Special Guest Writer

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 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.



It’s election time. ‘Australia’s Future through children’ is hereby cancelled due to lack of interest.

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


PAUL THOMSON is a foremost Australian educator, principal of independent Kimberley College on the outskirts of Brisbane. A visit to the school site is well worth a lengthy visit. This thinking school proudly exercises a non-graded approach – a thinking-skills based curriculum – an individualised curriculum – a school environment which nurtures intellectual and moral autonomy in the development of self-respect and self-confidence. It is a place of high achievement in all things. It does what it says it will do. Make sure you learn what a WAFFO is and what it isn’t . Make sure you listen to Paul Thomson’s views on NAPLAN, corporate ownership and the direction that Australian schooling is heading: HERE



Paul Thomson

The scene is a village square, and the year is 2040. The young are gathered at the feet of the elders who are discussing the features of ‘education’ of the previous thirty years.

One elder related how the education industry coped with the wide range of children’s individual differences in the first three decade of the 21st century. “The method was quite simple,” remarked the elder. “They resurrected the imaginary average child.”

“What does average mean?” asked a young gentleman.

“It means that there are no differences between children of approximately the same age. Educators catered for this imaginary child by creating a one=-ize-fits-all National Curriculum and a one-size-fits-all national test.”

“How did they get away with such stupidity? What did the teaching profession do?”

“Very little really. Teachers and Principals do deserve some sympathy because politicians and bureaucrats, as servants of the elite, have bullied the profession into submission. One leader of a political party said that “We should get away from child-centred education.” Nobody challenged him.

The young gentleman was astounded. “That’s like telling doctors that they should cease all patient-centred medical practice.” The elder mildly admonished the excitable young gentleman. “You should know that this was a time when our country was, above and beyond all else, an economy and not a society or community. The dominant ‘philosophy’ of the capitalist totalitarianism of that era was economic rationalism.”

“Not another ‘ism’, “ remarked a young lady. “What on earth is economic rationalism?”

The elder thought for a while and replied: “The people who promoted this dogma believed in a twisted Darwinism which justified the ascendency of the rich. Ironically enough, the economic rationalists were not very proficient in economic matters nor in rationalist thinking.”


“Well, the ‘deserving rich’ caused the global economic catastrophe of 2007 through their irrational economic policies, scams and criminal activity.”

“Were they held accountable for their crimes?”

“No. Governments bailed them out with the tax money of their victims.”

“Am I right in assuming that these people controlled the education system?”

“They certainly did – with the help of their media ownership. The rationalists had an obsession with measurement – hard data.. Remember I mentioned National Testing?”

“What did they hope to prove?”

“They proved in their newspapers that the schools of the rich, produced superior standards. It seemed irrelevant at the time that the rich excluded children with learning problems from their schools’ accounting procedures.”

“And the population accept this rigging of results?”

“Yes – with barely a murmur. The masses had their bread and circuses – alcohol, football, social networking, violent entertainments Parenting of that era can be judged in part by the inducting of the young into a grog and drug culture.”

The young lady remarked ‘Oh, I’ve heard of schoolies. But this national testing would teach children that it’s wrong to make mistakes.”

“Yes. It would.”

“But if you don’t make mistakes, all you’re doing is showing what you already know.”

“That’s correct.”

“So the people of the day, who supported this testing cult/ attacked the very basis of learning – making mistakes.

“That is so.”

“Good heavens,” remarked the young lady. ‘They must have been barbarians.”

[P.Thomson – inspired by Robert Kiyosaki, author of ‘If You Want to be Rich and Happy, Don’t go to School.’ ]


Kiyosaki, a real estate investor, says [1995] “ If you’re like most of us, your years at school do little to prepare you for the challenge of the real world.” Elsewhere he describes schooling as ‘negative programming’.

Australian schooling relies on Standardised Blanket Testing to program learning behaviour and to embed a standardised approach to challenges of the real world, Ergo! The further we go with NAPLAN, “….the more likely we are to have planted seeds of financial and emotional failure in our lives.” [Kiyosaki]

Yes, Paul Thomson. Our schooling is controlled by child-ignorant, child-abusive [worse than hand-slapping], learning-ignorant barbarians, hell-bent on negative programming.

Vote for positive schooling.

 VOTE for KIDS – NOT party politics. Don’t let ‘scores on tests’ control negative schooling.


Phil Cullen No. 83 A.M., A.Ed., B.Ed., Dip.Ed.Admin. M.Ed.Admin[Hons], Former Q’ld Director of Primary Education, FACE, FACEL, FQIEL,, Gold Medal FACEL, Life Member QSPSSA, QSPSCA,QSPSA,QSPPA,BPSRLSA. Founder:Treehorn Express, FNQPPA, Primary School Principal 23 years 41 Cominan Avenue, Banora Point 2486 07 5524 6443

Educational Readings July 26th

By Allan Alach


 So what’s the truth, Hekia?

My latest article for New Zealand’s ‘The Daily Blog.’

While focussing on the NZ situation, there’s relevance for educators all over.

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

 This week’s homework!

Quality of learning, process vs. product

‘Measuring quality in education is hard, partly because there is not one universal definition what good quality learning looks like. People have different connotations about educational quality, and the cultural perceptions are also very diverse.  Learning, like play, is individual and very situational and contextual.’

Poverty is what’s crippling public education in the US—not bad teachers (via Dianne Khan)

Recently New Zealand’s Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, referenced Eric Hanushek’s ‘four great teachers will solve all poverty related education issues’. Yeah right, as Antony Cody points out.

‘So I offer this warning to the people down under and beyond. This misguided emphasis is no more likely to work there than it has in the US—unless of course, New Zealand truly is “opposite land,” where hot snow falls up.’

 Only Thing You Need To Be A 21st Century Teacher

If you’re not a 21st century teacher already then you’ve missed the boat and should seriously consider whether another occupation is in order. Today’s 5 year olds hit the work force about 2028 and many will live to see the 22nd century. Are you teaching for their future or your past?

Writing survives the digital onslaught

“Can kidz rite 2day? Despite popular perceptions that the onslaught of texting, tweeting and other digital technologies is ruining students writing skills, a national survey of US teachers released last week found they offered such advantages as greater creativity, personal expression and increased collaboration.”

 England vs Scotland: Competing school reform visions

Let’s move to Scotland; or, how the Scots will kick butt …

‘England and Scotland may both be part of Great Britain, but they do not share a primary and secondary education system.  Indeed, those two systems appear to be headed in decidedly different directions.’

 Study Finds Spatial Skill Is Early Sign of Creativity

And not a national standard in sight…

“A gift for spatial reasoning — the kind that may inspire an imaginative child to dismantle a clock or the family refrigerator — may be a greater predictor of future creativity or innovation than math or verbal skills, particularly in math, science and related fields…”

Girls Should Play More Video Games, And Other Thoughts On “Cognitive Balance”

This follows on from the previous article, which found that girls were less competent in use of their spatial skills.

‘But males’ spatial edge may also reflect, in part, differences in the leisure-time activities of boys and girls, activities that add up to a kind of daily drill in spatial skills for boys.

If that’s the case, then offering girls more opportunities to practice their spatial skills may begin to close the spatial-skills gender gap—and produce more female scientists, engineers and mathematicians in the bargain.’

 Why teachers should read more children’s books

“A research project has found that teachers who read for pleasure have better book knowledge and feel more confident, calm and stress-free in the classroom. Research has shown that there is value in helping teachers become reading role models for the pupils they teach, and that developing teachers’ subject knowledge of children’s literature can contribute to a child or young person’s enjoyment of reading.”

 Project Learning in History Class (via Bruce Hammonds)

“The idea behind Project Based Learning is that students will understand more if they make meaning through inquiry based creation. Project Based Learning can apply to any discipline. We’ve tried it in our history classroom to varying levels of success. Being proponents of constructivism, Project Based Learning was not too much of a stretch for us to embrace, pedagogically. However, there are some challenges that result.”

The child at school

 Special guest: the child at school

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 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 Child At School

Our guest today is the child at school who is about to take charge of the 21st Century. The importance of its experiences at primary school level cannot be over-stressed.

“A child is a person who is going to carry on what you have started. Today’s child is going to sit where you are sitting, and when you are gone, attend to the things which you think are important. You may adopt all the policies you please; but how they are carried out depends on the child at school today. That little child is going to assume control of your cities, states and nations. That little pupil is going to take over your churches, schools, universities and corporations. All your books, policies and ideas are going to be judged by children at school today. The fate of humanity is in their hands.”

[Abraham Lincoln]

  •  The child from the age of five to twelve years has a variety of needs which may be broadly described as intellectual, aesthetic, social, emotional, physical and spiritual. The primary school has a vital role in assisting parents and the wider society to satisfy these needs. In fulfilling this role the school cannot operate in a vacuum nor be controlled by those who do not understand the uniqueness of each child and each school. It must work closely with the home and the community first and foremost.
  •  The narrow view that the school should be restricted to a specific range of cognitive skills, known as the 3Rs , is inappropriate and incomplete. The school is an essential learning centre where those skilled and knowledgeable in the nature of child learning can provide the opportunities for individual children’s development. Teachers possess these skills and knowledge. They are assisted by what they know about child growth and development; and they apply their professional expertise to the welfare of each child.
  • Each child is unique. Each has different needs, interests, levels of achievement, attitudes, spans of attention and backgrounds.
  • Aspects that are consistent include the following:
    • they are naturally curious and interested in the world around them;
    • they enjoy play and prefer to be happy;
    • their curiosity disposes them to handle things, explore situations and attempt new efforts;
    • they usually feel thrilled and motivated by achievement as much as they feel disappointed and rejected by failure;
    • they learn effectively when their own interests are being satisfied;
    • they learn by doing, observing, imitating and teaching other children. For them, learning is an active occupation.
  • Despite the similarities of interest, they grow and develop at different rates. These rates are not closely linked to their chronological age. The appropriateness of each learning experience is determined by the child. Within a group of twenty children, there will be twenty unique individuals and no attempts at standardisation with significantly alter the differences between them.
  • Schools are places that concentrate on intellectual development in a number of aspects of learning that are considered appropriate. This involves the development and refinement of the levels of Language, Mathematics, Science, Music, Art to suit the child. The child is helped to grow as a healthy and satisfied social being with an understanding of the world. These aspects are called subjects or curriculum offerings. They form a network that indicates the interrelatedness and interdependence of the offerings as they relate to child growth. The aspects may be compartmentalised in program planning or for descriptive purposes but, for the child they form global learning experiences.
  •  Schools tend to emphasise intellectual development that enhances the experiences that the child has at home and in the community. The society of the child emphasises certain intellectual lines of development as mentioned above. But, in other ways as well, the school is viewed as a vital socialising institution that satisfies a wide variety of social needs.
  • A child spends a great part of life as a member of a group. The group may be the family group, a specified community group, an unstructured peer group in the playground or in the neighbourhood. Membership of group confers certain rights and privileges. The experience of membership provides for development in co-operation, communication, tolerance, self-identity, ways of working in small social systems and in general relationships with each other. Membership engenders first-hand experiences in personal trait development. Society hopes that the learning outcomes of peer-influenced development will be positively consistent with prevailing social mores. The social milieu of the primary school is a vital part of the life-long development of people and of society itself.
  • The school is a focal point for individual experiences to meet. Social and intellectual backgrounds meet and mix at primary school. If it can arrange an environment that matches most individual needs and is able to develop them further, it will contribute substantially to the economic and social development of the country. National development depends on it.
  • An holistic learning environment – free from fear – in a school climate of love, learnacy and laughter is most essential for the child of the first-quarter of the 21st century, because each is confronted by technological and social changes and is more dominated by corporate and political control than any other group in history. The true spirit of primary schooling needs to prevail for the child’s sake.

[Original written for Primary Children in the A.C.T. –Canberra Publishing & Printing Co. 1981]


Vote TREEHORN for P.M.

VOTE for KIDS – NOT party politics. Don’t let ‘scores on tests’ control schooling.


Phil Cullen No. 83 A.M., A.Ed., B.Ed., Dip.Ed.Admin. M.Ed.Admin[Hons], Former Q’ld Director of Primary Education, FACE, FACEL, FQIEL,, Gold Medal FACEL, Life Member QSPSSA, QSPSCA,QSPSA,QSPPA,BPSRLSA. Founder:Treehorn Express, FNQPPA, Primary School Principal 23 years 41 Cominan Avenue, Banora Point 2486 07 5524 6443

Educational Readings July 19th

By Allan Alach

Diane at Save Our Schools NZ ran an Educational Poetry Slam.

There are some rather talented people out there…

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

 This week’s homework!

Teacher LEARNing, PD, CPD, Training….wotever! When are we going to get it ‘right’?

Another thoughtful post from Tony Gurr.

‘The learning opportunities we provide them just need it to be “fit-for-purpose”…to be convenient…to be useful…and fun (but not just a “laugh-and-giggle show”)…’

 The Big Lie in Education

‘“Preparing kids for the Real World” is a phrase that many educators and schools use without regard for the consequence of what they selectively choose as reality for their students. Both educators and institutions in many cases are still choosing for students by educating them traditionally, or more progressively using technology tools for learning. This probably begins with educators’ misconception of the real world. We cannot prepare kids for the Real World when we still have a 20th century view of it.’

 Why Testing Fails: How Numbers Deceive Us All

‘But, “teaching-to-the-test” is something different. It is an educational mindset, in which test scores are not measures of learning outcomes; the test scores are the outcomes. While that distinction might be subtle, it has real effects on how classes are taught, and in the messages we communicate to students about the goals of an education. Tests are measurement tools; they should not be the reasons that students come to class.’

 Why Are the Rich So Interested in Public-School Reform?

“…reformers need now to think beyond the numbers and admit that closing achievement gaps is not as simple as adopting a set of standards, accountability and instructional improvement strategies.”


“In other words, more than good teachers, more than targeted testing, more than careful calibrations of performance measures and metrics that can standardize and quantify every aspect of learning, it’s the messy business of life — where a child comes from and what he or she goes home to at the end of the day — that really determines success in school.”


 Along similar lines: The ‘educational’ value of being born rich

 Teachers or ‘Quantitative Learning Gains Facilitators?’

There is a myth going around our country that goes something like this: American (New Zealand? Australian?)schools have been dumbed down, bad teachers have been given free reign, our educational system is failing, and we will fail to be competitive in the new global economy.’

And so on. Recommended.

 Creativity unleashed!

Steve Wheeler, Associate Professor of learning technology in the Faculty of Health, Education and Society, at Plymouth University,  (Twitter @timbuckteeth) is well known to many teachers and is well worth following.

 Testing young children will cause untold damage (via Mike Boon)

Not exactly rocket science, is it? So why are politicians incapable of understanding this?

 Teaching Through Inquiry:Engage, Explore, Explain, and Extend

Holiday reading suggestion from Bruce Hammonds.

‘This article gives an overview of an instructional framework that takes students through the four components of inquiry: engage, explore, explain, and extend. The author describes the central aspects of each inquiry phase, the types of questions students might consider, assessments that check readiness to progress to the next level, and what reflective teacher practice might look like at each phase.’

 Henry Giroux – lessons for New Zealand educators.Revitalizing the role of public education.

by Bruce Hammonds:

‘I was recently sent a rather long article written by Henry Giroux. I struggled to read it but I believe it is important to share the ideas he writes about if the true aims of education are to realised. Giroux sees education as central to the development of a just and democratic society currently under attack by neo –liberal thinking.’

Care for Kids? Transfer fees.


TO:  Folk who care about kids, especially about  those kids from 5-15 years of age forced to go to school and ordered to sit for tests and examinations….the ‘Treehorns’ ….

                    • used by the unscrupulous,
                    • ignored by those who should care, and
                    • exploited by those who don’t.


Transfer Fees – Interchange between political parties.

The likelihood of making the top team is always dicey at best. Even when elite positions within the team are reached, a player’s  occupation of the position can be transitory. Selectors hire them for a short period and then get rid of them if they don’t do as we expect of them. Some last longer than they should. Communities are always on the look-out for outstanding substitutes and are prepared to go to great lengths to obtain the best available.

Isn’t it a pity that the notion of ‘transfer’ couldn’t apply to political parties in the same way that it does to football teams?  Let me present a case study.

The Australian Labor Party has lost its raison d’etre completely. That’s very plain. It used to care for the downtrodden and needy; and the children of the poor had a high priority. I can cite so many examples from the past. It is now doing as it is told by its corporate buddies and it has lost its caring, humanitarian base. The difference between it and its so-called opposition parties is difficult to distinguish. Both are specialist right wingers. Observers have great difficulty finding any single member of Australia’s major parties who would stick up for school kids and try to protect them from the prevailing inhumane treatment. Both sides advocate the ‘finger in the wind’ technique to measure the weather.

There is a Labour Party politician across the Tasman Sea who will speak his mind on behalf of children. Can Australian ‘Labor’ arrange for him to be transferred across the ditch on a three-year contract? He talks about kids instead of scores.  He will genuinely stick up for kids….a breath of fresh air.  He thinks. He can’t see ‘testing’ and top-down ‘reform’ living together. He is determined.

He probably prefers working with his own kids. BLAST. We could do with him in Australia.

His name is Chris Hipkins. He is the education spokesperson for the N.Z. Labour Party. At a recent Primary Principals’ Conference, he said the following in a speech that was described as…

“The Speech We’ve Been Waiting For”

Chris Hipkins

 “I totally reject the notion that increasing competition between schools will lead to better outcomes for everyone.”

 So let me be very clear about Labour’s position on Charter Schools. We see no place for them.  And any charter schools established under the current government will have no future under Labour.

 Our focus will be on ensuring that every schools is a great school.

 One of the most destructive things this government could do to quality education is to introduce ‘performance pay’ based on a narrow range of student achievement measures. If the alarm bells aren’t ringing, they should be. National Standards [known as NAPLAN in Australia] results are no measure of effective teaching.

 National Standards [known as NAPLAN in Australia] narrow the focus of teaching, encouraging teachers and students to concentrate time and attention on getting students over an arbitrary hurdle, rather than supporting that child to achieve full potential.   

 We recognise that parents want to know how their kids are going…how their kids are doing in Art and PE; how their social interactions are developing. 


If his true Labour Party views run  counter to those of Australian Labor Party views, he may not be welcomed. Too much to handle. Bill?  Would you dare?

Check him out :- Chris Hipkins Speaks


               No.83    Click. Based on Pasi Sahlberg’s original design, the table on Page 2 is a clear picture of ‘the way we are now.’.  You’ve seen this. This is what is going on in the big boys’ world. So. What does Australia do as its major schooling activity to bring itself into the world of learning?  You guessed it. It keeps checking scores of simple measureable items, using dull, fearsome NAPLAN tests to force our young kids to get higher scores on some antediluvian sorts of tests to please testucators, to fill the pockets of test and software companies; and to help politicians pat themselves on the back.  NAPLAN is the keystone of Australian Labor’s  intellectual movement towards yesterday. NAPLAN’s teleological purpose is to get in the first 5 in the PISA tests by 2025…..and our children’s creative, cognitive capacities to handle the future fly backwards.  It is staggering that anyone, ANYONE, supports NAPLAN through its downwards path.

I do wish that I could comprehend the real reasons why  principals’ associations and teachers’ unions in all sorts of places support easy-bent politicians of all colours in their sequacious pursuit of fear-based zombic functionalism. Parents listen to them. Our unions, associations, organisations and learned societies were once such reliable enthusiasts for maintaining a high moral stance on schooling issues.  They would not have closed their eyes to test-induced trauma on children. I need enlightenment. It’s so mystifying. Since I have always been a champion for their ideals and admirer of their professionalism, I am perplexed, disillusioned and disappointed. It’s the pits. I’m very, very sad. Please explain.

There is a  need for a reform-the-reform movement to banish all Standardised Blanket Testing before any other sort of reform can get under way. Is there a new-chum political candidate or party to stick up for kids and tidy up the mess first?  A Chris Hipkins?




  Phil Cullen No. 83 A.M., A.Ed., B.Ed., Dip.Ed.Admin. M.Ed.Admin[Hons], Former Q’ld Director of Primary Education, FACE, FACEL, FQIEL,, Gold Medal FACEL, Life Member QSPSSA, QSPSCA,QSPSA,QSPPA,BPSRLSA. Founder:Treehorn Express, FNQPPA, Primary School Principal 23 years    41 Cominan Avenue, Banora Point 2486    07 5524 6443

The effectiveness of the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy.

Special Guest Writer

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.




Ken Woolford has been an educator for 45 years. He has worked in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, overseas(International schools) and in two states and one Territory. He has taught in aboriginal community, State, Catholic and other private schools and currently manages a centre for about 50 homeschooling families. He has seven children (mostly graduate and postgraduate) and 14 grandchildren. He believes in empowering local professionals and parents in relation to children’s educational journeys.

Home-schooler and friend to many, many concerned parents, in this introduction to his Senate Inquiry Submission No. 61, Ken presents a succinct view of public schooling’s return to the archaic performances of by-gone years, which generated the reasons for him and his wife to “take their children away from the State”. He then provides cogent reasons for his dislike for NAPLAN. He says : ”Parents who trust their children loathe NAPLAN.”

 “Back when I attended Teachers College I was thoroughly drilled in how to run a class and a lesson – any subject, any grade. All the current Naplan texts would have fitted beautifully. Then I began to continue my professional readings and discussions, did further studies, and just sat and thought. I could ‘perform’ as a teacher, but I did not feel I was an educator.

Becoming a parent (and step parent) challenged me further. More reading, observing, thinking. After about eight years of teaching in a variety of situations, I knew I could not continue as merely a teacher. Education demanded so much of me and I loved it. Happy years.

 Now, my eldest daughter is a Head of Special Education in a State school, and feels exactly as I do. She loves her work – except the line she says she must walk, the line which allows her to keep her superiors happy and yet serve the children she works with to the degree that allows her to sleep at night. I never felt like this.

I, fortunately, have been able to set off on my own with my wife – working with parents who have taken the education of their children away from the State. They are exciting people to work with – they think, read, discuss and ‘educate’ (themselves and their families). Naplan means nothing to them – a test of old thinking. Their educational thinking has matured.

I watched Kevin Rudd at the Press Forum this week. He dwelt mainly on finance, but did mention Naplan – a ‘good idea’ he called it. Then moved on. None of the media present referred to education at all. My feedback is that parents of children in Australia’s schools overwhelmingly are indifferent to ‘big picture’ Education policies or love the ones now on offer. I’m stunned Naplan even got as far as a Senate Review.

Personally, I’m confident that anyone who listened to a panel of say, five top educators and three leading child psychologists, each talking for one to two minutes on children, brain development and education, would have to come away not just angry about Naplan, but flabbergasted at how the whole concept of education has been allowed to slowly drown by being anchored to the concept of ‘School 1960’ – which is what our governments have dragged us back to. But hey – they have done it because – that’s right – it’s popular and wins votes. Just like the boat people issue!

 For me it seems simple. Parents who trust their children loathe Naplan. Parents who do not trust or do not have confidence in their children see Naplan as the perfect intellectual pacifier – for the parents, of course.”

Phil Cullen.


 The effectiveness of the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy.

Ken Woolford

The Naplan testing has been operational since 2008, but prior to this similar testing had been taking place, mainly at a state level, for some years.

It is almost universally (ie, worldwide) accepted that designing any type of competition will require the competitors to focus their skill and knowledge training on the requirements of the competition.

Naplan is basically a competition, with all the limitations that entails. It is a natural outcome that schools will require their staff to focus their attentions on having children perform (I repeat -perform) well in the Naplan competition. The major difference here is that Naplan is generally believed to be compulsory for children to engage in (nip out to any local school and ask staff – if they do know it is optional then they will also know they are forbidden to inform families of this fact). So the first pieces of misinformation about Naplan regards what it actually is and the right of parents to refuse it for their children.

Naplan’ s importance in identifying ‘needy’ schools is an incorrect assumption. Postcode is the simplest clue. Second clue is – ask the locals. Look at University admission demographics. There are already many ways to locate needy schools. Naplan is unnecessary duplication. Naplan undermines local educational expertise. Parents are now encouraged to have a distant education ‘expert’ second guess the local education team. The assumption is that the in loco professionals are not fully trustworthy and that someone at a distance, who knows neither parent nor child, can better assess the student. Someone who is objective. Unfortunately, education is a very subjective field and requires strong bonds of trust for maximum benefits. Naplan has done nothing to promote confidence in educational professionals.

Wherever Naplan came from, it was not from a panel of classroom educators and parents looking for best practice when it comes to reporting on their children’s progress through school.

  • Standardised testing is just that – standardised. It assumes participants will perform at, above or below a norm. Results are merely an indication of a child’s capacity. Naplan is a competition, it’s results are seen as conclusive.
  • Standardised testing allows for the professional to decide when and where the testing is carried out. She can optimise the situation for the child. Naplan does not.
  • Standardised testing allows the professional to access its information (via results) almost immediately. Naplan does not.
  • Standardised tests are meant to be applied in response to individual requirements. Naplan emphasises group results.
  • Standardised tests assume that a suitably qualified educator is administering the test. Naplan needs no professionals to administer it.
  • Standardised tests are repeated to ensure consistency of results. Naplan is constantly changed, so no consistency is available.
  •  Standardised tests are professionally constructed based on a wealth of data and designed to help educators narrow the options for optimising assistance to individuals. Naplan is not and does not do these things.

Creators of Standardised tests per se would be appalled to think the tests were being used to publicly compare the results of those tested. Naplan is designed PRIMARILY to compare schools and classes within schools.

I could go on.

 Teaching and learning practices can best be improved through the teaching profession, parents and children collaborating on mutually agreed practices and outcomes. Naplan offers nothing of this. The tests are designed by people who are far removed from those taking them, without consultation, and to the specifications of politicians who are responding to – well who knows? A meaningful attempt to benefit ALL students would not include a one size fits all test. No professional would recommend such a creature. Indeed, the very idea would be considered child abuse. Yet Australian governments have forced Naplan on schools and refuse to allow professionals to inform families that they can withdraw their children from it.

 Naplan is probably the most unsophisticated response any government could have to improving outcomes for children. It assumes education is located only in the school; that it is centred around a few academic areas (thus diminishing the many aspects of life that most of us find most rewarding and are not integral to the Naplan topics); that professional educators are not compromised by the unquestioning presentation of such tests and the pre test teaching required; and that parents should not be informed of the limitations of the tests and the negative opinions of many (most?) of the education profession – and indeed of other parents. Naplan needs to come with a warning label. Naplan needs to be dropped. There are any number of well designed, subject based competitions students can compete in if they so wish. Monitoring of children’s educational (not school) progress is best done through a collaborative approach of educators, parents, children and other support/family people – the proverbial ‘village’ it takes to raise a child. These teams can be supported, in turn by advisors who can be invited to offer ideas and direction. Distant bureaucrats are generally impediments.

 They answer to political masters and have no commitment to local needs.


 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 July 12th

By Allan Alach

News from USA and also from New Zealand has been one of progress in the anti-GERM battle. Mind you it is a case of 3 steps forward, 2.5 steps back, but its in the right direction. Hang on in there, wherever you may be. We will prevail.

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

 This week’s homework!

A truly great question

US educator Jamie McKenzie is another valuable person to add to your reading list, and if you get a chance to attend one of his workshops, take it! In this article he explores the value of truly great questions in stimulating purposeful inquiry learning.

 My Message to the Badass Association of Teachers

Diane Ravitch, probably the leading voice in the USA anti-GERM battle, wrote the following message when asked to join the Badass Teachers  Association, formed to empower teachers’ voices. Her message is powerful indeed, for all teachers wherever they may be.

‘Teachers must resist, because you care about your students, and you care about your profession. You became a teacher to make a difference in the lives of children, not to take orders and obey the dictates of someone who doesn’t know your students.’

 Bruce Hammonds has posted this article about Diane.

The Mother of all Curriculum Myths …(the RE-boot)

Indepth posting by Tony Gurr that examines the difference between GERM like imposed curricula and the real learning involved in genuinely holistic curricula. This is an excellent resource for anti-GERM debates.

 Freedom from Wasted Training: The e-Learning Bill of Rights (via David Kinane)

‘One of my greatest frustrations in working in e-learning for so many years, is that as technologies come and go, the rights and values of the learner are repeatedly compromised in preference to arbitrary limitations set by software, management systems, unrealistic development environments, impossible performance expectations, etc.  In pursuing some particular development goal, the central importance of the learner experience is lost, or at least muddled.’

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore…

Interesting article about adapting Google’s 20% time to the classroom.

So much for the language police (via Bruce Hammonds)

Stephen Fry takes a firm stance on grammar. He doesn’t go the way you’d think.

Academics’ view of NAPLAN

 Distinguished Guest Writers

 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 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.


 David Hornsby of Literacy Educators added this declaration to his telling Submission No. 35 made to the recent unnoticed Senate Committee of Inquiry into the effectiveness of NAPLAN. You are strongly advised to check with . It’s a treasure trove of information.



Letter of support from academics for the “say no to naplan” campaign.

We are a group of Australian academics teaching in universities. As a group we are appalled at the way in which the Commonwealth government has moved to a high stakes testing regime in the form of NAPLAN, despite international evidence that such approaches do not improve children’s learning outcomes.

To date there has been little informed debate in this country about the use of NAPLAN as a measure of student (and teacher) academic achievement. These tests have little merit given they focus on assessment of learning rather than assessment for learning and they are being misused for a variety of political agendas.

Pressure on teachers and children to perform well on NAPLAN tests is narrowing the curriculum and eroding time in classrooms for quality teaching and learning activities. Conservative estimates of this testing regime – which only provides a snapshot of a student’s progress in some aspects of literacy and numeracy at one point in time – are around $100 million annually. Such funding could and should be used more appropriately to meet the needs of children experiencing learning difficulties.

 CURRENT SIGNATORIES (more adding each day)

Nerissa Albon, Monash University

Assoc Prof Michael Anderson, University of Sydney

Julie Anderson, RMIT University

Prof Lawrie Angus, University of Ballarat

Assoc Prof Peter Aubusson, University of Technology, Sydney

Dr Glenn Auld, Deakin University

Assoc Prof Jon Austin, University of Southern Queensland

Dr Bill Baker, University of Tasmania

Prof Catherine Beavis, Griffith University

Dr Adam Bertram, Monash University

Dr Kerry Bissaker, Flinders University

Assoc Prof Janette Bobis, University of Sydney

Dr Kate Brass, University of Ballarat

Dr Margarita Breed, RMIT University

Prof Marie Brennan, Victoria University

Martyn Brogan, Victoria University

Assoc Prof Penny Bundy, Griffith University

Dr Jenene Burke, University of Ballarat

Dr Peter Burridge, Victoria University

Andrea Burton, Griffith University

Assoc Prof Brian Cambourne, University of Wollongong

Julie Carmel, RMIT University

Nicky Carr, RMIT University

Assoc Prof Annemaree Carroll, University of Queensland

Dr Barbara Chancellor, RMIT University

Garry Collins, Australian Catholic University

Assoc Prof Maxine Cooper, University of Ballarat

Dr Suzanne Covich, Edith Cowan University WA

Dr Russell Cross, University of Melbourne

Dr Michael Crowhurst, RMIT University

Dr Lexi Cutcher, Southern Cross University

Assoc Prof Gloria Dall-Alba, University of Queensland

Dr Ann Davies, University of New South Wales

Dr Robert Davis, University of Ballarat

Prof Chris Davison, University of New South Wales

Prof Brenton Doecke, Deakin Univeristy

Assoc Prof Shelley Dole, University of Queensland

Dr Debra Edwards, La Trobe University

Dr Jennifer Elsden-Clifton, RMIT University

Prof Marie Emmitt, Australian Catholic University

Prof Robyn Ewing, University of Sydney

Dr Beryl Exley, Queensland University of Technology

Dr Julie Faulkner, Monash University

Assoc Prof Heather Fehring, RMIT University

Sylvana Fenech, RMIT University

Dr Annette Foley, University of Ballarat

Debi Futter-Puati, RMIT University

Prof Trevor Gale, Deakin University

Dr Robyn Gibson, University of Sydney

Andrew Gilbert, RMIT University

(Hon) A Prof Libby Gleeson, University of Sydney

Prof Barry Golding, University of Ballarat

Dr Emily Gray, RMIT University

Dr Peter Grootenboer, Griffith University

Prof Susan Groundwater-Smith, University of Sydney

Dr Cathryn Hammond, University of South Australia

Dr Mary Hanrahan, RMIT University

Dr Alan Hill, University of Tasmania

Cameron Hindrum, University of Tasmania

Dr Steven Hodge, University of Ballarat

Dr Eileen Honan, University of Queensland

Dr Neil Hooley, Victoria University

Anne Houghton, RMIT University

Dr Kerry Howells, University of Tasmania

Dr Mary Ann Hunter, University of Tasmania

Dr Kirsten Hutchison, Deakin University

Anita Jetnikoff, Queensland University of Technology

Dr Jenny Johnston, Southern Cross University

Dr Robbie Johnston, University of Tasmania

Jorge Jorquera, Victoria University

Dr Jayne Keogh, Griffith University

Dr Lisa Kervin, University of Wollongong

Assoc Prof Tony Kruger, Victoria University

Dr Gloria Latham, RMIT University

Anya Latham, RMIT University

Assoc Prof Rosie Le Cornu, University of South Australia

Dr Lynette Longaretti, RMIT University

Dr Pam Macintyre, University of Melbourne

Assoc Prof Liz Mackinlay, University of Queensland

Dr Amanda McGraw, University of Ballarat

Dr Kelli McGraw, Queensland University of Technology

Dr Mary-Rose McLaren, Victoria University

Jan McLean, University of NSW

Dr Jessica Mantei, University of Wollongong

Assoc Prof Jackie Manuel, University of Sydney

Dr Genee Marks, University of Ballarat

Dr Kathy Mills, Queensland University of Technology

Dr Paul Molyneux, University of Melbourne

Dr Greg Neal, Victoria University

Marion Nicolazzo, University of Melbourne

Prof Andrea Nolan, Victoria University

Dr Joanne O’Mara, Deakin University

Dr Kerry-Ann O’Sullivan, Macquarie University

Dr Graham Parr, Monash University

Dr Rachel Patrick, RMIT University

Dr Louise Phillips, University of Queensland

Dr Marc Pruyn, Monash University

Terri Redpath, Deakin University

Prof Alan Reid AM, University of South Australia

Dr Kerry Renwick, Victoria University

Rowena Riek, Griffith University

Roy Rozario, Monash University

Kathy Rushton, University of Sydney

Susan Rutherford, Monash University

Dr Ann Ryan, University of Ballarat

Dr Mary Ryan, Queensland University of Technology

Bronwyn Ryrie Jones, RMIT University

Hon Assoc Ken Searle, University of Sydney

Dr Marg Sellers, RMIT University

Dr Cheryl Semple, RMIT University

Assoc Prof Geoff Shacklock, RMIT University

Simon Shaw, University of Tasmania

Andrew Skourdoumbis, RMIT University

Catherine Smyth, University of Sydney

Dr John Smyth, University of Ballarat

Prof Alana Snyder, Monash University

Bill Spence, University of Sydney

Dr Madonna Stinson, Griffith University

Elly Thomson, RMIT University

Prof Georgina Tsolidis, University of Ballarat

Dr Jan Turbill, University of Wollongong

Dr Mark Vicars, Victoria University

Jo Virgona, RMIT University

Dr Jana Visnovska, University of Queensland

Dr Mary Weaven, Victoria Univerity

Hon Assoc Nadia Wheatley, University of Sydney

Lyn Wilkinson, Flinders University

Jo Williams, Victoria University

Dr Jacqueline Wilson, University of Ballarat

Assoc Prof Margaret Zeegers, University of Ballarat

Dr Lew Zipin, Victoria University

Dr David Zyngier, Monash University




 NOTE : A National Conference of Literacy Educators is being held at QUT, Brisbane this week-end. Reports have indicated that “…there is nothing but negative comments about NAPLAN testing at the conference. Even the keynote speakers have expressed their concern or their disgust.”




  Phil Cullen No. 83

A.M., A.Ed., B.Ed., Dip.Ed.Admin. M.Ed.Admin[Hons],

Former Q’ld Director of Primary Education,



Founder:Treehorn Express,


Primary School Principal 23 years

41 Cominan Avenue, Banora Point 2486

07 5524 6443 

Educational Readings July 5th

By Allan Alach

LIfe is getting busy on the educational readings front. This is a selection of the many I could have sent your way, much to the relief of many, I suspect!

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

This week’s homework!

 Education and the blame game

Dianne Khan’s article is a must read. Really!

‘Who is to blame that some students achieve less than others? Is apportioning blame and pointing fingers actually helpful for anything other than head-line grabbing? Admit it – did you click on this because of the headline, hoping for an easy answer? Well there isn’t one.  It’s a complex issue.’

 Great Teachers Don’t Teach

Wonder if the people who design the 6 week teacher courses know anything about this?

‘… great teachers engineer learning experiences that maneuver the students into the driver’s seat and then the teachers get out of the way.’

Nigel Latta on National Standards

Bruce Hammonds’ republishing of a Nigel Latta posting about New Zealand’s national standards – a must read.

The Matthew Effect: What Is It and How Can You Avoid It In Your Classroom? (via Tony Gurr)

Heard of the Matthew Effect before? I hadn’t either, until I read this article.

‘The only reason not to reward the best and brightest for their achievements is to avoid punishing the rest for their shortcomings.’


‘How The Labels You Place On Your Students Affect Their Performance’

 Unpacking the sound bite “quality teaching eliminates socioeconomic advantage”

Recently New Zealand’s Minister of Education Hekia Parata made the unsupported claim that four years of quality teaching would overcome the effects of poverty on children’s learning.  Rubbish but not surprising as this is her usual level of discourse. Save Our Schools NZ blogger Dianne Khan has done the required debunking – a recommended read!

 Finland’s education ambassador spreads the word (via Mike Boon)

‘Pasi Sahlberg was Finland’s chief inspector of schools … until it was decided teachers did not need Ofsted-style surveillance. Now his job is global spokesman for the Finnish message.’

We can’t have too many articles about Sahlberg and Finland!

Rip van Winkle and schools

An oldie from Bruce Hammonds (2006)  – what has changed?

 Video Section.

How to Change Education – from the ground up

Video of an hour long webcast from July 1st that features a presentation from Sir Ken Robinson where he ‘delivers the long-awaited follow-up to his now legendary ‘Changing Education Paradigms’ talk.’

An edited version will be available at some time, if you can’t find one hour in your busy life.

 Michael Rosen on Education (via Bruce Hammonds)

Author of ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.’ Poor quality video but the message makes up for it!

Why too often do schools kill curiosity (via Bruce Hammonds)

Diffendoofer day (via Phil Cullen)

A video variation of the well known Dr Suess story, from Opotiki College, that reflects on the potential impact of tests to rate schools.


I’m Treehorn, the green boy.

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 curricululoss 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 .




I'm Treehorn

A.M., A.Ed., B.Ed., Dip.Ed.Admin. M.Ed.Admin[Hons],
Former Q’ld Director of Primary Education,
Founder:Treehorn Express,
Primary School Principal 23 years   
41 Cominan Avenue, Banora Point 2486   
07 5524 6443