Senate Inquiry: Caring about kids.



YearOfTheChild19791979 – The last time anyone cared about kids, probably. The logo portrays a loving ‘Care for Kids’ attitude noticeably missing since 2008.

SO let me share an observation with some fair-dinkum adults who continue to care about kids. Those who care about tests will not be interested.

Treehorn is a little boy who represents all those children whom adults don’t care about, i.e. almost 100% of children between 5 and 15 years of age. You know Treehorn. He’s that very green-skinned little boy in front of your nose, appealing to you for help. All school children are this unnoticeable green.

If readers gave some thought to the feelings of school kids who have to contest Australia’s NAPLAN and then consider how adults expressed their concern about little kids’ reaction to NAPLAN testing, you might like to check the submissions to the Senate Inquiry  and read how concerned a very special cohort of Australians feels about the vomiting, sleepless nights, profuse pre-test crying and great distress that children must suffer at NAPLAN time to satisfy the egos of measurers, testucators, researchers and inquisitors. One would think that the scandal of adults treating young children this way would be a national issue up there with boat people. You would think…..

I went through the transcripts of the face-to-face exchanges between three Senators and some specially selected submitters at a public meeting [attendance figures not printed] in Melbourne. I’ll go through the written submissions themselves at another time. There are at least 83 to go through. Any researchers available?

Ask yourself….

  • Is it proper to force fear and distress on children who are compelled to attend school and forced to do the tests?

  • Isn’t there a moral issue here?

Below are extracts from  two exchanges that I found .

Since young children were used as tools for the collection of hard data [useless, invalid and unreliable] it should have been incumbent on all participants – senators, selected submission invitees and concerned contributors – to comment how each felt about child welfare during the testing processes, shouldn’t there?. You might like to check to see if I missed any other indications of genuine concern for the mental and physical health of kids during the NAPLAN months.

Ms Dulfer made a submission of behalf of the University of Melbourne and the Whitlam Institute.

Senator BILYK: I think you did some work on stress on students—self-esteem, physical health, fear of freezing, crying, sleeplessness et cetera. Can you tell me through those statistics?

Ms Dulfer : We ask teachers to comment on whether they had had any students report any of the following issues,: feeling stressed, concern that they were ‘too dumb’, fear of parents reaction to test scores, feeling sick before the test, the students freezing during the test, sleeplessness or crying. Each of those key areas came out in the research we looked at in the literature review. They were all mentioned in more than one research paper prior to that. Otherwise they would not have been included.

We discovered that up to 90 per cent of teachers responded that between one and 10 of the students in a class say to them, ‘I’m feeling stressed about NAPLAN.’ So they were not to report to us anything they had seen; they could report only what students had said to them. We certainly had the same following the concern of feeling dumb or being done. That is a real concern in education because self-efficacy is part of how students perceive themselves as a learner. If they start to perceive themselves as not a good learner, it can become a downward spiral—the literature shows us this. Some responses talked about feeling sick before the test. As well is this, we have 1,300 respondents who sent us individual comments in a section marked ‘other’ for loose form comments. Out of those, an enormous array—I am still working on the data but it looks like over half—were to do with absenteeism, students refusing to go to school, students staying at home—

Senator BILYK: For the test?

Ms Dulfer : On the days of the test, not wanting to go, either absent themselves or their teachers are absenting them. At this stage I am still trying to work on that final data about it looks as though over half of the 1,300 respondents talked about truancy issues. We are talking about all sorts of issues going on.

Senator BILYK: That is from teachers?

Ms Dulfer : That is from teachers, absolutely. It is a secondary source of data and it is important to remember that.

ACTING CHAIR: When you said ‘truancy’, you said it could also be the teachers absenting the student.

Ms Dulfer : Sorry—I meant parents absenting the student or the students absenting themselves.

Senator BILYK: I just want to play the devil’s advocate a bit here, if I might, regarding those issues about feeling sick and thinking you are dumb. I went to school some time ago, I must admit, but that is how I felt before tests. At times I felt dumb because I could not do something. Is it that unusual? I am not sure whether you were here earlier in the day, but I spoke about the interest I have in the resilience of young people—or, actually, the lack of it these days. Shouldn’t we, in the education system, be preparing our children for the fact that they might not know everything, or that they might feel butterflies in their tummy before a test, but it is quite normal? I am just playing devil’s advocate; I am a bit concerned that there is a whole lot of emphasis put on these things, but I do not know that we are actually dealing with it the right way or that it is being interpreted the right way for it to be dealt with. Rather than say, ‘No more NAPLAN’, shouldn’t we be saying, ‘Okay, it’s quite normal to feel a bit nervy before a test’, or whatever, and teach kids some resilience about it?

Ms Dulfer : When we look at the research around anxiety and testing, there are two components to it that start to play out. One is that when students are overly anxious their cognitive ability actually reduces, so they are actually unable to represent themselves properly within the test; they start to do poorly in their own test results. When that starts to happen you often end up with this downward spiral: ‘I’m concerned that I’m dumb, I’ve proven that I’m dumb, oh no’—and down they go. The second thing is that the test has that impact on the student in that the test makes them nervous, makes them anxious.

Senator BILYK: Sure, but that is nothing new in tests.

Ms Dulfer : No, it is not. And anxiety at a very low level is actually very helpful. We have research that says that some anxiety is very good. However, there is a point at which anxiety tips the balance and has a very negative and very damning effect.

Senator BILYK: How do you know from your research if that level has been tipped or not?

Ms Dulfer : We don’t, and that is why further research needs to be taken into account.

Senator BILYK: So, you are not actually saying, from your research, that the anxiety levels—the issues we have just discussed—are necessarily bad and are necessarily the fault of NAPLAN? It is just that we need to teach kids strategies—which I think we do for their whole life anyway, and I am very concerned that it does not seem to happen anymore—to deal with those? Is it that we need to teach them to deal with negativity, in fact?

Ms Dulfer : Yes, we do need to teach kids strategies and so on. But I think I want to look beyond the blame game of, ‘It’s the students’ fault, because they’re getting stressed’ or ‘It’s the teachers’ fault, because they’re putting the stress on to the students’. This stress is coming from somewhere, and it is coming, effectively, from the policy arena.

Dr Rice : One of the things we have talked about is that students and teachers are effectively responding to what goes on around NAPLAN and going back to how the results are necessarily used. One of the ways I see a connection here is that when we talk about assessment we talk about formative assessment and summative assessment and so on. It is important that we test students, and it is important that they get feedback. If you are testing a student and they are being provided with feedback immediately that allows them then to build on their learning, then no: they should not be getting stressed about that.


Mr Randall is the Chief Executive Officer for ACARA, the producer and controller of NAPLAN. He has been reported in the dailies as saying that the creation of stress was an integral part of NAPLAN testing and that children need to learn to live with it. [I reckon that’s a peculiar attitude. How about you? Or…don’t you care?]

Senator BILYK: To me the issue is: is having NAPLAN the cause of this extra anxiety? Is it a case of: it is so stressful that we should not have it? Or is it a case of: yes, sitting a test, if you are in third year, might give you butterflies in your tummy and all, but the way we deal with that needs some working on, maybe, in some schools?

Mr Randall : Are you describing how I feel when I sit up here?

Senator BILYK: Do you get butterflies in your tummy up there, Mr Randall?

Mr Randall : I am not going to say it now!

Senator BILYK: I did when I used to sit that side of the table.

Mr Randall : That might be light-hearted but, going to your last point about the anxiety and stress, I am going to reinforce a couple of points that go to your question. I am not questioning that it occurs—

Senator BILYK: No, and neither am I. It is how we deal with it that is my concern.

Mr Randall : but I am questioning, and I will challenge the Whitlam Institute, and I will question even some of the APPA methodology as to how they generalise and draw out from those things, and we could even unpack some of these things. So your point is right: we do have an event—we have NAPLAN there, which says, ‘That is what is going on,’ and it becomes a focus for those things. I will share with you my anecdote, my case study. Do not tell my wife I am sharing this story with you!

Senator BILYK: We won’t send her Hansard, then, Mr Randall, and we hope she is not listening!

Mr Randall : My year 3 son was more stressed about doing his presentation, speaking in front of his class, then he was about NAPLAN. I cannot generalise from that; it is a little anecdote.

Senator BILYK: But how do we deal with that? That is my concern.

Mr Randall : Now I will get into trouble! His teacher dealt with it beautifully. I was not there; my wife had to get him out from under the table to get him to school. Teachers, in the main, deal with it beautifully. His teacher worked with him and had a chat to his mum and at the end of the day he came home with a little merit card for being brave and standing up in front of his class. So he worked that through.

As to the issue that is in here and whether it is NAPLAN, there is a little bit of hype that comes in around this. I will go to messages about it and we will find the cases where school principals and others are reporting it. This is part of the normal course of the day. Again, that is in this same data here. It is the complement of some of this data. There are a lot of cases where it is just working beautifully and smoothly and schools have got it in perspective and are managing it well, and then there are the other cases. So we need to understand that it is not uniform through every school and for every child. We also need to understand how we work it through NAPLAN. We can talk about the information and making sure people understand. The APPA survey identifies the misunderstanding of school leaders and others in how we understand that. We can also then talk about that, as we change the basis and move online in a number of years, so that, likely—

Senator BILYK: You can read my questions!

Mr Randall : Again, we have to bed these things down and work it through the ministerial council and all the others, but you move it online, and then you can broaden the window—I would not go as far as what Norm was saying, in terms of a pause function and all those other things yet, because you have to check out how you want to use this data and so on—but it does not become the focus. The media will be upset with us because there will not be an event that they can focus on on the first Tuesday of May or something like that. We are talking about stretching it over a broader window of time—a couple of children doing the assessment in the morning and another couple doing it in the afternoon, while the rest of the class gets on with things. That is part of the way you can administer it differently.

We inherited the NAPLAN from states and territories. It was designed by the ministerial council back in 2006-07. Our view is that we need to learn from some of the things here and, while still being able to achieve the purposes, build upon them.

ACTING CHAIR: As you are moving the test online and adapting the administration of it, is a conversation occurring about moving the league tables offline?

Mr Randall : My School is not league tables.

ACTING CHAIR: Are there any discussions around removing the public dissemination of data, moving the comparative data from schools offline?

Mr Randall : I am conscious that there is discussion about it. We have heard today a whole range—

ACTING CHAIR: So you are discussing it at that level?

Mr Randall : If you are asking whether there is discussion around My School within the ACARA Board, the answer is: no, there is not. Around the ministerial council, we had discussion—I would need to go back to the minutes—about what features may and may not be added to My School in the next few years.

ACTING CHAIR: Is there any discussion about what features of My School might be taken out?

Mr Randall : Not in those forums.

Senator BILYK: Getting back to the computer based assessment, we have heard from a number of people that having the NAPLAN test in May but not getting a response until September is causing difficulties. I am wondering what comments you have to make in regard to that. We did hear that a lot today. There is quite a time lag there. One would presume, if things are done online, that there might be a quicker way of doing assessments. Is that correct?

Mr Randall : Yes, it is correct.

Senator BILYK: Maybe we could look at what time of year NAPLAN is held, or is May set in stone?

Mr Randall : Let me answer that in two parts. The first part is that, with moving it online, we are talking about tailored testing, where as young people come on they do the same first third of the items and then, depending on how well they do, they get branched up to more challenging items or down to less challenging items. They do those items and then get branched up again, go back to the middle or go down. So you get a better spread, and you are actually finding out more about what each young person can do. There is a whole range of validity and reliability things that are addressed there. We will need to design it so it is actually marking as children go, so a certain amount will almost be able to be returned straight away. In the current form, it is on a common scale, and we have been able to scale everyone. We are looking at a couple of features, and, again, this is investigative; I will ultimately need to take these things back to the ministerial council. The ministers agree on these things and setting these frameworks. We are working that through with the ACARA Board, and then we will go to the ministers.

I have cited some of the features that we want to address. They include: reflecting the curriculum, having tailored testing so that we get a better assessment of what each young person can do and having a shortened period before the data comes back. We will look at whether we can return some of the raw data, and, later on, the scaled data, to schools. We will investigate all those things. We will work with groups like APRA and the states and territories to address those. We will be keeping an eye on the issues that have been aired here today and, as I said at the last Senate estimates, ticking off the sorts of things I think the design of our move to online assessment will be able to address.

Senator BILYK: I want to ask about the link between the National Partnership for Literacy and Numeracy and the NAPLAN testing. The department might want to answer the question. Can you talk me through that and what would happen if we did not have the NAPLAN data?

Dr Day : The literacy and numeracy national partnership and the Smarter Schools National Partnership, under the low SES communities national partnership, have relied on NAPLAN data to look at how they can improve school performance of young people. There has been significant evidence presented to the department through the state and territory reports about the positive effects of NAPLAN making a difference and teachers becoming assessment literate and using this to change practice.

The department is aware of data that indicates that the investment has improved literacy and numeracy outcomes of young people in a majority of the schools in the literacy and numeracy national partnership. It is the same for the low SES national partnership community schools. So, NAPLAN has had the effect of data being used in a sensible and sophisticated manner as an evidence base to drive and lift the performance of students. That is a really positive thing. In the Barkly Region of the Northern Territory—I think we outlined this in our submission—Jingili Primary School have used the data to have an intensive year 6 spelling and grammar program, which has led to other results as well.

The Better Schools case studies on the DEEWR website point to a number of those schools, and I will highlight Leichhardt State School in Queensland for senators this afternoon. Earlier today, we heard some interesting comments about how we can extend those students at the top, and Leichhardt State School has done that. They have been able to contract the tail at the bottom end of the standard deviation and also extend the students at the top end. So there are some really positive effects of NAPLAN being used, in a productive sense, in schools under the low SES NP schools. One of the other things is that investment has flowed to some of those schools to improve their literacy and numeracy.

Senator BILYK: Some of the submissions have argued that NAPLAN does not test to the higher-order skills. I am interested in your perspective on those comments.

Mr Randall : I have said before how we will align NAPLAN to meet the Australian Curriculum. We now have. Before, the basis of NAPLAN was something called the Statements of Learning, which was a document developed and agreed to by states and territories, and that became the reference.

The Australian Curriculum involves higher-order skills. We are now doing the work to develop assessment frameworks, which will be used for future NAPLAN, based upon the English and mathematics curriculum and drawing out the literacy and numeracy of that and then taking that forward. I think that by design we will change the nature of it.

We are also wanting, through our sample assessment program, to introduce better assessment around what we call our general capabilities—critical and creative thinking, intercultural understanding and a whole range of general capabilities. We will also be working and keeping in touch with some of the work led by Melbourne University through their collaborative problem solving work, which will be a feature of PISA in 2015. So some international work led out of Melbourne University reflects features and lines up with what is in the Australian Curriculum. Having the Australian Curriculum, which is being taught around the country, enables us to use that as a base and, in the mode of assessment I have talked about, to address some of those issues.

Senator BILYK: Can you explain to me the sample assessment program.

Mr Randall : In addition to the full cohort assessment program, which is NAPLAN—literacy and numeracy—we have sample assessment programs in civics and citizenship, science and ICT on a three-year cycle. ACARA has an undertaking to come back to the ministerial council later this year with proposals about how, on the basis of the Australian Curriculum, that sample assessment program might change and go across a greater range of the curriculum. I note, as I said in answer to an earlier question, that the other thing we need to take account of—with the proposal yet to be resolved and given to us in a direction from the ministerial council—is the discussion at the moment around introducing science into our full cohort testing program.

Dr Day : Can I just add that the NAP also comprises international sample assessments as well. Mr Randall has spoken about the domestic assessments, but the NAP also comprises PISA testing, which is sample testing of 15-year-olds across Australia; PIRLS, the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study; and TIMSS, which is the maths and science study at year 4 and year 8. It also includes ICILS, which is the International Computer Information Literacy Study, which will be held this year, I believe. So there are two aspects to the NAP itself—both domestic and international assessments.

Senator BILYK: Okay. Great.

ACTING CHAIR: So there are a lot more opportunities for anxiety!

Senator BILYK: Or for learning to deal with anxiety, in that sometimes we do not all have lovey-dovey, warm feelings in life and maybe we need to know how to deal with those that are not so pleasant. That is my little soapbox speech for the day!

ACTING CHAIR: Thank you, Senator!


Phil Cullen, No.83 pleading with politicians to Guide Our Nations School Kids Intelligently Let’s REFORM the system for the benefit of kids….NOT FOR ACARA. SCORES.

Gonski with NAPLAN attached ?? Think about it. Is it possible?

Gonski = Funding only; Gonski-NAPLAN = Learning

Can ACARA be kept away from children?


Phil Cullen AM B.Ed.,A.Ed., Dip.Ed.Admin, M.Ed..Admin[Hons].



41 Cominan Avenue,

Banora Point 2486,

07 5524 6443

Senate Committee Report is Out

 The Treehorn Express

‘The Treehorn Express is a tribute to those children who are forced to encounter Standardised Blanket Testing in GERM countries and are forced to suffer from the distress, a narrowed curriculum and loss of progressive cognitive development. Like little Treehorn, they are wonderful young citizens, ignored by those who are expected to care and exploited by those who don’t.



Treehorn is that little fellow with the bright green skin, just under your nose, appealing to you to take notice of him.


The Hopeful Senate Committee Report is Out

 Happy Fifth Anniversary, Kids

 The report by the Senate Committee of Inquiry is out, celebrating the genesis of NAPLAN. The earth has shaken; and kids are anxious in their hope of freedom from fear at school.

 Its status is now one of Interim Report.

 “I was thinking,” Alice said very politely,

“Which is the best way out of this wood:

it’s getting so dark. Would you tell me, please?”

But the fat little men only looked at each other

and grinned.



Founder : Treehorn Express.

Former State Director of Primary Education, Queensland.

41 Cominan Avenue,

Banora Point 2486

Ph.: 07 5524 6443

The Rise of the BAT

What is the Badass Teacher Association?

A diverse group of families and education professionals who wish to reclaim America’s public education system.  (and with increasingly international membership)

Founders: Priscilla Sanstead, Dr. Mark Naison, Marla Kilfoye

Our mission: Badass Teachers Association was created to give voice to every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality through education. BAT members refuse to accept assessments, tests and evaluations created and imposed by corporate driven entities that have contempt for authentic teaching and learning.

Our goals: BATs aim to reduce or eliminate the use of high stakes testing, increase teacher autonomy in the classroom and work to include teacher and family voices in legislative decision-making processes that affect students.

Group guidelines: We are a rich and diverse group of education professionals and concerned citizens/families who strive to engage in discourse that improves our profession. We encourage dialogue about many hot-button issues but page administrators reserve the right to delete comments, threads, and (if necessary) individuals from the group that do not engage in respectful civil discourse. Decisions to remove comments, threads or individuals are not taken lightly. All potential removals are subject to review by group founders. Examples of offensive remarks/comments fall under but are not limited to: homophobic or racist comments, personal agendas (i.e.- seeking to profit off of published books or merchandise), bullying, excessive or inappropriate use of vulgarity, or comments that conflict with the established mission or goals of BAT.

Actions: BAT will engage in organized group actions such as phone calls, emails, or letter writing. These actions will be announced as timely as possible so it will allow all members an opportunity to be a part of the action.

A note on the name: There have been many discussions about the name of the group. There are some who feel it is offensive or unprofessional to use the word “badass” and are uncomfortable with its use. We disagree. As Dr. Naison says: “We’ve had enough. We are not your doormats. We are not your punching bags. We are some of the hardest working, most idealistic people in this country and we are not going to take it anymore. We are going to stand up for ourselves, and stand up for our students even if no organization really supports us. We are Badass. We are legion. And we will force the nation to hear our voice!”

We hope that conversations about changing the name no longer continue. To that end, page administrators have been asked to end or delete any comments and/or threads where this becomes the topic. Our intention is to promote the goals of the group and move forward with our efforts.

Thank you for your voice and your efforts- and welcome to being a Badass Teacher!

Educational Readings June 28th

By Allan Alach

 an ode to badass teachers

Join this rapidly growing Facebook group of teachers saying enough is enough!

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

This week’s homework!

The Time of the Corporatization of our Public Schools in the Form of Charter Schools Has Come and Gone (via Bruce Hammonds)

‘Charter schools are not the magic bullet and in fact distract from the real issues of poverty and the need for “wrap around” support for students in need.’

What is SUCCESS?

How does your school define success? How do you? How do the kids? Tony Gurr has the answers.

 Robert Fried on Seymour Sarason

This article by Bruce Hammonds, from way back in 2006 when the light of the developing New Zealand Curriculum document was beginning to illuminate primary school education (in comparison to the educational dark ages that we are presently enduring) looks at Seymour Sarason’s book ‘The Predictable Failure of School Reform.’ Published in 1993, this book proves that our politicians are learning failures.

 Eight Ways Of Looking At Intelligence (via Tony Gurr)

‘… eight ways of looking at intelligence—eight perspectives provided by the science of learning. A few words, first, about that term: The science of learning is a relatively new discipline born of an agglomeration of fields: cognitive science, psychology, philosophy, neuroscience. Its project is to apply the methods of science to human endeavors—teaching and learning—that have for centuries been mostly treated as an art. As with anything to do with our idiosyncratic and unpredictable species, there is still a lot of art involved in teaching and learning. But the science of learning can offer some surprising and useful perspectives on how we educate young people and how we guide our own learning. And so: Eight Ways Of Looking At Intelligence.’

 Hyperbole about Online Learning is Not Supported by Research (via Save Our Schools Australia)

One of the corporate dreams is that education can be provided via online tuition, thus cutting out the middlemen (teachers) and also to increase their profit streams. The usual players (Murdoch, Pearson Group, McGraw Hill, for example) are already working on this in the USA and most likely in Australia and New Zealand – have NZ schools wondered why there has been so much emphasis on ensuring all schools have access to ultra fast broadband? Just a thought….

A Response to Mitra Part 1: Education and Employability

A Response to Mitra Part 2: Classroom Pedagogy (both via Tony Gurr)

Sugata Mitra has received many accolades for his research with children and learning with computers. Without doubt he has made some extremely vital discoveries, but, as with all new developments, it also pays to look at the other side of the equation, so that we do not follow trends (learning styles for example!) Skepticism is healthy… even if these articles reference John  Hattie……                  

 The Hardest Job Everyone Thinks They Can Do

‘Maybe that’s why teachers get so little respect. It’s hard to respect a skill that is so hard to quantify. So, maybe you just have to take our word for it. The next time you walk into a classroom, and you see the teacher calmly presiding over a room full of kids, all actively engaged in the lesson, realize that it’s not because the job is easy. It’s because we make it look easy. And because we work our asses off to make it look easy. And, yes, we make it fun, too.’


Unhappy Anniversary.

 The Treehorn Express

‘The Treehorn Express is a tribute to those children who are forced to encounter Standardised Blanket Testing in GERM countries and are forced to suffer from the distress, a narrowed curriculum and loss of progressive cognitive development. Like little Treehorn, they are wonderful young citizens, ignored by those who are expected to care and exploited by those who don’t.




 An Unhappy 5th Anniversary

A Short History of NAPLAN

The Senate Inquiry into NAPLAN is due to produce its report on 27 June, 2013.  That makes it a neat 5 years since NAPLAN started its wilfully destructive path. It was on this fateful day, 27 June, 2008 that Julia Gillard, then the federal Minister for Education and Deputy Prime Minister was visiting Washington with a representative [unknown] of the Department of Education to attend the 16th annual Australian-American Leadership Dialogue [AALD]; and they attended a Carnegie Corporation function where they met the redoubtable Joel Klein, then Chancellor of the New York City Board of Education.

He sold Julia a pup. He invited her to adopt his educational theories and to follow carefully the pedagogical strategies of his New York School District, where billionaire Mayor Bloomberg had given him carte blanche powers to run a large school system, because he had been a successful lawyer. The essential element of his theoretical underpinnings was that fear is the greatest of human motivators and the more forcefully you use it on children, teachers and school administrators, the more successful the outcomes. Fear is now the DNA of Australia’s NAPLAN.  At the time, his SBT [Standardised Blanket Testing] system was already failing in New York where academic gains were  proving to be meagre; and creative enthusiasm for learning and scholastic achievement was being crushed.  “Parents were shut out. The annual budget nearly doubled, low-scoring students shuffled from school to school, discipline problems hidden, teachers demoralized, and principals scared of every twitch in the data, as incompetents ruled the administrative roost.  What is there to celebrate?” Marc Epstein asks.  Never mind. Julia copied it, holus bolus. Klein’s self-congratulatory narrative and narrow-minded view of teachers became legendary; and his spin machine was such that the rhetoric appealed to those who mattered: the greedy, the gullible and the media.  Friend Rupert Murdoch’s bought it. There was money in it. Klein tried hard to believe it himself :  

His self-promoted fame spread;  and Julia, following this ‘chance’ meeting at the Washington knees-up, became a devotee.

KLEIN-articleInline-v2A master pedlar of testing material as a school administrator, his style suited Rupert Murdoch down to the ground. Rupert was already running a cut-throat business based on the pretence of a ‘reform’ agenda that was worth billions of dollars through his publication of tests and allied material; with the promise of online testing soon to control everyman’s schooling. When his newspaper sales later started to sag, his testing companies were able to subsidise their recovery from the huge income from  Standardised Blanket Testing.  Our befuddled Julia was conned into believing that the testing industry, now feeding from the profits that the sort of Joel Klein system of schooling offered, had something to do with learning in the classroom.

wlEmoticon-note[1]When will they ever learn?wlEmoticon-note[1]

Joel Klein is now a Senior Executive of News Limited. Australia lives with his legacy.

How did this happen to us? Julia was so impressed by his spin that she invited him to Australia. She was then in a long line of federal education ministers who could not tell a learning-based classroom from a flung sandwich…..Kemp, Bishop, Nelson amongst them.  They suffered from the same malady that infects the world every now and then.  When such peculiar memes spread around the globe as fast as torn jeans and tattoos, we teachers know that creative, purposeful learning suffers.  There are some people who just love bashing schools about without evidence of any substantial nature.  Politicians are usually the amongst the most critical and lead the assault.    Do you vote for any such mischief-makers?

In early 2007, Julie Bishop, the federal minister for education lamented declining education standards at the same time as a book called Dumbing Down by a Dr. Donnelly, the self-described ‘thinking man’s Andrew Bolt’, was launched.  Dr. D had been chief of staff to Kevin Andrews. Fascinating how memes spread, isn’t it?  This time, in Australia, a one-man black paper. Last time, some pommy academic malcontents’ ‘Black Papers’!  Julie Bishop followed the best whinging traditions of Messrs. Brendan Nelson and David Kemp. The tradition has been maintained and it looks like being maintained by Chris Pyne. He’s part of the red-neck testucating brigade, hiding his cards ready for a ‘robust’ attack on schools.  When will it stop?  Our children’s cognitive development will have to maintain a stet position and suffer more, unless something is done real soon. Who is thinking of the kids?

Gillard was true to her leader of course, who, upon his appointment as PM, had become really forthright about the need for accountability in regard to standards. His ‘Revolution’  wasimage[3] based on comparison of scores between schools and, if children did not score well at one school, they could ‘…walk with their feet to a better performing school.’ Whatever!  Gillard knew what her friend and leader meant.

Back to Mr. Klein. Gillard’s invitation led to a week-long trip down under, sponsored by the investment bankers, UBS. He spoke in Melbourne about “Enacting Transformational Change” and in Canberra “Report-Card Grading Systems”.  If he had visited Brisbane or Perth, he may have ended up in Moreton Bay, or Freemantle Harbour, but the New York Times reported him as flying ‘flack free’. At the same time, his Melbourne talk was described as ‘Rubbish’ ; and Save Our Schools [S.O.S] reminded him that Australia knew where its problems were, without his suggesting schemes that were known to have failed. He told The New York Times that “…Australian education officials seemed ‘quite excited’ by the New York model, and he was hopeful the accountability movement would gain traction.  ‘It won’t be without noise. ‘ he conceded. ‘I wish I knew a way to do transitional change without making a noisy process, but I just haven’t figured to do that yet.’”

He left that action to Julia. She’s good at it.

Juiia%20G.%20cartoon[2]That’s how Australia got lumbered with the Klein system. When Julia took over PMship from Kevin, it was a done deal. She had decided. No reference to anyone who knows how classrooms work. Her Klein-based fear system, described as a joke by the normless and supported by the gormless, needs to become a ‘dead, buried and cremated’ monument to stupidity, if democracy in Australia is to be regained.  NOW! Not next week.

We are stuck with this evil, unethical,  immoral, expensive, unnecessary evil unless the Senate Committee of Inquiry strongly suggests that NAPLAN and any other forms of Standardised Blanket Testing be banned forthwith. An adjunct to this decision should be a proposal to establish an Integrity Commission, headed by parents and teachers – no measurers anywhere – to examine expensive government-led ‘revolutions’ of any kind.  Surely, the Auditor-general’s report that the $540million – Yes – $540million dollars spent on NAPLAN, “as yet to make any statistically significant improvement in any state…” is reason enough to ban the financial monster..

At this stage – a few days before the publication of a report that could make a huge difference to the future of Australia – do you feel confident?

I shouldn’t….but I do feel that the party line will prevail in each of the committee members. I have trouble imagining that there is any genuine concern for  kids at school amongst our political representatives and that they will come before party ‘loyalty’.   Dear God. Prove me wrong.

Have you ever heard of any noises from the party rooms about NAPLAN over the past 5 years? Have you heard of any one or groups of members insisting that ‘Ban NAPLAN’ become part of party policy?

Have you seen any tax-payer paid full-page adverts in any of the dailies, screaming “Ban NAPLAN. Think of our children” sort of thing?

The Courier Mail reported on Friday 22/06/13 that, in their submission to the Inquiry, Queensland principals complained about the excessive crying in schools, the pressure that NAPLAN imposes on teachers,  the side-lining of important curriculum subjects during the lengthy preparation period, the enormous pressure that parents are imposing on children [this also from Q’d P&Cs]. The Catholic Education Commission was concerned about Year 3 anxiety during the testing period. What’s going on?  Both organisations could stop the nonsense tomorrow. Either could say NO en bloc.  Campbell Newman would approve. By allowing this sort of turmoil to be imposed on the children who are attending their schools, shouldn’t professional ethics come into play?  Clearly, NAPLAN is a nasty, nasty business.

It’s been five l o n g years, kids. In summary…..

The way that Australian school systems and represenatives treat their children is bewildering.

How can Gonski reforms operate while NAPLAN infects the system?  Please explain!

Shouldn’t Australia have an Integrity Commission to protect us from expensive government-sponsored innovations? [What would it have done if it had known that NAPLAN was based on scaring children?]

If the Senate Inquiry Report doesn’t recommend the closure of the factory , what will our children’s carers do?

What will our school children do?      Where are their parents?



  • that, according to Klein [Dec.2012] , the education testing lobby  is worth about $US700billion to  his company, Amplify….. providing digital products and services?
  • that Mr. Murdoch was described as ‘not a fit and proper person to lead a world corporation’ in a British Parliamentary report?
  • that Mr. Abbott has described Mr. Murdoch as the ‘man who shapes the world.’


Phil Cullen AM  FACE  FACEL  FQIEL  Gold Medal ACEL

Founder : Treehorn Express.

Former State Director of Primary Education, Queensland

41 Cominan Avenue,

Banora Point 2486

Ph.: 07 5524 6443

Meaningless Debates

by David Hood

Retired after 50 years in education

Career includes 25 years as teacher and principal, Department of Education official, senior manager of ERO, establishment CEO of NZQA and consultant since 1996 – working on range of projects with schools, industry, MoE, Te Wananga o Aotearoa. Author of Our Secondary Schools Don’t Work Anymore [1998].Currently on establishment Board of Tai Wananga, a new model multi-site secondary school.

Debates on (New Zealand’s) National Standards, NCEA (New Zealand secondary school qualifications) , and Charter Schools are likely to continue, and to remain largely meaningless, until as a society we ask and seek to address some more fundamental questions:

  • What is the purpose of schooling in this complex and rapidly changing world?
  • What are the understandings, skills, attitudes and values [or dispositions] our young people need to develop if they are to successfully face the challenges of their futures, and to contribute as productive members of our society and economy?
  • What does this mean in terms of curriculum, teaching and learning, and assessment?
  • How will we know when we are successful?

 To answer these questions we need to have an understanding of history.

 Universal schooling was a response to the emerging mass manufacturing economy of the early part of the 20th century. Its design is now universally described as the factory model because in design and process it reflected the characteristics of the assembly line. Children entered the production line in batches by age and at various points ‘quality checks’ applied to test their educability. Selection was its over-riding objective; its purpose to progressively sift out the 12-15% who would become the professionals, administrators and managers, the decision makers for industrial society. At different points on the production line were the ‘purchasers’ choosing different grades of product suitable for their purposes. At the very end of the line, accepting the surviving 12-15% with the highest grade, were the universities.

 Justification for this selective function lay in the beliefs that intelligence is fixed at birth, is innate, and can be measured in precise numbers. The overt curriculum was reading, writing and arithmetic; the covert curriculum was punctuality, repetition and discipline. Thus the majority were prepared to be passive, obedient workers in the factory and other workplaces.

 While schooling now offers a plethora of subjects, and in spite of numerous ‘reforms’ at high cost to the taxpayer, the key characteristics of the factory model remain. We still have an obsession with trying to measure learning and schooling still grades, sifts and sorts students by seeking to attach numbers to them that are limited measures of a limited range of abilities. Is this what we really want out of our education system?

 Around the world, respected thinkers – politicians, business leaders, economists and academics as well as educators – are saying that the factory model is past its used-by date and needs to be replaced. The reasons are many, but include:

  • We live in a world very different from 100 years ago.
  • There has been in a revolution in our understanding of the nature of intelligence; it is complex, and more than just IQ.
  • We are also much clearer in our understanding of how the brain works and how children learn best.
  • Knowledge is no longer seen as individual, fixed, passive and a matter of facts to be regurgitated, but active and constantly evolving. The emphasis is on creating and sharing and utilising new knowledge, and problem-solving and creativity require multi-disciplinary approaches.
  • The workplace is totally different; employees need a much broader range of skills. Over the past decade the biggest employment gains are in occupations that rely on people skills and emotional intelligence, imagination and creativity.
  • Recognition that the current model cannot meet the needs of all students and cannot resolve the issue of the continuing under-achievement of particular groups.

 Among those challenging our current system are Stephen Covey [e.g. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People], Peter Senge and Tom Peters who will be well known to New Zealand business leaders. Peter Senge argues that: “The problem is not measurement per se. The problem is the loss of balance between valuing what can be measured and what cannot, and becoming so dependent on quantitative measures that they displace judgement and learning.” Tom Peters in his book Re-Imagine comments that we need a school curriculum “that values questions above answers; creativity above fact regurgitation; individuality above uniformity and excellence above standardised performance.”

 Every child will be a future parent, voter, citizen, member of the community [local, national and increasingly global] and a worker. The emphasis of the current system is on the last, in the false belief that delivering education in this way, through standardisation and a focus on ‘academic’ learning New Zealand will be assured of a bright economic future. There is however little correlation between a country’s economic performance and creativity and technological innovation, and national testing, and how many external exams and school qualifications it has in the last three years of secondary schooling, or with the international PISA results [which seem to be the basis of the oft repeated claim that “New Zealand has one of the best education systems in the world”].

 On other international indicators New Zealand doesn’t rate anywhere near as highly e.g. child and alcohol and drug abuse, youth suicide and incarceration rates, the poverty gap. These ‘outcomes’ seem to be a clear indication there is something wrong with our education system. Along with those major issues the world faces such as climate change, the environment and rapid depletion of the earth’s resources, we seem to be leaving it to our children to find answers to all of these problems because of our continuing reluctance and apparent inability to deal with them. To find solutions will require an education system that produces young people who understand themselves and others, and the world in which they live; are tolerant and compassionate; and lateral, creative, innovative and ‘connected’ thinkers.

New models of schooling are emerging in many different countries including here in New Zealand. All of them share common philosophies and challenge conventional practice; they also show that poverty and ethnicity do not have to be barriers to success in learning.

 This means a strong focus on every student as an individual, their individual strengths, interests, passions and aspirations, and the nurturing of their mental, physical, social/emotional and cultural/spiritual capabilities [see Covey]. It also means high expectations for every student, a focus on quality work and students applying effort and perseverance.

 The curriculum of these schools is designed to provide rich and varied contexts for students to acquire, develop and apply a broad range of knowledge, understanding and skills; to enable them to think creatively and critically, to solve problems and to make a difference for the better; to give them the opportunity to become creative, innovative, enterprising and capable of leadership to equip them for their future lives as workers and citizens; to enable them to respond positively to opportunities, challenges and responsibilities, and to manage risk and cope with change and adversity.

Some of these new kinds of schools monitor their students for up to 12 years after graduation; they recognise that what students achieve after school is probably a better measure of the value of their schooling than what they did in school.

 Instead of having endless debates about National Standards, NCEA and Charter Schools as if they are separate and isolated issues we need to have a national debate on what should be the nature and purpose of schooling in this complex and rapidly changing world full of messy problems, rather than on what it is now. We need to answer questions such as:

  • What do we mean by learning?
  • What does it mean to be literate in a networked, connected world?
  • What does it mean to be educated?
  • What do students need to know and be able to do to be successful in their futures lives?

 We need to do that rather than continue to tinker with a model that increasingly is seen to be irrelevant, that is itself largely meaningless, and obsolete for today’s world.

Why Are Our Schools NOT Places of Joy?

Distinguished Guest Speaker

Lorraine Wilson Lorraine Wilson was the first Guest Writer for The Treehorn Express on 3 Feb. 2013. Remember her dynamic description of education as a ‘processing of oranges’? She presented the brilliantly persuasive tableau that clearly delineated the differences between EDUCATION AS A CHILD-CENTRED, INDIVIDUALISED operation and EDUCATION AS A STANDARDISED, MASS PRODUCED one, the latter process using the ‘the processing of oranges’ as its model. The article referenced C Leland & W Casten: Literacy Education for the 21st Century: It’s Time to Close The Factory [Reading & Writing Education].

[I’d like to see this tableau lined up against my Pasi Sahlberg sponsored one in Submission No.83….the almost last one. I’d also like to read a critique of either tablet or both.]

Lorraine’s submission to the Senate Inquiry, below, needs to be read by all teachers who are concerned about the treatment of teaching literacy at school and how it is regarded and handled by NAPLAN measurers.

Her attachments should not be ignored either.

This is a powerful, thought-provoking article. It’s No 11.

Phil Cullen


 Why Are Our Schools NOT Places of Joy?

by Lorraine Wilson


I write as an experienced educator with expertise in language and literacy curriculum.

I consider the literacy tests to be totally invalid for today’s children. The type of literacy able to be measured by multiple choice, machine marked tests, is low level literacy. It is the type of literacy we taught in the 1950’s, 1960’s in Australia. Since that time there has been much excellent research which has illuminated the types of reading and writing necessary for a changing, global, highly technological society, as well as research about how children learn language (both oral and written). I take time here to briefly describe some research of recent decades which has changed dramatically what we know about the teaching of reading, and writing in schools.


a) The Four resources Model (Luke & Freebody 1990)

One example of such research is that of two Australians Alan Luke and Peter Freebody (1990), where they identified four different reading practices necessary for today’s highly technological, global, society. These practices are:

Reader as code breaker: the reader starts off outside a text and uses different strategies to get inside that text.

Reader as text participant: inside the text the reader needs strategies to participate with the ideas of the author; this practice involves the reader as meaning maker

Reader as text user: the reader uses texts as he negotiates life each day in the big wide world, of the 21st century. It is not enough that students read with understanding in school classrooms, they have to experience texts which relate to their life purposes, or else they will not read outside the classroom. Children must know and experience texts which relate to and inform about, their life interests and purposes.

Reader as text analyst: the reader steps back out of a text and identifies the author values. What is this author’s underlying message? What bias or stereotypes are evident in the author’s writing? Which position on this issue is the author ignoring? Whose voice is silent?

The text analyst practice (critical literacy) is so important today with the control of the world’s mass media belonging to fewer and fewer individuals, and, simultaneously with the world wide web, any individual can now send information around the word within a matter of seconds. How does one determine the veracity of such information?

The reason I am describing this model of reading, respected by literacy educators all around the world, is because we know that reading is much more than getting words right, or, being able to find right answers to literal comprehension questions, as the majority of NAPLAN reading questions require. Today’s children are wasting time, learning to colour in bubbles, as required on the multiple choice test papers, learning how to find specific right answers to some unknown person’s questions – and never given opportunity to ask their own questions. Such practices are dumbing down the reading curriculum; are dumbing down children’s lives.

b)The Reading Process (Goodman 1968)

The research of Kenneth Goodman in which he identified what became known as ‘the reading process’, describes what a reader does to get inside a text and to make meaning. Until this research, it was believed that reading was a visual process; that it was important when reading, to name each word in the text, correctly.

There is a widely held misconception in the general community that reading is solely a visual activity- that what the eye sees is all important, that the identification of each individual word is necessary and that if one does not know a word, one sounds it out. (Wilson,2002. P45)

In Goodman’s very extensive research, running records were made of children’s oral reading. As the child read the text aloud from a book, the researcher, on a copy of the text, ticked the words named correctly by the child, and noted all oral reading errors, or, miscues. These miscues included words repeated, left out, or added to the text. At the end of each reading, the child was asked to do a re-telling of the text. The re-telling was taped.

What this research showed was that the quality of the child’s understanding as revealed in the re-telling was not automatically linked to the number of oral reading errors. Rather a good re-telling was linked to the type of miscues, not the quantity. Some children’s miscues revealed their focus was getting each word right, and so their reading errors looked like the word in the text, (visual miscues), but made no sense. What was very worrying was that these readers did not stop and re-read, when what they read did not make sense. Their purpose in reading was getting words right, rather than putting the language together to make meaning.

CH: break. (visual miscue)

TEXT: I heard the dog bark.

In contrast the children whose taped re-tellings showed good understanding of what they had read, had a different class of oral reading errors. Their errors always made sense even if the words looked different to the text. These oral reading errors or miscues were informed by the readers’ knowledge of the subject being read about (semantics) and the reader’s personal grammar. (syntax)

CH: was (syntactical miscue)

TEXT: Once upon a time there were three little pigs.

CH: yelled noise!’ (semantic)

TEXT:The kids were naughty. Mum shouted, ‘Stop that racket!’

Goodman’s research highlighted what code breakers do, in their efforts to get inside and make meaning of a text. They take a visual sampling of the text and allow the brain to predict the text drawing upon syntactic and semantic knowledge . When the reader’s predictions do not make sense, that reader stops and re-reads or reads on, in an endeavour to connect with the ideas of the author.

In a formal, silent, reading test situation, one cannot listen to a struggling reader read aloud, to determine, if he believes reading is a purely word centred activity where he must name each word correctly. That is, the NAPLAN test cannot evaluate the code breaking strategies, or reading process being observed by the reader.

In addition, trying to find reading materials which allow young readers equal chance of interpreting or meaning making, by drawing upon their related life experience (semantics), is impossible. See the enclosed article from the Year 3 Reading Magazine 2013, NAPLAN, ‘Earthworms.’

How much easier it will be for a child who has multiple experiences of earthworms, perhaps helping Dad with a worm farm in the back yard, to read this factual text and to answer the test questions. These children will have much life experiential information to use to help predict the text and to answer the test questions.

Think of other eight year old students. Think of the ones living in the high rise housing commission flats in North Melbourne. Some years ago the then local school principal decided to dig up some of the school yard asphalt to start a vegetable garden. His students from the flats were absolutely amazed that there was dirt under the asphalt. They had never seen loose earth. They thought the asphalt was a natural phenomenon. They did not realise it was put there by man. What experiences would these children have of earth worms? What pre-existing knowledge would they have to bring to this text?

c) SPEED READING The children who answer most questions in the NAPLAN Reading tests have the best chance of gaining the highest scores. Children soon learn that rather than reading the test article first, it saves time to read the questions first and then quickly skim the text to find the literal answer. This is low level reading. It is not about bringing meaning to text; it is not about making use of a text; it is certainly not reading as text analyst to identify author values. It is measuring nothing of value. Speed reading to find specific right answers, serves no authentic life purpose. It tells us nothing of value about a child’s reading. It does not inform whether the child reflects upon a text to clarify meaning, whether the child makes connections between the text and his life, whether in fact there are any connections in the child’s life upon which he can draw, or whether, the child reader identifies cultural bias in a text.

NAPLAN is promoted as being diagnostic. It most certainly is not. Reading as described by the Luke/Freebody Model, by the work of Ken Goodman, and by the research of many other linguists, is in no way compatible with the model of reading upon which the NAPLAN test is based. The NAPLAN Reading test cannot measure a child’s reading ability nor identify where assistance is needed.


a)NAPLAN method of testing Spelling

NAPLAN spelling is assessed in two ways.

A misspelt word presented in a sentence, is circled. The child has to write the error again, correcting the spelling.

A misspelt word is presented in a sentence, but not circled. The child has two tasks here. Firstly, identify the misspelt word, then, write it correctly.

For some strange reason each of these types of test questions is worth one mark. That is, in b) above, a child is given no credit for being able to find the un-circled misspelling. Of more importance though is the fact that the learning of spelling includes both the production of correct spelling, as a writer is writing, and recognition of errors, by proof reading for misspelt words. In the NAPLAN Language Conventions Tests, a child’s ability to generate correct spelling is not assessed.

As a method of testing a child’s spelling ability, both the NAPLAN strategies are questionable. Each strategy used in the test includes misspelt words. These misspellings can impact on how the child then spells the word. Misspellings may introduce incorrect letters which the child might never have included in his production of the spelling, but seeing it in the test question, causes confusion.

‘NAPLAN makes a pedagogical assumption that proofreading can act as a proxy for a student’s spelling ability.’ (Bartlett & Buchanan 2012)

A research study by Willet and Gardiner (2010) in which they compared student NAPLAN results, with these same spelling items being tested via oral dictation, found that an astounding 75% of children had improved spelling scores. They suggest the NAPLAN spelling scores are misleading.

NAPLAN: Incorrect descriptions of skills assessed

Literacy educator Di Snowball has analysed the ACARA reasons for the inclusion of each particular spelling item in the NAPLAN Language Convention Tests. She has found that every single analysis is incorrect. I include just two of her examples.

Quest No Test Item Correct Answer Skill Assessed (ACARA) Actual Strategy Used


What is important in the teaching of spelling is a child’s knowledge about, and application of, a wide range of spelling strategies. Children should be able to discuss the strategies they have used in words they have spelt. Where one strategy fails, they have others in their repertoire to try. Spelling strategies play no part in NAPLAN spelling, further evidence that NAPLAN is not diagnostic.


The 2013 writing assessment involved all Grade 3 and Grade 5 children writing to the given topic ‘Hero Award’. See copy below. Just think – all grade 3 and grade 5 children across Australia, writing to the very same topic. How unfair that is.

Added to this, the children are told exactly how to shape their texts. ‘Start with an introduction.’ A very detailed structure is set out for them

What is this writing activity measuring? It is measuring the child’s ability to read with understanding and follow, the suggested out line for writing a persuasive piece. A child may have no knowledge of how to write a persuasive text, but in this test, a complete structure is printed there for the child to follow. I repeat, What is this measuring?

WRITING: the Writing Process

During the 1980’s, an American researcher Donald Graves revolutionised the teaching of writing in primary classrooms. Up until this time, teachers always chose the class writing topics. The children were expected to get the ‘composition’ right in one draft. The only audience for the writing was the classroom teacher.

Graves (1983) pointed out to teachers that in the real world, this is not the way, writers write. Generally they choose their own topics. They do not get their texts right in just one go. Writing one piece may take one draft or it may take many drafts. Often real world writers try their writing out on

2013 NAPLAN Writing task, Yr 3 & 5 sympathetic friends as a way of getting helpful feedback, and, often their writing is published. Graves outlined what has become known in schools as ‘The Writing Process’.

Schools across Australia adopted the Writing Process, with children of all ages selecting their own topics, conferencing their drafts with their teachers, re-drafting when necessary, taking some drafts through to publication. Thus classroom libraries came to include many attractive books written by the students. Allowing children to choose their own topics, helped value the children’s lives. They were free to write about their families, their worries, their interests, not just the tired old topics of their classroom teachers. Children could bring their lives into their classrooms.

Sadly the NAPLAN testing has meant much, much less writing of this type is occurring. For three years now the NAPLAN writing test has required a persuasive piece. Every classroom one now visits, one sees evidence of persuasive writing. The children are so sick of it. Many schools have stopped allowing children to choose their own topics, and to choose their own audiences. Classroom publishing by the children has virtually ceased. NAPLAN writing has decimated what were once exciting writing classrooms.

Writing now in many classrooms has returned to writing compositions as in the 1950’s, 1960’s. The class writes to the teacher’s topic. Children have one draft to get the piece ‘right’. Such has been the impact of NAPLAN.

This Inquiry asks what impact NAPLAN is having on teaching and learning practices. I have made reference to the outdated literacy practices valued in the NAPLAN tests. Since 2008, children in classrooms are experiencing teaching and learning practices which embarrass professional educators. Outstanding classroom teachers are now required to do things in the name of teaching which they know, are in direct conflict with best practice. They hate being put in this position.


I enclose a copy of just one of the five pages of instructions to administrators and teachers for the Yrs 3 & 5 Writing Test. (Note: these are for one page of one test.)

As a very experienced educator I cringe when I see these pages. Our teachers are treated as puppets, not able to think for themselves; as automatons, programmed as to how and what to say. Which other group of professionals would allow themselves to be treated like this? Our children, as young as 8 years, are seen as empty vessels with authoritarian adults pouring in information – reading out instruction after instruction. There is a limit to how many orders any one person can remember at any one time. This empty vessel notion of learning is so old. We know that children must be active in learning. We sit them in groups in their classrooms today, so they can talk together and learn from one another. How can we justify this unwarranted cruel, authoritarian, unprofessional treatment of both students and teachers?

The tone and content of these notes epitomise all that NAPLAN represents– a centrally determined, authoritarian manoeuvre to gain some political end, at huge expense to the tax payer. NAPLAN has nothing whatsoever to do with improving educational opportunities for all Australian children.


How can the federal Government testing of students be improved?

No-one would debate the right of Australian Governments to collect data re education, as education is largely funded with tax payer money. However such data should relate to comparisons of different populations across the country eg indigenous students versus non-indigenous; rural v city; different starting ages. Such data need only be collected every three years, certainly not every year, and to collect such statistical information, it is not be necessary to test every child. A random sample is sufficient.

For such data to benefit the learning of the different student populations across the country, the methods of collection need be compatible with modern insights into how children learn, and, they should assess language and literacy relevant to today’s society.

Importantly, experienced, knowledgeable educators need to be involved in the development of any such data collection initiatives. The NAPLAN Reading, Writing and Language Convention Tests are a terrible mismatch with today’s best classroom practice.

Assessment of individual student progress is best done by classroom teachers, who are working with their particular students each and every day. Only individual teachers in individual classrooms are able to ensure each child is progressing, comparing what they are achieving now, with what they were achieving one week ago, one month ago……

Children commence school at many different points along the language learning continuum. What they know about reading and writing on school entry is more a measure of their pre- school literacy experiences than of their intelligence. Curriculum begins with what the children know, not some mythical Prep or Grade 3 standard. It is the teacher’s job to find out what each child knows, what his interests are, and to teach from there. It is grossly unfair and anti-educational to set the same expectations for all children of the one age.

Education does not follow the same narrow path for all children. However, in Australian schools all across the country, that is the impact of NAPLAN. Children’s cultures, children’s local knowledge, children’s individual interests are trashed and discarded by NAPLAN. For any school to do well as judged by NAPLAN, that school must have standardised students.


Classrooms should be places of joy and discovery. NAPLAN is sucking the life blood from our teachers and students. Schools are no longer places of joy. I have worked for five decades in Victorian primary schools. I have never seen morale as low as it is at this point. I have never seen the teachers as dispirited as they are now.

An American educator, Alfie Kohn, writes

‘In a news report about what has been stripped away from children’s education in order that they can spend more time on test preparation, a spokesperson for a large school district defended such policies on the grounds that they were handed down from above. “We haven’t had recess in years,” he acknowledged. “They say this is the way it’s going to be, and we say, ‘Fine.’”

Why are our schools not places of joy? Because too many of us respond to outrageous edicts by saying, ‘Fine.’” (Kohn 2011, P 15

2013 NAPLAN Writing Yr 3 & 5 Test Administration Handbook for Teachers

Notes from, ‘ Test Adminstration Handbook for Teachers, Year 3 &5, NAPLAN 2013’


Graves, D. 1983 Writing: Teachers and Children at Work, Heinemann, NH

Bartlett,B. & Buchanan, J. 2012, “Exploring NAPLAN Spelling Data” in, Say NO to NAPLAN Papers, Nos 1-10. See Literacy Educators Coalition website.

Goodman, K. 1967. “Reading a Psycholinguistic Guessing Game.” Journal of the Reading Specialist: 126-35

Goodman, K. & Goodman, Y. 1977 “Learning About Psycholinguistic Processes by Oral Reading.” Harvard Educational Review 47 (3): 317-33

Kohn, A. 2011, Feel-Bad Education, Beacon Press, Boston.

Luke,A. & Freebody,P. 1999. “A Map of Possible Practices. Further Notes on the Four resources Model.” In Practically Primary 4 (3):39.

Snowball,D. 2012, 2013, NAPLAN Language Conventions, Spelling Charts.

Willett, L. & Gardiner, A. 2009, “Testing Spelling – Exploring NAPLAN”, paper presented at the A L E A Annual Conference, Melbourne.

Wilson, L. 2002, Reading to Live: How to Teach Reading for Today’s World, Heinemann, NH, 45.

Graves, D. 1983 Writing: Teachers and Children at Work, Heinemann, NH

Bartlett,B. & Buchanan, J. 2012, “Exploring NAPLAN Spelling Data” in, Say NO to NAPLAN Papers, Nos 1-10. See Literacy Educators Coalition website.

Goodman, K. 1967. “Reading a Psycholinguistic Guessing Game.” Journal of the Reading Specialist: 126-35

Goodman, K. & Goodman, Y. 1977 “Learning About Psycholinguistic Processes by Oral Reading.” Harvard Educational Review 47 (3): 317-33

Kohn, A. 2011, Feel-Bad Education, Beacon Press, Boston.

Luke,A. & Freebody,P. 1999. “A Map of Possible Practices. Further Notes on the Four resources Model.” In Practically Primary 4 (3):39.

Snowball,D. 2012, 2013, NAPLAN Language Conventions, Spelling Charts.

Willett, L. & Gardiner, A. 2009, “Testing Spelling – Exploring NAPLAN”, paper presented at the A L E A Annual Conference, Melbourne.

Wilson, L. 2002, Reading to Live: How to Teach Reading for Today’s World, Heinemann, NH, 45.



that the Report of the Senate Inquiry into NAPLAN is to be released on this Thursday, 17 June, the birthday of NAPLAN’s ORIGIN? It IS Origin Week after all.

Hopefully, it’s GOODBYE NAPLAN DAY.

It was on 27 June 2008 that Julia met Joel [Klein]….one of the saddest days in Australia’s history. They met at a Carnegie Corporation function in the USA. Corporation? More to come in The Treehorn Express later in the week.


 Phil Cullen AM FACE FACEL FQIEL Gold Medal ACEL

Founder : Treehorn Express.

Former State Director of Primary Education,Queensland.

41 Cominan Avenue,

Banora Point 2486

Ph.: 07 5524 6443

Educational Readings June 21st

By Allan Alach

When spiders unite they can tie down a lion. Ethiopian proverb.

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

 This week’s homework!

Fighting For Our Classrooms, and For the Human Beings Inside Them

‘It seems as if the same battle is being fought in every aspect of American society. On one side are the forces of egalitarianism, economic opportunity and self-determination. On the other is a well-funded and entrenched elite bent on hijacking our media, our political process and our institutions for their selfish ends. Sadly, the classrooms of this country haven’t been spared.’

Ring any bells for you?

 What’s the most ‘natural’ way to learn? It might surprise you.

Here is a counterintuitive piece on what we consider the “natural” way to learn, from cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham.

 To THUNK or not to THUNK…

There’s life beyond protests in Turkey and to prove that here’s a good thunk from Tony Gurr.

It Makes Me Wonder Why All the Amateurs Have Come to Education

US educational activist ( Shaun Johnson reflecting on the seemingly endless numbers of amateur experts on education, especially politicians and economists! Right on Shaun.

Are College and Career Skills Really the Same?

This US article examines the rhetoric that common core standards are necessary to prepare children for employment and tertiary studies. The connection to national standards rhetoric in New Zealand is very obvious.

‘The second concern is justifying the Common Core on the highly dubious notion that college and career skills are the same. On its face, the idea is absurd. After all, do chefs, policemen, welders, hotel managers, professional baseball players and health technicians all require college skills for their careers? Do college students all require learning occupational skills in a wide array of careers? In making the “same skills” claim, proponents are really saying that college skills are necessary for all careers and not that large numbers of career skills are necessary for college.’

Telling Time with a Broken Clock: The trouble with standardized testing

Very comprehensive article by Canadian teacher Joe Bower.

‘Ask any parents what their long-term concerns and goals are for their children, and seldom will you hear about test scores and world rankings. Their concerns are compelling, existential and heartfelt. Parents want their kids to be happy, hard-working, motivated, responsible, honest, empathetic, intelligent, collaborative, creative and courageous.’

Bill Gates Discovers Money Cannot Buy Teachers

Surprise, surprise. Another neoliberal dream goes up in smoke.

‘Ultimately, there are three ways to get people to do something you want them to do. One is to force them, by making the consequences for not complying onerous or unacceptable. The second is to lure them, by offering some sort of bribe or incentive. The third is to get them excited about your ideas, whereupon they may engage with enthusiasm. In my experience, real change in education only comes with the third of these methods, because the first two inspire more resistance than cooperation.’

Will New Tests Measure Any Valuable Skills?

‘After more than ten years of national education policies like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, the words accountability and assessment have become synonymous at many public schools with high-stakes testing. The two government programs have attached consequences and rewards to standardized test scores, leading many educators to believe they have to teach to the test. But, as the well-known argument goes, teaching prescribed math and reading content doesn’t help students build the skills like creativity, problem-solving and adaptability they need to adapt in the world outside of school.’

What Would Socrates Say? (via Bruce Hammonds)

The concept of inquiry learning goes back a very long way to the Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates. One of his reporting sayings was “I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.” I can think of many politicians who would do well to adopt the same self belief. This quote highlights the relevance of Socrate’s philosophy to the 21st century educational environment, without a standardised test in sight.

‘Socrates believed that we learn best by asking essential questions and testing tentative answers against reason and fact in a continual and virtuous circle of honest debate. We need to approach the contemporary knowledge explosion and the technologies propelling this new enlightenment in just that manner. Otherwise, the great knowledge and communication tsunami of the 21st century may drown us in a sea of trivia instead of lifting us up on a rising tide of possibility and promise.’

Senate Inquiry

 The Treehorn Express

‘The Treehorn Express is a tribute to those children who are forced to encounter Standardised Blanket Testing in GERM countries and are forced to suffer from the distress, a narrowed curriculum and loss of progressive cognitive development. Like little Treehorn, they are wonderful young citizens, ignored by those who are expected to care and exploited by those who don’t.




 Senate Inquiry

The Last Stand for Kids

Very few people knew about this Inquiry. It was not announced to the public by the press. Word had seeped through to some senators that there was a level of concern in the electorate that NAPLAN may not be the great reform of Australian schooling that it was said to be…so there was a call for a ‘snap’ inquiry. The general public doesn’t know much about it….yet..

Let me explain the background to my reasons for making this submission and for condemning the existence of NAPLAN with all the force that I can muster. I once held a vision that primary schooling in Australia would be the absolute best in the world by the Year 2000. It was certainly heading that way in the pre-managerialist era. I was sure that, in retirement, I would see my grand-children and their peers enjoy the excitement of learning in stimulating classrooms. I was absolutely positive that, by then, every Australian kid would burst a boiler to get to their neighbourhood school each day because of all the exciting learning challenges there; a magical place of learning; and would exit schooling with super-zestful enthusiasm for learning that had been constantly enriched each year since that day that they had started school,12 years or so earlier….full of wonder and excitement about the act of learning every single day of their lives…..and happy. At preparation institutions, teachers would have learned more and more about about all the classroom strategies and techniques required to make every minute together with their pupils meaningful and they would maintain the personal development of their teaching/learning abilities until they retired. There would be no place for the indolent. I was so absolutely sure that I would see this happen. Children and teachers would be happy, playful, learning-crazed, enthusiastic 24/7 no matter what they were doing. There would be no trace of fear or feelings of failure, no competitive dislikes, no bullying….just joy of learning.

And, by the way,I had learned from teachers of the time about the value of shared-evaluation of effort linked so directly to the learning task-in-hand that the use of even DIY blanket testing would became rare. They knew the difference between evaluation, assessment and testing and how to make the most of each concept. Measurers, unfamiliar with the differences and the use of sharing developmental evaluation in a classroom setting took over control of schooling in Australia. They use only numbers. Their disrespect for children’s feelings and learning levels is monumental.

A school would be a place where everybody was a teacher and a learner and evaluator…..pupil, teacher, mum, dad, friends, aides, janitors, visitors…everybody! I came to feel that the word ‘teaching’ sounded too much like ‘instructing’, so I started to use the term ‘pupilling’. It implied a higher level of seriousness about the teaching/learning contract and total immersion with the three Ls – Love, Laughter and Learning. The future looked so good.

OK. It didn’t happen and it’s too late for me to see it happen. I feel really devastated with disappointment; and certainly sick from what has happened. If the future of Australia is in the classrooms,I shed a tear for Australia. I never ever thought that we would end up in the mess that we are in….with almost total disrespect for child welfare and this crazed belief in scores. If NAPLAN is terminated tomorrow, as it should be, it will still take a long time to repair the damage done already. Standardised Blanket Testing has been an extraordinarily dangerous hoax-meme.

That’s my reason for the length of my submission to the Senate Inquiry and for its style. It’s a Custer-like stand with a growing number of true-blue educators with whom I’m proud to associate and make a stand against the overwhelming, powerful, insensitive, greedy assaults on children’s learnings.. The welfare of school kids motivates us. Nothing else. See below.

The submission was forwarded on 20 May and printed on-line on 18 June  as the last of the ordinary submissions up to that date. It must have been held-up in the machinery.

Apparently there will be a public hearing in Melbourne on 21 June….this Friday, if you happen to be going through Melbourne….. to which selected groups, in the main, have been invited…..not many practising classroom teachers.


This title was NOT used on the submission . It just asks our senators what sort of school children, Australia wants to produce.

Scholars or Data-driven Drongos?

To : Senate Committee of Inquiry.

This submission suggests that NAPLAN testing and any other ruinous substitute never ever be inflicted on the school children of this country again; that NAPLAN testing be banished forthwith; and that the focus of public discussion be directed to LEARNING IN THE CLASSROOM and the impact that outsides influences have on classroom activities.

Maybe few people understand what LEARNING in context means, 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. Parents need to talk about ‘Learning’ in a positive, healthy, politically-free manner. Discussions about Learning at the school level need to be encouraged, rather than obscured by officially encouraged underhand means.

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 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 impact that politically controlled Standardised Blanket Testing has had on classroom outcomes.


Q & A

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

Q. WHY is it that countries, like Finland, that are represented on 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 do not approve of Standardised Blanket Testing regimes? Finland concentrates on how to learn about learning; Australia about testing.

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 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 profession, 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 the mighty dollar. NAPLAN has to be totally destroyed , without modification or substitution. It is a national threat.

The interlocked connection between the administrative operations of NAPLAN testing and mega-business should be enough to call a halt and examine the connection.

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 a committed 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? “ BHM]

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

A. About as useful as ‘lips on a chicken’. How in the world can results, provided five months after the tests, when the learners are in circumstances far different from the circumstances at the time of testing, be of any help? Fair go! Can it be better that DIY tests on the spot? Can it be better than face-to-face evaluation of effort? Try the other leg.

If testucators need assistance to see how well they are going and have to rely on external assistance, there are plenty of sources. A.C.E.R. is a one-stop shop. There’s ‘Google’ to find other providers. There’s books. [As a test fixated principal, my copy of Sir Fred Schonell’s “Diagnostic and Attainment Testing” became dog-eared and tattered and fell apart from over-use. If only I’d thought about what I was doing. I could have sold it to another testucator in pristine condition.]

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

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.

Let our kids LEARN, for heaven’s sake.

More questions are asked on the following clip demonstrating the concern of NY parents enduring the same conditions as Aussie parents. I realise that the clip will not be reproduced on the senate report, but it is essential viewing for anyone who is concerned about their children and able to view it:


Paradigms of social behaviour, such as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs [1954] and French & Ravens’ Bases of Social Power [1959] are worthy 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 regime to cease its NAPLAN antics. Our teachers are too scared or 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 [Standardised Blanket Tests] 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 1,030,000 parents of kids whose private learning behaviour was assaulted on 14,15,16 May and the parents of other victims might comment. If the responses are not up to expectations, the testucators will claim that their notions of schooling have been supported.

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 : Sir Ken Robinson, Prof. Robin Alexander, Diane Ravitch, Yong Zhau, Marion Brady, Kelvin Smythe, Bruce Hammonds, Allan Alach…an endless list. The evidence is so overwhelming and the literature so profuse. 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 untested 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 casually 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!

Reader note : This talk by Sir Ken Robinson has been seen by 300milion people, according to TIME magazine [June 10, 2013]:-


NAPLAN is a slyly introduced fear-based schooling system whose philosophy was imported en bloc from a large New York School District in 2008, following a meeting of the then Federal Minister for Education, Hon. J. Gillard, with fellow former lawyer at a cocktail party. His name is Joel Klein, then Chancellor of a large urban school district in New York, who has since moved to a senior executive position with the Rupert Murdoch’s publishing companies [Salary: $4m p.a.] that concentrate on the production of print and online tests and support material. Mr. Klein has claimed publically that he helped to establish his system in Australia and that it is a replica of his.

This is the genesis of existing schooling operations in Australia.

How did this happen? Supported by Australian banking corporations, Mr. Klein was brought to Australia to talk to various corporate bodies and to address the Press Club. Known to possess a powerfully persuasive personality, his efforts worked. Both the Hon. J. Gillard and her superior, Mr. K. Rudd, felt sufficiently empowered, following a few encounters with this former lawyer, to copy the N.Y. system and proclaim its establishment in Australia without further discussion. Corporate Australia applauded. Measurement experts were appointed to the most senior positions to run the show. It was on the way with no reference to learning outcomes except the word: ‘scores’. Professional organisations, including those of primary and secondary principals, were corralled. The methods used to enlist them were shameful. The press was already under control. It was all systems go by 2008.

Testucators took the place of educators at decision-making assemblies, suspending any discussion of professional ethics in relation to the use of children’s fear as a teaching device; and ignoring the effects of the imported threats and gimmickry. The scato-meme, now described as ‘Testucation’, a system of control based on standardised blanket testing, was established in all GERM countries. We tend to ‘go with the flow’ with innovations from up-over.


While this was going on, Rupert Murdoch was rubbing his hands together with fiendish glee. He has said that this approach to schooling is worth $500billion to him per year, in the US alone. If he corners the market for the supply of on-line machines for quick responses for testing and other uses, later, for every child at school at a cost of $US700 per machine, the market is probably worth more than he estimates. Standardised Blanket Testing is big bikkies. Australians will be shelling out, big time, as well. The cost of each paper test in Australia at the present time is about $50. Since 1,030,000 victims performed in 2013, the cost to the tax-payers just for the publishing of papers was about $51,500,000 and the cost of suspension of learning activities for 3 days, inestimable.

There is an unholy scramble for the control of the on-line education market, certainly between the super-publishers. Murdoch’s opposition businesses have tried to match his eagerness for money. His company Amplify, under the control of Joel Klein, and the British-based Pearson Education are major opponents in cornering the market for the supply of androids to every school child in the world. These hand-held information warehouses are challenging learning theories involving the role of the person in various pupilling processes within the classroom. Any fruitful discussion has yet to be held. The testers have the front running and dominate any useful dialogue at present as education prime-time is given to scores. On-line NAPLAN testing and scoring is coming to a school near you first [of course].

There has also been a considerable growth industry in side-line businesses like coaching, special tests and practice booklets. In the past year the growth in the numbers of these businesses occurred for the same reason that Ned Kelly robbed the bank: that’s where the money is. Nothing else matters. NAPLAN can easily be seen as a money-making stunt for greedy billionaires.

The marking of the May tests is under way as this is written. An army of pencil wielders is currently being paid $38 per hour for five hours per day for three weeks. An estimated cost for just marking the useless [in learning terms] test is about $85m.

With the cost of administration of NAPLAN tests added to the above simple items, the money costs must be gigantic. No one will tell the public exactly what NAPLAN costs. The costs are successfully hidden in state and commonwealth account books and no one willing to check it all out…not even the Commonwealth Treasury. Where can the full costs be found? Who dares look? Even investigative journalists dare not.

Sadly our present generation of school kids is paying heavily in learning terms while we pay in dollar terms; and few people care. That’s Testucation, kids!


NAPLAN has led to wide-scale cheating of all kinds. The worst kind is the encouragement by authorities for schools and scholars to practice as much as possible. Practice tests have been provided by state governments on-line so that schools can cheat better by using reliable sources. Political and departmental superordinates are not called to account for cheating even though they perpetuate it, while principals and teachers are for lesser crimes like allowing kids a five-minute extension; some are sacked. Harassment of the child-caring teachers is quick and intense. It’s clear. If one school practises and another doesn’t, the validity of the tests is ruined. To run a system that has a plethora of types of practice surely makes blanket testing procedures completely useless; and testucating reputations shameful. This sort of cheating can’t be stopped.

This alone ruins the raison d’etre for NAPLAN. That’s Testucation! NAPLAN is pure waste.


But there’s more. During the weeks before the NAPLAN contest, the pharmaceutical industry, openly acknowledging the stress and concern that this sort of testing causes to young children, undertook an expensive advertising campaign, featuring Nicole Kidman’s sister, to proclaim the benefits of Fish Oil to allay the stress and concern. Other pharmaceuticals are certainly being used on a large scale to enhance performance. This company advertised it and was caught out. Pharmaceutical products are becoming part of the essential diet for victims of Testucation?

NAPLAN Test Stress has created a new industry and is bigger than originally imagined.

Special breakfast are held, even sleep-overs, to steady the nerves prior to tests! The condemned kids eat a hearty meal.

I ask each senator: Did you ever believe that you would see the day?


During NAPLAN week, 2013 the principal of a school in Canberra explained to its parents that they needed to consider the impact of NAPLAN testing on their children’s learning; that they had the democratic right to say “No”. He dared to face the wrath of his superiors, who, in accordance the with blatant procedural ACARA deception, does not encourage schools to tell people that they have such a right. He dared to share his opinion with his stakeholders. It is difficult to believe, but this made headlines around the country.

NAPLAN’s official information documents provide an underhand masterpiece of chicanery. ‘Students are expected to participate in the testing. Please discuss your concerns with your child’s teacher or your school principal.’ No democratic right of choice. ACARA knows, full well, that parents do not have to discuss such items with anybody. ACARA perpetuates this fraud by claiming, “Signed parent/carer consent forms are required for students withdrawn from the tests.” Bunkum. They do not. As a matter of courtesy, all that a parent needs to do is drop a simple note to their child’s teacher. Nothing more.

ACARA adds a buck-passing coda to these jack-boot requirements with : “ ACARA does not manage the consideration of requests for withdrawals or exemptions.” Consideration of requests? Pardon! One might suggest that a ‘thank you’ card might be a more appropriate response from ACARA to parents who have said that they don’t want their children to participate.

There has been, it might be noted, a growth in the number of school children in the USA who write on the papers, “I do not wish to do this test” and politely hand it to their teacher without comment. It’s called The Bartleby Project. There is nothing that can be done about it.

I ask each senator again: Did you ever believe that you would see the day? AND You have claimed the power to do something about this disgraceful torment by inviting comments. Do it….for the sake of our kids!


On the day after this earth-shattering front-page news of this devious Canberra principal, 14 May, the first day of NAPLAN testing, the Senate Inquiry into ‘….maximising our investment in education’, was tabled after eight months. It did not get a mention in any local media outlet of any kind. If the public wants to know what it said, it has to chase the report on its own. When this particular senate inquiry was announced in September 2012, there was nary a mention in any part of the Australian media. One can be pretty certain that only a few dozen people have even heard of its existence.

The same was true of the previous senate inquiry into education. You remember it, don’t you?

The Darwin Effect has operated well. Not a word so far about any education senate inquiry in recent times. I suppose that editors of the Murdoch chain of newspapers and controllers of TV/radio news items do not want to displease him, and journalistic codes of conduct prevent colleagues from rocking the boat with items that mates cannot use. Besides, when did what kids suffer at school attract as much attention as a crucial ligament injury to a footballer?

One classic example. In November, 2012, over a thousand public primary school principals from Australia and New Zealand gathered in Melbourne. Their speakers were from the world’s finest down-to-earth educators: Pasi Sahlberg, Director of Finland’s education system; Yong Zhau, researcher, China, Michigan and Oregon; Andy Hargraves of primary school pursuits from Boston. It was the biggest such conference ever held down under. As with all renowned world educators, none supports the various forms of Standardised Blanket Testing now in vogue. Not a word was published or referred to, in any Australian or New Zealand news item. Strange, don’t you think, Senators?

The ABC-TV conducts a Q&A program each Monday that invites open questions from viewers before and during the program. When the host was to interview both Peter Garrett and Christopher Pyne a few educators tried to make sure that questions about NAPLAN would be asked. Gonski consumes so much air-play. The word ‘NAPLAN’ was not even used during the hour. It was so obvious that the producer or the host or Aunty herself prevented any questions about NAPLAN issues from being used. Why? Some educators tried again when Julia Gillard was interviewed with groups of high school pupils. Same result. Not a mention.

Some classical academic research and anecdotal reports into the impact of SBTs have been printed in documents easily accessible on-line. There are hundreds each month. None makes our airways. As Carson Robson said, “There’s sumpin cock-eyed somewhere.”

However, Channel 7’s Today Tonight program presented a seminal documentary on the Monday of NAPLAN week, that featured the renowned Kimberley College, known world-wide for its successful multi-aged [to Year 10] de Bono- style program that emphasises the unrestricted development of learning styles for its scholars. 140 parents of 150 ACARA enforced NAPLAN victims have refused to comply. The presentation was a gem, extending its references to the manipulations of our system’s founders and controllers : Joel Klein and Rupert Murdoch.


The system relies on sycophantic fear-driven adherence to testing by school personnel and their pupils. Joel Klein says that he told Julia Gillard that opposition by real educators should be resisted by tightening the thumb-screws on all participants and by creating diversions to forms of gimmickry that make specious claims as to effectiveness. Prime amongst these has been the creation of Charter Schools [using deceptive other names, some oxy-moronic, but serving the same moronic purpose]. They provide a smoother and quicker conduit for test-takers than the usual red-tape route. Another furphy has been the notion that people work harder when paid a higher salary for success in teaching to the tests. There is ample sociological evidence to illustrate the futility of such proposals. Ask Maslow, French or Raven.


Comparisons are made by the test-crazed number crunchers with other countries by using a set of international tests called PISA [Programme for International School Assessment] that are conducted in a number of countries by measurement experts from Paris-based OECD. Teaching experts, who believe in the power of on-the-spot shared evaluation, have little respect for these forms of testing. The PISA device is applied only to 15 year-olds every 5 years. As odious as such comparisons are, there is a strange reliance by politicians in particular on the results. Since their knowledge of and interest in classroom outcomes is limited, they have nothing else to use. Ill-trained observers have been known to state that their systems were ‘better’ or ‘worse’ in an educative sense because of results in tests of some simple aspects of mathematics and grammar.

Australia has always been in the top ten of testing results in international tests, as useless as they may be, until the year 2008, but we have never made a great song-and-dance about it. ‘So what ?’ we’ve asked. Recently, Australia’s present Prime Minister has stated that SHE will have Australian schools’ PISA test results ‘in the top 5 by 25’. That’s the lady leading the so-called ‘reform’ agenda. Such statements will surely rank in the top 10 of the craziest announcements of the first quarter of the 21st century. Judging by the way we are going and such a screwball test-based result ensues, our general cognitive development outcomes will surely place us amongst the bottom. Tests do that to their victims. Just watch.

See Tom Waterhouse now before the odds shorten.

Clearly, Australian citizens need to discuss, openly, what ‘goes on’ in classrooms in terms of LEARNING IN THE CLASSROOM. SERIOUSLY. We need to contemplate what classrooms will look like in 2025. To have allowed a testing regime to be inflicted on our children and impair cognitive outcomes, before examining its effects on classroom learning, is not to our credit. It was a dumb thing to start doing.

Senators, did you ever believe that you would see the day that Australian schooling would be such a mess?


This Senate controlled inquiry has to make a clear statement. Senate asked for it as a matter of urgency. The Committee of Inquiry needs to be brave enough to face the facts. No more molly-coddling fence-sitting gloss. CEASE NAPLAN TESTING.

This inquiry needs to make this statement asap and not pussy-foot around the issues.

As things now stand, the major political parties , Liberal/Nationals and Labor, are in favour of the continuance of this rigorous political control of teaching and learning; and of one-size-fits-all curriculum and of its assessment by testing methods – the most invalid, depressing, unreliable and useless ever used in this normally progressive country of ours. Professional educators, especially classroom teachers need to reclaim their profession, now degraded and devalued to an extreme degree by our confused politicians, most of whom are party-bound and not concerned enough to publish their own points of view. Clearly, in terms of PISA test scores, we are now ‘falling behind’ other countries thanks to NAPLAN methods of operating…as despicable a way to describe educational achievements as there is. Leading protagonists, Gillard, Garrett and Pyne are, unwittingly perhaps, dangerous people. Teachers, parents and children, blind to the consequences, are suffering.They should talk up..


The proof is in the pudding. NAPLAN is a gigantic flop and a danger. As a issue of accountability it is totally useless. But… there seems to be an entrenched political fear of the power of Rupert Murdoch, [‘the man who shapes the world’, according to potential Prime Minister Abbott] and his publishing colleagues, who control enormous test publishing and online businesses. Australian political parties’ dedication to the designs of the mega-rich is a threat to their own children and to ours.

The Greens Party usually sits on the fence in matters of importance and tends to call for an inquiry when the heat is turned up; the outcomes of which are widely ignored and seldom mentioned in the wider community. Party members then bang on the drums, abrogate responsibilities for child health and schooling, and say to constituents, “We tried. Nothing happened.”

While the popularity of the major parties and their leaders goes up and down like a fiddler’s elbow, it surely means that the Greens can capitalise on this political uncertainly by having a NO NAPLAN election platform. Other parties seem too ‘tied up’ with more pedestrian issues. There are 300,000 teachers who would support the banning of NAPLAN if they were allowed to speak their mind, as well as a growing number of disenchanted parents and friends. A political candidate of any persuasion would attract a substantial number of votes from the school-interested section of their electorate if they spoke their mind.

Senators. Please stand up for our kids. You can keep up your allegiance to the testucators or pussy-foot around or care about our kids. The choices are clear and distinct.

Does Australia want scholars, not matter what occupation they pursue or data-driven drongos?


Founder : Treehorn Express.

Former State Director of Primary Education, Queensland.

41 Cominan Avenue,

Banora Point 2486

Ph.: 07 5524 6443

How do we handle the shame?

The Treehorn Express

“The Treehorn Express” is a tribute to those children who are forced to encounter Standardised Blanket Testing, such as NAPLAN, in all GERM counties and are forced to suffer from the distress that it causes, the narrowed curriculum that it creates and the loss of cognitive development of their brainpower. Like little Treehorn himself, they are all wonderful young people, ignored by those who are expected to care and exploited by those who don’t.





Today’s Sydney Morning Herald [19/06/13] headlines “NAPLAN STRESS BLAMED ON TEACHERS” . The story is told that, in its submission [No. 58] to the Senate inquiry, ACARA, the Australian controller of NAPLAN tests and the National Curriculum, blamed teachers and principals – as well as the media – for the stress and anxiety that children suffer at school. Surely we must all share the blame for our wishy-washy attitude to this scourge on Australia’s schooling landscape.

 How do we handle the shame?

 FEAR – The Essential Element of NAPLAN

We Australian adults, to a person, have given our part-time politicians permission to exert their will on children for political purposes and for no other reason. We trusted the wrong people. Thank goodness they are temporary employees. We can clean out the barrel in September. Those who have kept silent or tend to describe schooling in numerical, NAPLAN-based, terms should not be in the job. Watch ANYONE who describes school progress or regress using test cores of any kind.

They have forced our normally child-caring and supportive teachers to promote a level of fear in classrooms that causes children to vomit, for many pupils to try to avoid attending school, to cry profusely when confronted by the tests, to be given medications that are supposed to energise their brain power and force parents to enrol their children in after-school NAPLAN specialists that increase the fear and diminish home-funds. It’s an undeniable part of Australia’s schooling landscape. What we do these days to our children is a disgrace.

 We should be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves. We allow this sort of school activity.

We silently support a fear-based curriculum.

 All testucators should be charged with child abuse.

 There’s no doubt.

 \We all know that it is happening. We all know that it is a serious moral and ethical issue to allow others to treat our children in the way they have been treated for the past 5 years. We all know that it is an integrated part of the Klein-Murdoch package and we accept it because Nelson, Rudd, Gillard, Garrett, Pyne insist upon it. [[Okay. Some of us did conduct our schooling routines in a similar way in the middle of last century. The kids had to learn how to take it. Our own wizened, despicable sense of worth approved of this sort of schooling mentality, then. But -it didn’t work. It turned kids off. Most of us who taught primary school children are very sorry for what we did to the innocent children of the time. When, after serious teacher campaigns to get rid of the causes in our primary schools – those contemptible blanket public examinations – serious attention to learning and achievements sky-rocketed.]

Knowing what we all know now about classroom learning behaviour, and by allowing the testucating rednecks continue to exert their boot camp mentality to scare the daylights out of teachers and learners is certainly not to our credit. We cannot pretend not to know anything about its origins. We know only all too well. Its Kleinism, pure and simple. Our kids will pay dearly for our compliance. [Now, we’ll have to pay for his alimony.]

ACARA, which develops the NAPLAN tests has made a submission to the Senate Inquiry into the effectiveness of NAPLAN. Its head testucator said: [Believe this. See Sydney Morning Herald 17 June 2013 ]

 “Practise tests can help students, particularly younger ones, to familiarise themselves with the test form, but too much preparation can be counterproductive.

It also needs to be acknowledged that students experience stress and pressure about any number of things, and learning to manage nerves is part of growing up. Reassurance by parents can calm lingering fears and help build resistance.”

OMG. Next step is to bring back the cane to help the kids handle stress and pressure better…… a really tough-love mentality. THIS ! From the leaders we are supposed to trust!

 Did you ever think that we would enter the 21st century with Fear as an essential curriculum device?



For some time now Principals who request The Treehorn Express in Queensland are not allowed to receive it through their school address. The same now applies to NSW schools.

 Long live democratic candour! Yeah.


 Phil Cullen,

41 Cominan Avenue,

Banora Point, 2486.

07 5524 6443