Educational Readings November 29th

By Allan Alach

Apologies for the long list this week – gems kept turning up. The list could have been longer!

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

This week’s homework!

Master of many trades: Our age reveres the specialist but humans are natural polymaths, at our best when we turn our minds to many things.

Not strictly educational, but, then again, isn’t this what education should be focussing on, rather than GERM? Shouldn’t the focus of education be on guiding all children to become polymaths?

‘An intriguing study funded by the Dana foundation and summarised by Dr Michael Gazzaniga of the University of California, Santa Barbara, suggests that studying the performing arts — dance, music and acting — actually improves one’s ability to learn anything else. Collating several studies, the researchers found that performing arts generated much higher levels of motivation than other subjects.’

 Do You have the Personality To Be an Inquiry-Based Teacher?

‘So far, the challenges of transforming education into a system capable of inspiring students to become skillful, creative, knowledgeable problem-solvers fall into familiar territory: What types of curriculum, standards, skills, strategies, and adaptations to classroom teaching methods will be necessary to do this? But it’s likely these will prove to be secondary questions. As education crosses the divide between a transmission model and an inquiry model, a more pressing issue will be apparent: How do we identify, attract, nurture, and train teachers who have an “inquiry-friendly” personality?’

 9 reasons why I am NOT a Social Constructivist

Right, here’s your dose of learning theory for this week. Do you agree? Disagree? Why?

Kelvin Smythe comments, ‘Social constructivism may not be that great as a teaching and learning theory, but to dismiss it as having a negligible effect on the learning valued by a society is silly.’

‘Educators nod sagely at the mention of ‘social constructivism’ confirming the current orthodoxy in learning theory. To be honest, I’m not even sure that social constructivism is an actual theory, in the sense that it’s verified, studied, understood and used as a deep, theoretical platform for action.’

 Pearson ‘Education’ — Who Are These People? (via Donna Yates Mace – USA)

This article looks at Pearson Group’s fingers in the USA education pie, but be assured, people, they will be coming to your country (if not already there). You were wondering why education has become a battlefield?

According to a recent article on Reuters, an international news service based in Great Britain, “investors of all stripes are beginning to sense big profit potential in public education. The K-12 market is tantalizingly huge: The U.S. spends more than $500 billion a year to educate kids from ages five through 18. The entire education sector, including college and mid-career training, represents nearly 9 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, more than the energy or technology sectors.”

Test the World: The coming global testing boondoggle(via Donna Yates Mace – USA)

Frightening stuff, unless you have shares in Pearson Group…

“[W]e do not yet know the full scale of the crisis because measurement of learning achievement is limited in many countries, and hence difficult to assess at the international level. A global data gap on learning outcomes is holding back progress on education quality.”

 International test scores: Getting the data straight

Valerie Strauss:

‘Here is a third post in a debate on The Answer Sheet about international test scores and whether they tell us anything important about the U.S. public education system. The conversation began with a post I wrote last week titled “The fetishization of international test scores” which looked to the upcoming release of 2012 PISA test scores on Dec. 3 and said we place too much attention on these scores.’

 A Student Explains What’s Wrong With Our School System And Why We Mistrust Teachers. Nails It.

‘This kid (Eh ??? Young adult…)  nails the problem with Common Core in a new way, claiming that we’re ruining the way we teach and learn. It’s keeping teachers from doing what they’re so good at and students from being real human learners.’

Beyond tests: How to foster imagination in students

Another excellent article from USA educator Marion Brady.

‘Those paying attention know that the high-stakes testing craze has pushed hundreds of thousands of kids out of school, trivialized learning, radically limited teacher ability to adapt to learner differences, and  ended many physical education, art, and music programs.’

Are schools squandering their teachers’ talent?: We must stop squirreling away our teachers’ talent. It’s time to invest in it like other high performing nations do, say Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan.

Written about England but equally applicable elsewhere. This is a MUST READ.

‘Talent is not just something we should hope our teachers have and feel lucky when they do. It is something we have to find, invest in, build, and circulate, very deliberately, if we are going to get great returns from it. Approaching talent development in this way is what we call investment in professional capital. The professional capital of teachers cannot be squandered recklessly for short-term gains. Nor should it be squirreled away in individual schools and classrooms so no one else can have access to it. But this is exactly what too many people are doing – especially people in policy.’

 Are We in an Age of Collective Learning? (via Tony Gurr)

‘As William Gibson said “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.” So are we heading to a world of connected learning, network thinking, and networked libraries? ‘

 This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

 3 Strategies to Promote Independent Thinking in Classrooms

‘….the classroom should become an incubator for growing students’ attentional capacity. Instruction should be organized in intriguing yet challenging ways to foster attention. Teachers can utilize three strategies to cultivate improved focus: sequencing instruction, recovery from mistakes, and setting goals.’

 Balancing the art and science of education

‘As we continue to fight to keep the arts in education, it is time to realize that the real fight is keeping the art in education. When I first started teaching many years ago, teaching was primarily seen as an art — an innate ability to use creative skill and imagination to communicate and build relationships that facilitate learning. The curriculum guide was a small gray book covering all subjects. Now, teaching is seen primarily as a science.’

Promoting a growth mindset for all students

‘What if we gave a test and everyone passed? That should be the goal! If that happened, however, instead of celebrating that success, policymakers likely would have the test-makers create harder tests. The reason is pretty clear: standardized tests primarily are for controlling education, not educating students.’

From Bruce’s ‘Oldies but Goodies’ blogs from the past.

The Da Vinci Formula

‘What we need are some better ideas. In a Fast Company e-zine a number of creative individuals were asked to say where they thought new ideas came from. I thought it worth sharing some of their ideas as businesses have given up on improvement; they appreciate we are living in a world that requires new thinking!

Standardisation or creativity; McDonalds or Weta Workshops?

‘The pattern is quite universal – declare a crisis, impose standards in a big hurry to avoid debate, then impose measures to ensure compliance with the standards, declare the results of the measures unsatisfactory, blame the teachers and the schools for poor performance, label critics whiners and wimps for using poverty and endemic unemployment as crutches for their own failures.’

Aussie Friends: Whitlam Institute – Parental Attitudes.

Aussie Friends of Treehorn

Probable Protectors of School Children

Stress – A Curriculum Imperative?

On 27/11/13, the Whitlam Institute within the University of Western Sydney, published its third report on its project ‘to examine the questions concerning the NAPLAN testing regime within the context of the purposes of education and the best interests of the children, as defined by the Melbourne Declaration of 2009.’

The First phase examined the literature of the world and found that ‘…there are serious concerns internationally about the impact the tests have on students.

‘What emerged consistently in the international research were serious concerns regarding the impact of high stakes testing on student health and well-being, learning, teaching and curriculum. The consistency of these findings raised legitimate questions and deep concern regarding the Australian experience.”

The Second phase examined the impact of high-stakes testing on school pupils and their families.

“The report suggested that the NAPLAN testing regime is plagued by unintended consequences well beyond its stated intent and added weight to the contention that it does represent a shift in ‘high stakes’ testing.

The findings not only confirmed those trends identified in research conducted in the USA and the UK, but also provided substantial evidence on the impacts NAPLAN is having on the Australian curriculum, pedagogy, staff morale, schools’ capacity to attract and retain students and more importantly students’ health and well-being.”

This third paper reports on Parental Attitudes and Perceptions Concerning NAPLAN. About one-third [34%] of all parents are opposed to NAPLAN. A little over half [56%] are in favour. It’s not well liked. Only about 70% indicated that they found the information useful.

“It is noteworthy that around 40 percent of parents reported some sign of stress or anxiety exhibited by their child as a result of NAPLAN.”

This means that almost half of each class exhibits sufficient anxiety about a school induced operation that parents seriously notice it! 40%!!


The summary is available on

The full 16-page report is available on


The media has grasped the startling revelation that stress and anxiety is now embedded in the processes attached to NAPLAN testing. This outcome has to be of deep concern to anyone who likes children. Yesterday’s print press [SMH] quoted comments of interest…..

  1.  Dr. Eric Sidoti, Director of the Institute and co-author of the report [with Ms Justine Chambers] says that the perceived rate of stress was ‘not something to be ignored. Numbers of students show reasonably serious forms of anxiety. So, while you can discount to some degree, there’s enough here to suggest that’s it’s a little bit more serious than that.”
  2.  Naively, the general manager and measurement guru of ACARA the testing authority, Peter Adams, suggested that the level of anxiety was no more than the shaky-legs before a swimming race or school production. “They shouldn’t be anxious about it and in our observations teachers, parents and schools understand that. And if the student’s a little bit anxious, that might be because that’s just a natural reaction in some kids.”                                                                               Continue reading

Friends of Treehorn: Gonski & G.O.N.S.K.I.

Aussie Friends of Treehorn

Probable Protectors of Children.

Gonksi and G.O.N.S.K.I.

‘Gonski’ refers to the Committee led by respected businessman, David Gonski which recommended sweeping reforms to the manner in which taxpayers’ money, held in trust by the commonwealth and state governments, should be distributed for schooling purposes. The Gonski report, recommending fairness, equity and the popular Australian notion of fair-dinkumness, is now the subject of a disgraceful dispute between the bean-counters of how to make the most of the political capital that such a bundle of money can provide. ‘Gonski’ is about MONEY.

G.O.N.S.K.I. is about kids in classroom. It’s a fortuitous acronymic plea to ‘them’ to GUIDE OUR NATIONS’ SCHOOL KIDS INTELLIGENTLY. It constantly calls on our state and commonwealth ministers of education [who meet at the end of this week], to consider the fate of kids at school now being treated in a most ignoble and abominable fashion. The crazed reformers are operators of a ‘…high-stakes testing craze [that] has pushed thousands of kids out of school, trivialized learning, limited teacher ability to adapt to learner differences, and ended many physical education, art, and music programs.’ (Marion Brady} They need to find out what impact their evil testing program, NAPLAN, has had on the teacher/pupil classroom interactions that should take effective teaching/learning to the highest of limits, but has, so far, only reduced them to mediocre standards and lower; thus producing no useful results.

These unimaginative, uninformed and inexperienced cockalorums cunningly dodge the main issues of schooling.

As Washington Post writer, Marion Brady points out, our school-based educators are not free to use higher-order teaching skills with limitless goals…because standardised tests can’t evaluate what children do. Classroom work is too complex, too original, too idiosyncratic to be scored by tests and testing machines.’

He points out, as any experienced class teacher will point out, that the tests produce only anxiety and distress with no lasting learning accomplishments . ‘Test-inundated kids get depressed, sick, cry, soil their underwear, vomit, hate themselves when they can’t finish a test or don’t know the answers, tune out or drop out when their scores tell them that they’re not minimally competent.’

When the clowns have finished brawling over the Gonski dollars in the next few days, let the rest of us call on them [the inmates who run the cuckoo-nest], to G.O.N.S.K.I. and really improve the school condition.

The unintelligent, fear-driven continuance of NAPLAN testing is too serious to ignore; but the real conversation has been taken over by nasty money-rows. Shame on us for allowing it.


Phil Cullen, 41 Cominan Avenue, Banora Point. 2486 07 4424 6443

Educational Readings November 22nd

By Allan Alach

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

 This week’s homework!

 The fetishization of international test scores

Yet another excellent posting by Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post.

‘First of all, judging just about anything important on the sole basis of test scores is never a good idea. That’s not just me talking; assessment experts say it over and over and over.’

 What is developmentally appropriate in learning?

Another gem from Valerie Strauss, featuring an article by Daniel Willingham:

‘In sum, I don’t think developmental psychology is a good guide to what children should learn; it provides some help in thinking about how children learn. The best guide to “what” is what children know now, and where you want their learning to head.’

 Genuine vs. sham accountability

I don’t always agree with Grant Wiggins; however here is an exception.

‘Accountability is ‘responsibility for’ and ‘responsiveness to’ results, as the dictionary reminds us. Teachers who are sometimes deemed unwilling by the public to be held accountable are the same educators who serve as athletic coaches and teachers in the performing and vocational arts – where they are happy to be held responsible for performance results, since the tasks are worthy, the scores are valid and (over time) reliable, and the whole system is public and fair.’

 Subverting the System: Student and Teacher as Equals

The sad part of this article is that it is presented as a new idea…..

‘So instead, he presented problems for the students to solve: He challenged them to learn about physics by analyzing how children interact with toys and playground equipment, and to learn about the world of design firms by designing a playground for a real group of third-graders.’

 Accountability, Privatization, and the Devaluation of the Career Educator

‘During the past 30 years, a variety of political, economic, and social forces have shaped the current landscape of public education, a landscape defined by increasing accountability and privatization. Simultaneously, those same forces have contributed to the devaluation of the “career educator” and have produced a leadership vacuum at the local, state, and national levels.’

 The education of Christopher Pyne

This article is about the current Australian Minister of Education, but the points made are relevant all over.

‘Standardised testing.The Minister proposes to strengthen NAPLAN and place it on line. Standardised testing has been a feature of the ‘reforms’ in the US and its effects have been carefully analysed. At its extreme the tests are justified by advocates as parents’ democratic right to know the quality of their child’s school. The main argument is that the tests help improve student achievement. Unequivocally they do not! ‘

 ‘The butterfly effect’ in schools.

With the complexity of a school environment, teeming with diversity and life, like a veritable rainforest, it is likely you cannot guide the butterflies in any direction. People in schools: teachers and students, are maddeningly similar. Flying in formation never really occurs as we intend it to, no matter how rigid the top-down leadership. We can but develop and maintain the conditions for our particular ‘butterflies‘ to thrive. This will likely happen from the bottom up – like those small but powerful butterfly wings freely beating their haphazard, seemingly chaotic pattern.’

 Lectures Didn’t Work in 1350—and They Still Don’t Work Today

A conversation with David Thornburg about designing a better classroom

‘In his latest book, From the Campfire to the Holodeck: Creating Engaging and Powerful 21st Century Learning Environments, Thornburg outlines four learning models: the traditional “campfire,” or lecture-based design; the “watering hole,” or social learning; the “cave,” a place to quietly reflect; and “life”—where ideas are tested.’

 This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

 Henry Pluckrose – creative educator

Another ‘blast from the past’ article by Bruce.

‘Henry knew that the means to solve the problem of the long tail of underachievement by facing up to underlying poverty of the ‘failing’ children and the need to develop and share the creative capacity of schools and teachers. He would be keen, as I am, to replace the ‘state theory of learning’ with an emphasis on sharing the ways we know how children learn; powerful pedagogy rather than recipe and prescription. He would want teachers to move away from mere ‘delivery’ and compliance and to place more attention to engaging students in realistic contexts.’

 Transforming schools through Project Based Learning (PBL) .

Bruce writes:

‘American educationalist Thom Markham is an enthusiast for Project Based Learning (PBL) and believes that the most important innovation schools can implement is high quality project based learning.He provides seven important design principles for teachers to ensure project based learning is of the highest quality.’

 How to Get High-Quality Student Work in PBL

‘Things can appear to be going smoothly — students have been engaged by the project, they’ve been learning content and skills, they’ve been busy and meeting deadlines — but their thinking is not as in-depth and their final products not as polished as they should be. If this is your experience, it’s time to ask yourself some questions.’

 Too much, too young: Should schooling start at age 7?

‘This would bring it in line with the overwhelming evidence showing that starting school later is best, and the practice in many countries, such as Sweden and Finland. These countries have better academic achievement and child well-being, despite children not starting school until age 7.’

 To Look Closely

Bruce’s comments about this book: ‘The book blurb reminds of us what we were once good at!’

‘Whether it’s a trickling stream, a grassy slope, or an abandoned rail line, the natural world offers teachers a wonderful resource around which to center creative, inquiry-based learning throughout the year. Nobody knows this better than veteran teacher Laurie Rubin. In To Look Closely: Science and Literacy in the Natural World, she demonstrates how nature study can help students become careful, intentional observers of all they see, growing into stronger readers, writers, mathematicians, and scientists in the process.’


Educational Readings November 15th

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!

When You Hear Claims That Policies Are Working, Read The Fine Print

Applicable to all GERM infected countries.

‘There’s a huge middle ground between the highest-quality research and the kind of speculation that often drives our education debate. I’m not saying we always need experiments or highly complex analyses to guide policy decisions (though, in general, these are always preferred and sometimes required). The point, rather, is that we shouldn’t draw conclusions based on evidence that doesn’t support those conclusions.’

A New Pedagogy is Emerging…And Online Learning is a Key Contributing Factor

What do you think? Looking forward to reading your observations in the comments section! This seems to be aimed at post-secondary, but, if this contention is valid, then it has implications for all levels of education.

‘Recent developments in digital technologies, especially web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis and social media, and mobile devices such as phones and tablets, have given the end user, the learner, much more control over access to and the creation and sharing of knowledge. This empowers learners, and innovative instructors are finding ways to leverage this learner control to increase motivation and relevance for learners.’

We need a war on poverty, not teachers (via Dianne Khan)

‘In short, if we were serious about education, then our education discussion wouldn’t be focused on demonizing teachers and coming up with radical schemes to undermine traditional public schools. It would instead be focused on mounting a new war on poverty and thus directly addressing the biggest education problem of all.’

The Finnish Miracle

Here’s a set of slides (PDF format) from Pasi Sahlberg detailing why Finnish schools are working and why GERM doesn’t work. These may be useful for your own presentations.

 The Principal: The Most Misunderstood Person in All of Education:

Having spent 20 years in the hot seat, this article resonates with me.

‘The principal is both the administrative director of state educational policy and a building manager, both an advocate for school change and the protector of bureaucratic stability. Authorized to be employer, supervisor, professional figurehead, and inspirational leader, the principal’s core training and identity is as a classroom teacher.’

 Why Standards-Based Teaching is a Hopeless Way to Educate Youth

‘The standards-based accountability system of schooling treats students are like androids who come to school to mechanically learn to follow a path established by adults, many of whom have no idea what it is like in a 3rd, 8th, or 12th grade classroom.  Nor do these adults have any idea about the aspirations, creativity, and inventiveness of students in these grades.  Yet, these policy makers have established a system of education that is a meticulous set of performance statements that all students should learn in mathematics, English language arts (The Common Core State Standards), and science (The Next Generation Science Standards).’

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

New Slide: Being Responsible for Teaching the Bored

‘If we are going to demand that students learn the huge sets of isolated facts that we jam into state and district curricula, can we really be surprised when teachers struggle to create highly engaged learning spaces that are driven by passion and interest?  More importantly, if we are convinced that learners are more likely to BE engaged when they  are wrestling with concepts that move them on a deeply personal level, can we really be surprised when our students find today’s schools boring?’

Wanted: ‘Canny Outlaws!

Looking way back, here’s an article Bruce wrote in 2005 that is still relevant.

‘He was challenging us to have the courage of our convictions and not to meekly accept everything that was being imposed on schools as the gospel truth. His argument was that Indiana Jones was a good model because he was an individual who took short cuts, cut through red tape, but at all times acted morally for the cause of the greater good.’

These 11 Leaders Are Running Education But Have Never Taught

Those who can’t do, teach. 
Those who can’t teach, teach others how to teach. 
Those who can’t teach others how to teach are educational researchers. 
Those who have no understanding of education at all are education ‘reformers.’  

(Apologies to G.B Shaw)

 The End of Education

Bruce’s comment: I came across this article and it resonated so much with my thoughts I have posted it as a blog.

‘Education as a dwelling in the human experience of reality is ending. As with the Roman Empire, it is ending with a whimper, not a bang.The root of the problem is that we have absorbed the socio-economic and intellectual values of our age, an age ruled by business and science. The pragmatic values of business and science have become the values of our educational practices.’

Pink Floyd – ‘teacher leave that child alone’. The difference between education and schooling.

Looking back two days, here’s Bruce’s latest blog posting.

‘My belief is that if schools focussed on education rather than schooling then we wouldn’t have the so called ‘achievement gap’ that politicians blame schools for.’

Gratitude Can Fuel School Transformation

This approach would surely beat performance pay and other ‘accountability’ measures. Daniel Pink would agree.

‘One of the most common complaints I hear from teachers, administrators, and staff working in public schools is something along the lines of, “I don’t feel appreciated.” I’d like to propose that by simply incorporating a range of practices that allow ourselves and others to express gratitude, we might transform our schools. We’d certainly retain more effective educators, build stronger relational trust, and develop a culture that focuses on the positive — in all adults and all children.’

Educational Readings November 9th

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!

Political Cowardice Is Political Courage

Highly recommended article for all who live in GERM infected countries.

‘To be blunt, there isn’t a single courageous thing about the Obama education agenda and policies; in fact, the education policy of the Obama administration is built on and increases the exact commitments to standards, high-stakes testing, and punitive accountability measures begun in the early 1980s.’

The GREAT Teachers & Principals Act will (not) fix our teachers

While written for and about the USA, this article has relevance all over.

‘In this current model, there are few incentives to attract the best and brightest into the field: long hours, high stress, little pay, and no respect.  On top of this, teachers are expected to pay for supplies out of their own pockets and to pay for and attend required professional development activities on their own time.  Why would someone who is at the top of their graduating high school class and has many career options become a teacher?’

Why the best literacy approaches are not reaching the classroom (via Michael Fawcett)

‘But Australia’s scores in international literacy tests aren’t dropping because the students who sit those tests don’t know their sounds. They are performing poorly because they cannot comprehend what they are reading. They have poor vocabularies and cannot follow sentences that employ more complex language structures. They cannot read between the lines.’

Of course you don’t need qualified teachers in free schools. Or qualified brain surgeons, for that matter (via Michael Fawcett)

‘As the use of unqualified teachers in free schools has proved such a success, surely the Government must extend this method to other workplaces, such as operating theatres and nuclear submarines. The Royal Navy could use the same argument as Michael Gove, insisting there are plenty of excellent candidates who could command a nuclear sub, having fired torpedoes on Modern Warfare 2, but they’re put off by the red tape of having to prove they’re “qualified”, leaving our coast unprotected.’

Hey, teacher, leave them kids alone!

Another article by Steve Wheeler, Associate Professor of learning technology in the Plymouth Institute of Education at Plymouth University. If you get a chance to attend a presentation by Steve, take it!

‘To draw out a child from within themselves, we must first accept that the child has something within them to give. Every child has something unique to offer. Each has skills, abilities, knowledge, hopes, aspirations and individual personalities that can be nurtured, allowed to blossom, encouraged. Teachers who ignore this will not only fail to ‘draw out’ those individual attributes, they will also deprive children from a wonderful spectrum of opportunities to learn for themselves.’

The Power Of Interest

Another excellent article by Annie Murphy Paul.

‘In recent years researchers have begun to build a science of interest, investigating what interest is, how interest develops, what makes things interesting, and how we can cultivate interest in ourselves and others. They are finding that interest can help us think more clearly, understand more deeply, and remember more accurately. Interest has the power to transform struggling performers, and to lift high achievers to a new plane.’

Are gimmicks and trends getting in the way of teaching?

Anything that distracts teachers and school leaders from improving teaching and learning are cumbersome tools that only weigh us down, argues Alex Quigley

We can readily complicate our lessons by bunging them full of objectives, starters, potent plenaries, progress points, assessment for learning gimmicks, token literacy and numeracy – the list goes on and on.’

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

 What Is Inquiry?

‘Inquiry is a study into a worthy question, issue, problem or idea. It is the authentic, real work that that someone in the community might tackle. It is the type of work that those working in the disciplines actually undertake to create or build knowledge. Therefore, inquiry involves serious engagement and investigation and the active creation and testing of new knowledge.’

Dean Fink on Personalizing Schools.

A flashback to an article Bruce wrote in 2005.

‘Fink concludes that the time and the times are right for heads to focus on personalized learning because ‘it promises to do what education is supposed to do, enhance deep learning for all students.’ I wonder when our politicians will pick up the ‘personalized learning’ phrase. I prefer it to the latest ‘eduspeak’, ‘learning competencies’, which our Ministry technocrats seem to be enamored with!’

Experience and Education -John Dewey 1938

Another flashback to an article Bruce wrote in 2009.

‘Such a lot of the ideas expressed today have their genesis in the ideas of John Dewey.That Dewey’s ideas have yet to be fully realised says something for the power of conservatism in education. ‘Experience in Education’ is Dewey’s most concise statement of his ideas written after criticism his theories received. In this book Dewey argues that neither ‘traditional ‘ nor ‘progressive ‘ ideas are adequate and he outlines a deeper point of view building on the best of both. The following are ideas he expresses in his book.’

Dear Mr Pyne

Aussie Friends of Treehorn

Have you read the letter from a teacher in England to her Minister for Education in Allan Alach’s October 27, 2013 edition of The Treehorn Express called Dear Mr Gove .?

Let’s say the same things to our Australian Minister Pyne.

 “Dear Mr. Pyne,

I feel the need to explain how I feel, Mr. Pyne, as I am exhausted, demoralised, disengaged and surfeited.

Our pupils enter school school at a younger age than many other countries. By the time they reach the age of 7 [Yr.3 in Australia], when children from many other countries enter school, our children have already been presented with the opportunity to become failures. They begin, by age 7 to develop an awareness of where they consider themselves to be academically. You will often hear pupils as young as this professing how terrible they are at reading, or how they are unable to do maths, or how they can’t write. If they are lucky they will have a teacher who can deconstruct this self image before it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We have lost them academically before other children even start school.

Then, by Year 5 [their next NAPLAN year] they have entered the graveyard of educational creativity, vibrancy and expression that Year 5s have become in this country. Children will be blitzed with maths, reading and writing until every ounce of their being becomes disengaged. We force NAPLAN upon our children in such a way that stifles creativity, limits vibrancy and diminishes expression….and that’s among more able pupils. Those who were lost somewhere around Year 2 have long since resigned themselves to failure and ridicule. If they try, they may just be able to come out with a personal best which is in no way celebrated privately as it is below the target set by ‘NAPLAN Queers’ for that child many years previously, failing to account for the individual needs and circumstances of that child. But hey, Mr. Pyne, they’re only a statistic.

As with all exams, it is increasingly easy to fail, and increasingly difficult to do anything about it.

I am tired of being told that I have a vital role to play in addressing educational imbalance when you force us to fail children at the age of 7. I am tired of children being disengaged in reading and writing when we present them with such ridiculous and unsupportive means of assessment. I am tired of being made to feel like I am lazy or incompetent when I spend every ounce of energy I have trying to provide opportunities for every child I encounter on a daily basis to succeed. I am tired of such destructive and invalidating means of judging school capabilities. I am tired of daily attacks on my work ethic, my commitment to raising standards, my commitment to improving the quality of pupils lives and my reputation as a professional.

 I am tired of a pretentious egomaniac, who has no experience of education other than having gone to school as a child, holding the education system in this country to ransom.

I ask you, Mr Pyne, who is the real enemy of promise? Who is causing incomparable destruction to our education system? Who is condemning a generation of young people to mediocrity and demise?

Secret Teacher”


Can you imagine a conversation between this lady and the mother of 9 year-old Liam : ?


Phil Cullen 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point 2486 07 5524 6443 cphilcullen@!

Educational Readings November 1st

By Allan Alach

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

 This week’s homework!

What Do International Test Score Comparisons Mean?

Excellent article by Diane Ravitch that has immense significance all over, seeing as GERMers use PISA scores to justify school reform.

International test scores do not predict the economic future. Once a nation is above a basic threshold of literacy, the numbers reflect how good that nation is at test-taking. They are meaningless as economic predictors.’

Steve Jobs: Liberal Arts Essential for Innovation

‘We need to revolutionize education to encourage creativity and need to teach our kids to play, take a chance and create.  By not teaching our children liberal arts we will hinder their capacity to innovate.’

The Pedagogy of Freedom (via Michael Fawcett)

The pedagogy promoted by Hirsch often becomes reduced to a transmission model of teaching which instills a culture of conformity and passive absorption of knowledge. It creates ‘cheerful robots’ devoid of critical thought, questioning and the desire to challenge the assumptions, practices, and outcomes taken for granted in dominant culture and in conventional education.’

Teacher quality, Wiggins and Hattie: More doing the wrong things the right ways

Another article debunking St John Hattie and his like minded compatriots.

‘Hattie’s influence in New Zealand, in fact, prompted this:

The political and media stir caused by professor John Hattie’s research on student achievement has prompted a group of academics to look closely at his work.

The authors were particularly concerned that politicians might use Hattie’s work to justify ill-informed policy decisions.

Hattie’s work [1] is poised to support in NZ and the U.S. increasing class size and implementing merit pay, for example—both of which are not supported by large bodies of research. Wiggins and Hattie are trapped, then, in the measurable and the visible—paralyzed by a world in which we focus on control.’

Letter to Parents about Testing

‘Parents, teachers and administrators are increasingly concerned about the testing that is taking place — and how the testing is being used — in New York State. Below, please find a copy of a letter expressing the concerns of many principals. The letter is written to parents by principals. We hope you can support the letter by signing your name to it. To sign the letter, please follow this link: Support the Testing Letter

What Schools Can Do to Help Boys Succeed

Being a boy can be a serious liability in today’s classroom. As a group, boys are noisy, rowdy and hard to manage. Many are messy, disorganized and won’t sit still. Young male rambunctiousness, according to a recent study, leads teachers to underestimate schools their intellectual and academic abilities. “Girl behavior is the gold standard in ,” says psychologist Michael Thompson. “Boys are treated like defective girls.

Here’s three articles with an English theme, all attacking the ‘free school’ (aka charter schools aka partnership schools in New Zealand) ideology.

Nick Clegg turns on Michael Gove over his ‘ideological’ school reforms

‘Liberal Democrat leader says that all state teachers should be qualified, in rebuff to Tory education policy.’

The tide is slowly turning in Britain….

“Must Try Harder:” Free School Report

Seems that English ‘free’ schools (are a failing concept…. are you surprised?

‘Then, of course, came the fall-out: an old-school slanging match in the Commons, pleas from across the spectrum to allow the new policy to “bed in”, and the observation that what data we have indicate that the best free schools are indeed as good as or better than the best state schools… but that the failing free schools are worse. Thus far, student outcomes in both systems are similar, which mirrors findings in the far more detailed and comprehensive studies of US charter schools.’

 Labour criticises government’s ‘false’ data on free schools

‘Shadow education minister says Lord Nash misled parliament with claim free schools outperform others in state sector.’

Are you surprised?

 This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

TED Talk: All It Takes Is 10 Mindful Minutes

‘When is the last time you did absolutely nothing for 10 whole minutes? Not texting, talking or even thinking? Mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe describes the transformative power of doing just that: Refreshing your mind for 10 minutes a day, simply by being mindful and experiencing the present moment. (No need for incense or sitting in uncomfortable positions.’

The Blue School

A blog article that Bruce wrote back in 2010, about a school in New York.

‘Blue School believes in an integrated, emergent child-centred curriculum. The school has curriculum essence statements for the usual range of learning areas including language and mathematics. They all represent a creative approach to learning.’

What do good learners do?

An article written by Bruce in 2005, that references Postman’s and Weingartner’s book ‘Teaching as a Subversive Activity’ that provides an excellent outline of a good learner.

‘What we need to do as teachers is to create an environment in our schools and classrooms that such behaviors can flourish. Obviously this cannot happen in school with fragmented teaching and subjects. We are talking about an environment in which the full spectrum of learning behaviors – both attitudes and skills – being employed all the time; from problem to problem, from kindergarten to graduate school.’

Bringing Authenticity to the Classroom

‘Authenticity—that is the name of the game! It’s the powerful force that makes teaching relevant for students. Students aren’t being impossible; they are being practical. Why would they want to learn something they will never have use for? Using authentic, real-world connections or scenarios demonstrates the need for students to learn the content or skill. ‘