for that. Finland remains our most effective tool in the battle to disinfect schools from GERMs.

The biggest topic in New Zealand education this week was the debate in parliament on the Education Amendment bill that will pass legislation to establish charter school. Here are postings by Bruce Hammonds and Kelvin Smythe about this.

New Zealand education. A choice between Creativity and Charter Schools

  Charter schools are …