Aussie Friends of Treehorn

People whom children trust to get rid of NAPLAN


Please read this extract from ACARA UPDATE. It has just been released for the beginning of the Australian school mid-summer vacation period, a time noted for the lack of interest in anything educational. You will note two key sections in bold type [by this author] for you and your organisations to consider now and when the NAPLAN season returns in February.



Please think seriously about these two official statements.

“STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT IS STABLE” means that NAPLAN Testing has been a dismal failure. Stable !!!

The specific purpose of NAPLAN was to improve test scores. By learning how to improve NAPLAN test scores, we would improve PISA test scores and the world would believe that we have a wonderful schooling system. [The ‘top 5 by 25’ flibbertigibbet] We, the general public, were led to believe that there would be dramatic increases once NAPLAN was introduced.

This high-stakes testing notion was based on the procrustean ideology that “FEAR MOTIVATES LEARNING” and “ONE SIZE FITS ALL”….so…. the more that teachers and learners are threatened and stressed, and more often that ‘student’s’ practise tests, the better the results will be.

How can one comment on this sort of cock-eyed scato-memed constructivism without being rude and bovine?

Really…can our children’s learning abilities suffer for another year?…..all that pain…and cost……just to stay stable on NAPLAN scores and go backwards on PISA scores!


Then….The testucating ideologues have the temerity to make this statement [see above] without the slightest evidence. They say…

“NAPLAN assessments …are an important tool to help student learnng “

There is no known empirical nor anecdotal evidence for such an outrageous claim. On what sort of verifiable evidence can such a statement be made ? When did ACARA or any independent survey conduct any examination on the impact of blanket testing on teacher-pupil learning interactions in the classroom?

Yes. Temporary increases in test scores can be made by mentally assaulting vulnerable, frightened younger children. Yes. Fear can work on anyone, especially the young. Is this what is meant? What about the effects on love for a subject? After six years there are a thousand things we need to know about the NAPLAN impact on classroom activities, before another NAPLAN test is inflicted on kids who need to learn and want to learn properly. Why stabilise mediocrity?

LEARNING is identifiable, unrestrained, measureless, limitless. It’s individual. [“You can’t make me learn your stuff if I don’t want to. Your job, teacher, is to help me learn, but don’t force me.Don’t turn me off. ”] Evaluation of effort is a part of learning; on the spot; for the pupil’s benefit, not for a sciolist measurer’s separate demand for scores.

NAPLAN testing is as useful for schooling activities as a chocolate teapot.


The paper finishes with a description of Personalised Learning as if there was some sort of soft connection between serious learning and NAPLAN. What GROSS HYPOCRISY! Contamination of something that is learning useful, then boasting about it, then pretending that the results are connected to individual and personal learning, is chutzpah of the worst kind. This sort of activity oversteps the boundaries of acceptable behaviour and is an unmitigated effrontery to those teachers who try to maintain a learning climate in classrooms that features cognitive development of the most productive kind.


Phil Cullen 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point 2486 07 5524 6443

Educational Readings December 13th

By Allan Alach

The New Zealand school year (Australia also) is coming to an end, and teachers are looking forward to a well deserved rest. In line with this I will be taking a break from educational issues until the end of January. 

 Have a great Christmas and New Year. Make sure you put your energies and time into the most important things – yourself, your family and your friends, and forget about GERM and all that this entails!

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

 This week’s homework!

 Educational Measurement

‘Educational measurement doesn’t work and shouldn’t be called measurement. The reductionism and worship of quantification in our society is twisting education as a mantra of “improving scores” drives every decision in the schools. We should make decisions about education based on what makes sense, not merely on what improves test scores.’

 Theory of Mind: Why Art Evokes Empathy

An explanation of why art should be an integral part of life.

‘We have a sense of empathy with works of art.  If we see gestures in a portrait, we actually almost simulate those gestures in our mind.  We often implicitly act as if we are moving our arms in response empathically to what we see in the painting.’

 Who Says Math Has to Be Boring?

‘The system is alienating and is leaving behind millions of other students, almost all of whom could benefit from real-world problem solving rather than traditional drills.’

 Why the United States Is Destroying Its Education System

Or why are other countries following the USA in destroying their own education systems?

‘A nation that destroys its systems of education, degrades its public information, guts its public libraries and turns its airwaves into vehicles for cheap, mindless amusement becomes deaf, dumb and blind. It prizes test scores above critical thinking and literacy. It celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money. It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state. It funnels them into a caste system of drones and systems managers. It transforms a democratic state into a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs.’

Even When Test Scores Go Up, Some Cognitive Abilities Don’t

‘…schools whose students have the highest gains on test scores do not produce similar gains in “fluid intelligence” — the ability to analyze abstract problems and think logically — according to a new study from MIT neuroscientists working with education researchers at Harvard University and Brown University.’

More on PISA

The PISA 2012 scores show the failure of ‘market based’ education reform.

Pasi Sahlberg – do I need to write anything else?

PISA consumers should note that not every high-scoring school system is successful. A school system is “successful” if it performs above the OECD average in mathematics, reading literacy and science, and if students’ socio-economic status has a weaker-than-average impact on students’ learning outcomes. The most successful education systems in the OECD are Korea, Japan, Finland, Canada and Estonia.My personal takeaway from the PISA 2012 study is how it proves that fashionable Global Educational Reform Movement (GERM) is built on wrong premises.’

 The Pitfall of PISA Envy

‘Recognizing people or nations for doing the right thing for the wrong reasons can be misleading and ultimately unsustainable. PISA’s rankings on their own are useless. The real lessons from PISA are found from researching how each nation achieved their results and then assessing their methods via ethical criteria that is independent of their results.’

 Among the Many Things Wrong With International Achievement Comparisons

‘My attention was drawn to the section on “misinterpreting international test scores,” since I have long felt that these international assessments are a mess of uninterpretable numbers providing a full-employment program for psychometricians, statisticians, and journalists.’

Education rankings “flawed” 

‘But as Pisa’s influence has grown, so has the attention it gets from academics. And 13 years in – with a towering stack of policy and reforms and reputations at stake – some who have examined Pisa closely are adamant that the whole thing is built on swampy statistical ground. Many believe there are problems with the way data is collected and analysed. These problems go so deep and matter so much, some say, that we should ignore the rankings completely – and certainly stop using them to drive changes to the way we teach our children.’

 The leaning tower of PISA?

‘The assumption that questions are equally difficult for people in different countries is fundamental in the OECD’s analysis of the results and this, according to Spiegelhalter is a major flaw.’

Dr. Christopher Tienken Explains PISA and Real Education Beyond PISA 

Not only are PISA results influenced by experiences “in the home and beyond”, but there is a sizeable relationship between the level of child poverty in a country and PISA results. Poverty explains up to 46% of the PISA scores in OECD countries.’

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

 The learning brain

‘Although the structure and how the brain works are interesting to learn about what is more important is to consider how we can create the conditions, or the environment, to ensure we develop all the potential that lies within each individual brain.’


Aussie Friends of Treehorn

i.e. Those who are concerned for kids at school.

The core-purpose of NAPLAN is to improve PISA results – top 5 by 25. What’s happening?

What a week it was! The outcomes of Australia’s NAPLAN program revealed themselves in PISA results and every know-all ‘expert’ raced to blame classroom teachers and call for Gonski reform. The Gonski debacle hit the streets at the same time as the shameful PISA results. Tough luck, kids. Attention was skilfully diverted to ‘money for states’ and well away from concern for school children.

A truly amazing reaction to NAPLAN/PISA.

Leaders of political parties, news commentators, newspaper editors, shock jocks, measurement experts, stuffy academics and union leaders, all of whom ought to know better , seemed determined to stay away from discussion of the effect of standardised blanket testing on pupil fondness for achievement in Maths and Reading. They preferred to pontificate. Letters to newspapers and community-opinion newsletters were not printed. They seldom are when writers mention ‘NAPLAN. One lengthy newspaper article about ‘raising the bar’ did not even give NAPLAN a nod amongst the multitude of words! In view of the circumstances, that’s a remarkable feat.

The stifling provisions of corporate protection by the media continues.

I’ve seen the leader of Australia’s largest measurement factory on TV, parrot the Pyne four-item litany of teacher quality, principal autonomy etc. artfully dodging the impact of his kind of business on the business of schooling. I’ve seen a university professor blame teacher quality and remain silent about other reasons for the test scores to diminish. I’ve seen a Labor leader blame Pyne-driven attitudes to Gonski for the PISA scores, totally ignoring the history of SBTs in this country and its emphasis on mediocrity.

I’ve seen Mr. Pyne ramble on with his evasive litany, but did not understand what he was saying. Nor did he. However, in a lucid moment, he did say that his government “will tackle the decline in student outcomes head on.” That means that NAPLAN goes out the window as soon as possible. No NAPLAN. Surely – if he has read the PISA results. It MUST go. If it doesn’t, such a statement exposes political hypocrisy of the highest order. That’s where you have to start, Chrisie lad!

No one gave child feelings, mental health nor attitudes to learning a second thought. None seemed to know anything about the effects of SBTs on classroom performance. No one seems to give a hoot.

Where have all the teachers gone? You can rely on their ‘professional’ and industrial organisations not to say anything about the naplaning of pupil achievement. They are too well controlled and too timid. That’s a shame. All they have to do is say “No more NAPLAN” and watch PISA results rocket upwards. If PISA results worried them at all, they must. They’ll be crtical, but meek. I’m hoping they will think more seriously about their controlled silence. It’s time NOW.

The inclination of testucators to blame the academic credentials of neophyte teachers is outrageous. How can our hoi-poloi smarties presume to judge? How do they judge or test the levels of love that teachers have for their pupils or the methods they use to encourage the basic need for their young friends to achieve and to like the subjects that others find unpalatable? How can they presume to understand the thousands of daily exchanges in each classroom and talk down to professional operators with such pompous authority?

Please get off your high horses and come down to the level of the kids – the ignored Treehorns of the world. The way you react to critical circumstances is abominable.

You can be sure that no true-blue Aussie teachers or real educators asked for NALPAN to be introduced in 2008. It was a scatomeme that was dumped on them. It was also dumped on gullible State Ministers with a mafia-like-gun at the head, “Do as you are told…or else” edict; and they now have to watch the kids, for whom they are responsible, suffer seriously in many ways. Please Ministers, think of your kids first. Then, you might even be able to have your results isolated on a state basis….just like Shanghai does….and be up there in the top 5 before 25.

[Singapore, by the way, one of the PISA high scorers is asking Australian teachers how they teach to develop healthy learning attitudes. Why? Finland knows about kids’ feelings and doesn’t give a hoot about PISA results. How come?]

 STOP! ASK OURSELVES :What major changes have there been to the Australian schooling landscape over the past two PISA test periods ? ONLY ONE – NAPLAN testing

It’s outcomes have been revealed in the PISA results and we don’t have the courage to talk about it. I double-dare any of the non-classroom based ‘experts’ mentioned above, to deny the fact that NAPLAN testing and NAPLAN testing alone, has caused the decline in test scores.


 “PISA suffers some limitations. It assesses a very limited amount of what is taught in schools; it can adopt only a cross-sectional design; it ignores the role and contribution of teachers; and the way its results are presented – in some at least of its tables – it encourages a superficial ‘league table’ reading of what should be a more interesting but essentially more complex picture.” [Pete Mortimer]

Make sure you read and

PISA [Program for International School Assessment] is a series of tests [Maths, Reading, Science] of randomly selected 15 year old in a number of countries, conducted every 3 years. The tests are composed in Paris by testucators employed by the IEA, a branch of OECD and used under a variety of conditions, using a number of languages with some alterations to the modus operandi to suit local circumstances [e.g. Shanghai]. It sounds very important. It has become so. However, because of the varying circumstances, the reliability and validity of the tests have been questioned by more knowledgeable measurers from around the world, beyond Paris. Read Harvey Goldstein and Gene Glass for instance.

PISA is a ‘thing’, a very respected measurement ‘thing’ that those who are ‘possessed’ by testing children [as I was, once] and sciolists use; so that they can talk about test scores and schooling by numbers. They don’t understand social behaviour. Bystanders seldom question the edicts of these classroom fringe dwellers who are merely expert measurers, often referred to as ‘testucators’ [because they exist in rooms in office buildings and their schooling-educator experience is limited]. They exist in almost every major jurisdiction around the world. They like comparing the scores on their tests with those from Paris. Because they talk in numbers that are easily understood, they are regarded highly by curious non-educators. Each jurisdiction has its own PISA practising devices in the form of Standardised Blanket Tests. Australia has NAPLAN.

Is Pisa fundamentally flawed?


NAPLAN is a series of tests for 7-15 year old Australian children. It is based on a battering-ram instruction ideology, devised by a New York lawyer who now leads a multi-billion dollar school testing conglomerate. With political assistance, he introduced his test-based system to Australia in 2008 and still maintains a vested interest. He still owns us.

School children are seriously affected by the NAPLAN testing regimes, which, apart from impairing their general mental welfare, has disposed most of them to heartily dislike Mathematics, English Literacy and Science. Kids are natural learners, with feelings. Only some quietly endure the [testing-oriented] May days.

 The serious outcomes of NAPLAN testing have been revealed in the 2013 PISA results for the second time since it was introduced in 2008. Conclusive evidence.

NAPLAN is a flop. It has failed its purpose.

 The dislike of NAPLAN by practising Australian teachers is close to 100% and the opposition by notable educators and writers has been constant, reliable and serious and growing. The Treehorn Express is only one outlet. Google: Marion Brady, Brian Cambourne, Sir Ken Robinson, Bruce Hammonds, Valerie Strauss, Diane Ravitch, Tony Gurr, Literacy Educators, Allan Alach, Peggy Robertson, Patricia Buonocristiani, Pasi Sahlberg, Gene Glass, John Goodlad. There is a endless list of such distinguished true-blue, concerned-for-children educators around, who are prevented from sharing the limelight of SBT testucators. Stack the credentials of any one against those of any naplaner….against Klein, Gillard, Nelson, Rudd, Pyne and their hacks.

Surely it is clear, even to NAPLAN devotees and the ‘silent uncertain’…….

 NAPLAN is having a very serious and deleterious effect on positive schooling.

 Gonski principles CANNOT co-exist with NAPLAN testing.

 NAPLAN is a serious threat to Australian standards.

 QED – It has been demonstrated.


Phil Cullen 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point 2486 07 5524 6443














Educational Readings December 6th

By Allan Alach

 Here’s an article I wrote about the PISA tests – targeted at New Zealand but with a lot of relevance all over.

 If PISA is the answer, what is the hell was the question?

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

This week’s homework!

The Fear Factor:What’s holding us back from moving ahead?

In contrast to the world’s most innovative organizations, innovation happens slowly in public schooling. In this article, the author explores the “fear factors” that hold us back from educational innovation, which include both structural blockers and cultural blockers. Nevertheless, there is plenty education leaders can do to support innovation, based on the characteristics observed in centres of innovation: look outside their own discipline for inspiration; create their own success criteria; create a safe space for experimentation; give people trust, time and permission to fail.’

Pearson Education’s creepy vision confirms Common Core fears

George Orwell must have used Pearson Education as a model for Big Brother…

‘Pearson Education, an official partner in the development of resources and tests for the Common Core State Standards, recently released a video series to share their ‘vision for the future of learning’. Although the technology shown is impressive, these videos confirm what many teachers and parents have feared most about Common Core, unprecedented control and an invasion of student privacy. In these videos, educators’ teaching styles are monitored by real-time cameras in every classroom and evaluated on the use of specific points of instruction.’

 Beyond teacher egocentrism: design thinking

Useful article by Grant Wiggins:

‘As teachers we understandably believe that it is the ‘teaching’ that causes learning. But this is too egocentric a formulation. As I said in my previous post, the learner’s attempts to learn causes all learning. The teaching is a stimulus; the attempted learning (or lack of it) is the response. No matter what the teacher says or does, the learner has to engage with and process the ‘teaching’ if learning is to happen.’

Secret Teacher: low morale and high pressure leaves no time for inspiration: Management’s obsessive drive for ‘outstanding’ will prevent our next generation from fulfilling their personal goals and dreams

A story from England that will feel very pertinent to teachers in other GERM infected countries.

We are so caught up with data and so many progress checks that we don’t give our students the time to shine. I wonder what would happen if the greats of the world like Einstein, Gaudi, Picasso and Martin Luther King were to attend school in 2013, would they be able to cultivate their talents and thrive?

Learning Theory

An interesting infographic detailing learning theories.

On Montessori and the Common Core standards

‘But then I remembered what Maria Montessori once said: “Before elaborating any system of education, we must therefore create a favorable environment that will encourage the flowering of a child’s natural gifts. All that is needed is to remove the obstacles.”’

China’s Schools Teaches Kids to Take Tests, Obey the State, and Not Much More

This week’s PISA results have provided excuses for school and teacher bashing. Maybe we should look at why China (and other Asian countries) seem to be better.

In China, memorization and (consequently) the ability to perform on tests are the keys to academic success, rather than the ability to think or question.’

Art Makes You Smart

‘Clearly, however, we can conclude that visiting an art museum exposes students to a diversity of ideas that challenge them with different perspectives on the human condition. Expanding access to art, whether through programs in schools or through visits to area museums and galleries, should be a central part of any school’s curriculum.’

What Learning Cursive Does for Your Brain: Cursive Writing Makes Kids Smarter

‘Yet scientists are discovering that learning cursive is an important tool for cognitive development, particularly in training the brain to learn “functional specialization,”[2] that is capacity for optimal efficiency. In the case of learning cursive writing, the brain develops functional specialization that integrates both sensation, movement control, and thinking. Brain imaging studies reveal that multiple areas of brain become co-activated during learning of cursive writing of pseudo-letters, as opposed to typing or just visual practice.’

Why geniuses don’t need gifted education

‘I have interviewed many bona fide geniuses, because they tend to make news. Their life stories suggest that such people are best left alone to educate themselves, as long as we make sure that they can get to all the riches of our culture and science and that we don’t require them to take grade-level courses that hold them back.’

A Sampling of articles about PISA:

The PISA Results and the Crisis of Authority

‘Thus, the entire practice of publicly presenting international comparisons of test results as league tables and in turn measures of school system quality is arbitrary, and thus properly understood as pseudo-science and ultimately against authoritative knowledge.’

Among the Many Things Wrong With International Achievement Comparisons

‘…I have long felt that these international assessments are a mess of uninterpretable numbers providing a full-employment program for psychometricians, statisticians, and journalists.’

John Kuhn: Our Kids — Coddled or Confident?

‘Perhaps instead of being hobbled by a mathematical deficit, our kids are instead empowered by a superabundance of hopeful freedom that allows them to dare big things. A child who is not allowed to fail becomes an adult who is afraid to try. I posit that, unchecked, our test-and-punish craze will hurt America’s trial-and-error economy.’

Are Finland’s vaunted schools slipping?

A thoughtful article by Pasi Sahlberg – important to inform you in any debates about the PISA results.

‘Finland should also continue to let national education and youth policies — and not PISA — drive what is happening in schools. Reading, science, and mathematics are important in Finnish education system but so are social studies, arts, music, physical education, and various practical skills. Play and joy of learning characterize Finland’s pre-schools and elementary classrooms.’

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Creativity of the Artist: Observe

How would you apply this in your classroom?

‘Probably the biggest way that artists differ from non-artists is in how the former observe things. For instance, on a sunny, windy day in the countryside, have you ever watched the wind blow across the trees? It is fascinating to watch. As the leaves flutter in the wind, they reflect and deflect the sunlight rapidly, causing them to flicker and dance in a flow of changing colour and tone.’

Importance of developing talents of all students; the challenge for 21st C education

Bruce’s latest blog:

‘….Louise Stoll and Lorna Earl write what is, to me, the real challenge of educational organisations for the 21stC to develop all their talents to the full and to realize their creative potential, including responsibility for their own lives and achievement of their personal aims’.

Are We Preparing Graduates for the Past or the Future?

‘If we can foster more students and graduates who develop ingenuous ideas and are undaunted by what they don’t know, support them with mentors to coach and challenge them, and encourage within them a bold vision backed with adaptive and strategic thinking, soft and hard skills, then we will have the players who can create a thriving, dynamic economy.’

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

Educational change and leadership – bottom up!

‘Creative principals are concerned with influencing positive changes within the school. Once again personal mutual relationship and trust between all are vital. To be able to influence others the staff must see the principal as part of the working community not isolated worrying about achievement data. In this respect a successful principal is not unlike a sensitive class teacher.’

Treehorn Express: New York Control

Treehorn Express


New York is where Rupert Murdoch lives and rules his world-wide testing empire. New York is where Joel Klein, the prophet of fear-based schooling and stern instruction lives; and runs Murdoch’s billion dollar testing industry for him.

New York is where Julia Gillard found Joel Klein and subsequently introduced his schooling system based on NAPLAN testing to Australia. He continues to exert his control.

You know that……don’t you? New York is our holy land.

Even Pearson, the British education testing conglomorate whose earnings in 2011 were $US 1.5 billion is moving some of its avaricious enterprises to New York. That’s where the testing money is. Teacher Performance now. [Watch our Punch-us Pilot Pyne get on to this!]

 “Starting in May 2014, Pearson Education will take over teacher certification in New York State as a way of fulfilling the state’s promised “reforms” in its application for federal Race to the Top money. The evaluation system known as the Teacher Performance assessment or TPA was developed at Stanford University with support from Pearson, but it will be solely administered and prospective teachers will be entirely evaluated by Pearson and its agents.’

New York is, also, where Diane Ravitch lives. She is a Professor at New York University, a highly respected opponent of the use of high-states testing in schools that is organised and manipulated by the growing, greedy money-making test industry. She is super-active in trying to persuade the parents and teachers of the world to reject the curse of Standardised Blanket Testing. She appeals to basic common sense and education knowledge of children’s learning. It’s a tough job.

 {Isn’t it a crazy world when one considers that Standardised Blanket Testing degrades children’s spirits and learning potential everywhere and yet there is such a hullabaloo !}

She recently pleaded with each of us to share a short video clip with as many people as possible in the hope that the clip  would go feral.

If you have a soft spot for kids, I do hope that you will share this video clip with as many people as possible and make sure that it is shared around schools down under; with colleagues in our work places and with as many friends as possible. It needs to go feral. It’s parents and kids talking. If it doesn’t convince you, you’re a real basket case.

There are so many reasons for the Murdoch inspired mega-maniacal greed for money now ruining the human spirit of learners in schools everywhere to cease. While Australian politicians fight like Kilkenny cats over money [Gonski money], there’s not a bleat about the social injustices being perpetrated on our children nor about the assault on their aspirations. It’s all such crazy stuff. The introduction of NAPLAN was a dumb explosion on our wits. It not only created classroom chaos, but it shut everybody up.

Here’s some reasons why NAPLAN must go. None should be treated lightly. You tick the reasons that you think apply.



I hate NAPLAN because it

__ causes sleeplessness. __ makes children sick ___ makes children cry ___ causes vomiting ___makes children freeze ___frightens children ___causes bullying ___makes children hate maths & language arts ___causes dislike of school ___makes children feel inadequate.



___ It degrades the human spirit ___It belittles teachers’ ethics ___ Holistic schooling disappears

___ It takes months of preparation ___It narrows the curriculum seriously ___It turns children off learning

___ It assaults the cognitive domain ___Professional ethics disappear ___ Eichmannism prevails

___ It narrows the curriculum seriously ___It provides a gateway for gimmick education ___ Test scores never improve much

___ Mediocrity becomes the focus ___Failures rather than successes are highlighted ___ 3 days wasted, sweating over invalid tests

___ Endorses cheating at all levels

Give this survey to your local school teachers to see what they think.


Phil Cullen 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point 2486 07 55246443