Education Readings October 31st

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!


More bible study, less dreaming stories, less enjoyment, more memorising

If you think things are bad in your neck of the woods, the outlook for education is looking pretty bleak in Australia.

“He complains about too much emphasis on enjoyment, which he does not believe is necessarily part of learning literature. “The idea of pupils as ‘creators’ of literature in English needs to be kept firmly in check” he reports. Students’ own works should not be valued too highly.”

American Schools Are Training Kids for a World That Doesn’t Exist
Not just American schools …

“We may not be getting dumber in America. But we need to get smarter in ways that match the challenges we now face. The time is now to support the role of learning in the pursuit of discovery and to embrace the powerful agency of culture.”

How Students Lead the Learning Experience at Democratic Schools

“Children begin as explorers—they explore the environment around them, watch others, and try out what peers as well as adults are doing. … What they need to acquire, they are able to acquire quite proficiently through ‘discovery learning.’”

Research Indicates No Relationship between Student Standardized Test Scores and Quality of Teacher Performance

Are you surprised?

“Recent research from the University of Southern California has shown there is “weak or non-existent” relationship between state administered value added model tests—VAM, and the content and quality of teacher instruction. The study questions whether VAM data would be helpful in evaluating teacher performance and influencing teacher instruction.”

Is this what we mean by ‘close reading?’

If you want to kill any love of reading, follow this example.

“85 questions assigned by a high school teacher to start off To Kill A Mockingbird… Is this what we mean by ‘close reading?’”

Reading John Dewey

“Today as in 1897, if we could adhere to these basic principles, education would be in a much better state.”

Dewey, Testing Companies, and the Origin of the Common Core

“John Dewey’s vision of reform was a bottom-up approach that focused on the needs of the child and the expertise of the teacher. He warned against a system that relied on a lack of connection between the people in charge of planning for education and the people in charge of actually educating. What would John Dewey think of the Common Core?”

Your Data Will Lie To You If You Let It

A valuable article:

“So what is the better alternative to data-driven education? The answer is teacher-driven education, not data-driven.”

Being Pegged, Late Bloomers and Effort

Check the following link for an article that Bruce wrote this week on a similar theme.

“This is not just a story about a late bloomer.  It is also about pegging students. Smart. Academically challenged. Either label can be a burden to a student for different reasons.  Plus, how do we know for sure?  Does the teaching culture of the school exhibit one-size-fits-all pedagogy?  Are there various modes and opportunities to learn? Do teachers have the time and resources to accommodate students’ varied needs?  Or, do we just love to pigeon-hole students?”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Teachers using ability grouping contributing to growing inequality in schools!!

“Although many teachers talk about groups being flexible there is research that ability groups students are placed into in their first year predicts the stream they will be placed in at secondary school.”

Learning and teaching should not stand on opposite banks and just watch the river flow by; instead, they should embark together on a journey down the water. Through an active, reciprocal exchange, teaching can strengthen learning how to learn.”

—Loris Malaguzzi, 1920–1994

Report urges revamping student testing

Bruce’s comment: Moving away from standardised testing in the US.

“The report, by the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and the National Center for Innovation in Education at the University of Kentucky, recommends alternatives to annual standardized tests. It says there should be far more emphasis on ongoing assessments of students as part of regular classroom instruction. Schools should focus more on “formative assessments,” the curriculum-based problems and quizzes that teachers give to students throughout the school year for feedback on how students are doing, in addition to locally developed alternatives to assessments, the report argues.”

Next two articles: Some good advice to ensure successful project  based learning.

Minimize Frustration and Maximize Deep Learning

“As we move through the Information Age, many educators believe that teachers should concentrate on crucial concepts rather than memorizing facts and students should use critical-thinking skills to build their own understanding and transfer skills and knowledge to authentic situations. But this reality is hard to create. Often, a project seems like the answer to a prayer, but without careful planning, it can quickly lead to curses and frustration.”

Tips for Managing Project-Based Learning

“Project-based learning (PBL) can be messy by nature, but, then again, isn’t all learning? PBL is a student-centered practice. Because it allows for voice and choice for students in not only what they produce but also how they spend their time, the learning is not as structured as many educators are comfortable with. However, PBL can still be focused if educators pair content standards with a menu of choices for demonstrating understanding of those standards, rather than allowing students to do projects on whatever they find interesting.”

From Bruce’s ‘oldies but goodies’ file:

Bruce has been looking back at articles I wrote for him back in 2011 when my brain was working…

Guest Post by Allan Alach – a ‘must read’ and share with others

His introduction at the time:

My principal friend Allan sent me an e-mail that was so on the mark that I asked him to extend it into a blog. To my mind it is a piece of writing all teachers and schools should read -and then pass it on to as many other people as is possible.”

A post apocalyptic vision of New Zealand education if present policies continue!

“One respondent used the nom-de-plume Ozy Mandias. This brought back memories of a high school English class, where we studied a poem of that name. I recalled enough of it to realise that it would provide an excellent analogy for my pessimistic view of the future of education in New Zealand.”

Contributed by Phil Cullen:

School is a prison — and damaging our kids

This article is a must read:

“I don’t mean to paint self-directed education as a panacea. Life is not always smooth, no matter what the conditions. But my research and others’ research in these settings has convinced me, beyond any doubt, that the natural drives and abilities of young people to learn are fully sufficient to motivate their entire education. When they want or need help from others, they ask for it. We don’t have to force people to learn; all we need to do is provide them the freedom and opportunities to do so.”

Education Readings October 24th

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!


The Myth of “Knowledge Gaps”

“I asked this question: Is there really a developmental window of opportunity when learning needs to happen, and if it doesn’t happen at that time, can never effectively happen?”

5 myths about the human brain, debunked

Education is full of myths propagated by snake oil salespeople and non-educators.

“The brain is the most amazing organ in the human body. Somehow, this collection of billions of cells gives rise to thoughts, feelings, action — all the things that make us who we are. So it’s no wonder that there are lots of misconceptions about how this three-pound hunk of flesh actually works. Here are five of the biggest myths about the human brain:”

The Science Of The Common Core: Experts Weigh In On Its Developmental Appropriateness

“Child development experts and early childhood educators believe that there is actually quite a lot to lose. The issue is not at all ideological, they say – it’s partly pedagogical, and partly psychological. According to experts, a poorly conceived set of standards has the potential to be, at best, fruitless and, at worst, detrimental to the youngest kids who are on the frontline of the Common Core.”

The great peril of standardized education

“If Einstein was right when he said that “standardization is a great peril,” our nation may have suffered a brain robbery that has stunted the full development of the intellect and unique talents of millions of people. In their obsession with making students uniform or “common” in knowledge and skills, reformers may have overlooked the value of variety. Could it be that the “great peril” of standardization has been the devaluing of student curiosity, creativity and initiative, as well as reducing personal integrity?”

Learning, making and powerful ideas

Recently I’ve included articles about the ‘maker’ movement. This article from Steve Wheeler provides a pedagogical background to this movement.

“The theory of contructionism is experiencing something of a revival in recent years with the emergence of maker spaces, robotics, 3D printing and other tools that can promote the making of objects.”

Metacognition: The Gift That Keeps Giving

“Students who succeed academically often rely on being able to think effectively and independently in order to take charge of their learning. These students have mastered fundamental but crucial skills such as keeping their workspace organized, completing tasks on schedule, making a plan for learning, monitoring their learning path, and recognizing when it might be useful to change course. They do not need to rely on their teacher as much as others who depend on more guidance to initiate learning tasks and monitor their progress.”

Q&A with Daniel Goleman: How the Research Supports Social-Emotional Learning

“Goleman’s work still examines the unconscious influences on our conscious mind, and gives us tools to understand and harness these influences to positive ends. In his latest book, The Triple Focus: A New Approach to Education, he collaborates with Peter Senge to showcase the importance of cognitive control in helping students make good decisions.”

Learning Is Different Than Education

“Learning is different than education. One can be self-directed but supported; the other is led and caused. One is driven by curiosity and the joy of discovery; the other is metered and measured, and a matter of endless policy and mechanization.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

As Overtesting Outcry Grows, Education Leaders Pull Back on Standardized Tests

Bruce’s comment: The anti testing movement slowly rising to the top as Obama speaks out. Too little too late. Best to not even have gone there in the first place – politics before education.

As the outcry against the overtesting of American children has grown, state and local education leaders – in a move endorsed by President Barack Obama – have announced a new focus on dialing back the volume of standardized testing and dialing up the quality.”

Learning from Live Theater

“In a previous study, we examined the impact of field trips to an art museum. We found significant benefits in the form of knowledge, future cultural consumption, tolerance, historical empathy, and critical thinking for students assigned by lottery to visit Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (see “The Educational Value of Field Trips,” research, Winter 2014). In the current study, we examine the impact of assigning student groups by lottery to see high-quality theater productions of Hamlet or A Christmas Carol.”

Duluth Middle students use STEM concepts to build solar-battery-powered cars

Bruce’s comment: Importance of active learning

‘“If we learn by using the car, we can actually have a hands-on experience with it instead of just looking at a board and writing stuff down about how to do it,” Jackson said.’

Five Keys To Building A Culture Of Active Learning

“Independence does not develop in a culture that values compliance. Independent learners will be motivated to confront relevant problems, engage in challenging tasks, persevere long enough to overcome obstacles, and have ownership of goals for new learning. These are challenging tasks. Students will need educators willing to give them the latitude and guidance to start today.”

25 Things Skilled Learners Do Differently

Bruce’s comment: Sit down and quietly go through the list of learning strategies – how many do you use – or teach your students to use?

“Imagine for a moment that all human beings had the same IQ, but that some of us knew how to tap into it better than others. How would we approach education differently?”

Innovation Psychology: Innovate like Leonardo da Vinci

Bruce’s comment: Learn by seeing connections between art and science – Learn like Leonardo da Vinci.

“Many people today believe that science and art, like oil and water, do not mix.  However, many of the worlds’ greatest innovators were not constrained by this bias. Leonardo da Vinci was pretty innovative, and his creativity spanned fine art, military engineering, anatomy and biomimicry.  He was not alone.”

Stagnating? Innovate How You Innovate With These 5 Ideas

Bruce’s comment: Is your school stuck in the present? Here are 5 ideas to develop innovative practices?

“Throughout this past year, I’ve been having conversations with innovation leaders from a couple of BIG companies about re-inventing their innovation capability. The pattern of conversation: we’ve had a good run, but feel that our process for making innovation happen is delivering incremental results. Bureaucracy has developed, and so we aren’t taking a lot of risks anymore. How do we shake ourselves out of it?”

From Bruce’s ‘oldies but goodies’ file:

Advice from David Perkins to make learning Whole

“To get students involved in any learning game teachers need to present ‘threshold experiences’ suited to the students developmental level. And students need to see the point of the game in any content area.”

Contributed by Phil Cullen:

Common Core gets AWFUL review in new study

“Bad news for supporters of national education curriculum: States with education standards most closely aligned to Common Core fared worse on math tests than states with their own standards, according to a new study.”

The elephant in the room

The Elephant


In 2009, The Great Aussie Politico-Curriculator, who was in total charge of every single schooling thing, following a visit to a NY education zoo, subsequently imported monstrous elephants [mammothius gillardus] and installed one in each Australian classroom at considerable cost. The behemoths have remained mostly unnoticed for six years. Those in charge of each classroom know that they are there, but they have not been allowed to talk about them. Principals, who care more about their public position than their ethical esotericism, have been deliberately blindfolded by this maverick curmudgucator and her successors and instructed to do as they were told. Most did so as soon as they were bid, unimpeded by ethical or professional considerations , because it was the easier path. They just don’t talk about the ridiculousness of test-based schooling. It’s too esoteric. Parents have not been told of the effect that the elephants have on classroom activities, either . It’s called ‘mushrooming’. The outcomes have become calamitous…..for children.

The animal in each room has grown larger and larger and dirtied the precinct abominably, but, is now being noticed….a little. Teachers, with noses held tightly, are speaking out and asking questions in public. They’re starting to ‘bang on’. They want to get on with the job and clean out the room for learning action. The present condition of each animal is poor, even according to the maverick/arithmetical zoologists’ own standards. The learning room certainly stinks. Dumbo is failing and will pass on ….. soon.

Euthanasia has to be a undertaken. It’s urgent. The sooner the better. Fear, failure, depression, pandemic dyspepsia and congenital stupidity are incurable.

Phil Cullen [……banging on] 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point Australia 2486 07 5524 6443

Education Readings October 17th

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!


Are You an Autodidact? Or Do You Need Other People To Learn?

Thanks to Heather McQuillan for this article, good for self reflection.

“Most people are not autodidacts. In order to learn effectively, they need guidance provided by teachers. They need support provided by peers. And they need structure provided by institutions. “

Reading Is About More Than ‘Evidence’

Sure is.

‘A few weeks later, another colleague and I were designing a reading curriculum. She suggested this daily objective: “Students will categorize evidence from a nonfiction text by subtopic.” How strange to think of the information we gather from a nonfiction text as “evidence.” Evidence of what? I thought. I suggested we keep her objective, but replace “evidence” with the word “information.”’

Curious learning

Uk academic Steve Wheeler:

“Curiosity killed the cat, but it also made each of us who we are today. Without curiosity, none of us would learn very much at all. Learning is based more on curiosity than any other human characteristic. Children who are curious are always interested in discovering more. Children who lose their curiosity usually turn off and tune out. Children are naturally curious, but sadly, rigid school systems and curricula have often knocked this out of them by the time they graduate.”

One size education no longer fits all

This article is from Australia.

“Things like “leadership and personal development, confidence and resilience, wellness and a social conscience”. God forbid that we equip our students with the latter. For might not our charges then turn bolshie and question the premise of rank materialism, the celebrity culture and democracies which are sometimes anything but.”

What Happens When Education Serves the Economy?

A thoughtfully politically post by Anthony Cody – read it!

“Our political system has become one that similarly revolves around making profits. There is no political will to defend the environment, because just like public schools, the common resources of the natural world – including the air we breathe, the atmosphere that creates weather we can live in, and the water we drink, all must be put to maximum profitable use.”

GRIT: A Skeptical Look at the Latest Educational Fad

Alfie Kohn – is any comment needed?

“Anyone who talks about grit as an unalloyed good may need to be reminded of the proverbial Law of Holes:  When you’re in one, stop digging.  Gritty people sometimes exhibit “nonproductive persistence”; they try, try again even though the result may be either unremitting failure or “a costly or inefficient success that could have been easily surpassed by alternative courses of action,” as one group of psychologists explained.”

The Opposite of Grit

Following on, here’s Curmudgucation’s take on grit:

“Life provides plenty of need for grit all on its own. It’s not necessary to provide more on purpose. And the need for grit doesn’t help get things done, doesn’t help people succeed. It may call on their strength, but it doesn’t create it. We know that. We understand it. When we want someone to succeed, we do as much as we can to remove the need for grit. Do we not want our students to succeed?

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Sir Ken Robinson: What you cannot miss in the classroom.

Bruce’s comment: Another great interview with Sir Ken Robinson. Lots of links to other videos featuring Sir Ken.

“Sir Ken Robinson, renowned in the field of education for his valuable contributions, expressed his view on the relationship between education and technology”

20 Collaborative Learning Tips And Strategies For Teachers

Bruce’s comment: Strategies for cooperative learning – building on the ideas of Vygotsky

“Many consider Vygotsky the father of “social learning”.  Vygotsky was an education rebel in many ways.  Vygotsky controversially argued for educators to assess students’ ability to solve problems, rather than knowledge acquisition. The idea of collaborative learning has a lot to do with Vygotsky’s idea of the “zone of proximal development”.  It considers what a student can do if aided by peers and adults. By considering this model for learning, we might consider collaboration to increase students’ awareness of other concepts.”

The Importance of Teaching Critical Thinking

Bruce’s comment: Focussing on standardisation neglecting critical thinking skills.

“Critical thinking is a term that is given much discussion without much action.  K-12 educators and administrators are pushed to teach the necessities as dictated by the standardized assessments in order to catch up the students to students of other countries.  In this push for better test scores, many students are leaving the K-12 education system lacking the critical thinking skills that are necessary to succeed in higher education or in the workplace”

5 Reasons Leaders Need to Encourage Teacher Voice

Being a school leader is not easy. It takes a delicate balance between knowing when to push, understanding how to pull, and making sure that you take the time to listen to all stakeholders in the school community. For too many years teachers have lacked a real voice in schools, and without their powerful and informative voices, we can never move forward to engage and encourage students to have a voice.”

Perspectives / Do-It-Yourself Learning

“This issue of Educational Leadership addresses the question, How do students learn for the long term? Our authors’ research-based answers, although familiar enough, also pack some surprises.”

Why Don’t Whales Have Legs?

Following on from the above article:

‘Time and again, long-term student feedback, program reviews, and end-of-year student reflections cite these two guided inquiry lessons as the most memorable. Posing lessons as questions, or problematizing them, allows students to learn and practice science in ways that make it “stick.”’

From Bruce’s ‘oldies but goodies’ file:

Disorganisation.Why organisations must ‘loosen up’!

“From a creative individuals point of view there is a desire for greater autonomy and flexibility. Such people want a greater say in the future of the organizations they work for. In short they want organizations to ‘disorganize’!”

This week’s contributions from Phil Cullen:

There’s more to education than spelling and numbers

“We need to go beyond the economic, rote-learning mindset, which is singularly concerned with the acquisition and regurgitation of facts. There is great concern that the race to the top in PISA rankings is undermining the education our children and our country really needs. What is the point of top marks in all subjects if you are unable to live a fulfilling life?”

Testing Teacher Professionalism

“Members of the teaching profession are trained to accept each pupil’s natural desire to learn and to develop each one’s learnacy potential at the same time as each one accumulates knowledge. There is no greater kind of care; no greater profession.

There is no greater professional ambition. But we know that we have been turned around. We are under instruction to ignore the best-known teaching techniques and to use “the soft bigotry of low expectations” [Newkirk] caused by judgemental tests.”

Testing Teacher Professionalism

The Treehorn Express

Testing Teacher Professionalism

About 5 years ago [10 Jan.2010] I wrote an article called TESTING TEACHER PROFESSIONALISM.

Its revised version is offered below. The article, universally ignored by those ‘on the job’ at the time, is presented to you again with the comment that I do not enjoy being so prophetic. The teaching profession, by its feline obeisance to a crazed political obsession, itself driven by an ideological allegiance to the money-hungry neocons at the big-end of town, seems to have lost its way.


When the USA Joint Chiefs of Staff gather for formal occasions, their chests are covered with medals for killing people. Susan Ohanian an American author and teacher suggests that teachers should be awarded similar medals for killing children. She says, “If testing takes over your school, demand similar medals for killing children.” Susan O is a fierce advocate for the abolition of National Testing in the U.S.  She is referring, of course,  to the killing of children’s learning spirit, because that is what happens when such blanket testing controls each school’s curriculum. As a member of a caring profession, she is concerned about the influence of non-caring politicians in the U.S. on hers.

Are you a member of this caring profession? Used to be? What is your view of your ‘job’?

Australia introduced national blanket testing in 2008 in a ‘ruddy blush’ with malice-before-thought. Following advice from a New York legal eagle, who has little-to-zero school experience, Federal politicians, educrats,  pundicrats and arithmetical academics started telling Australian members of the teaching profession how they must teach by setting tests that determine certain styles of instruction and gave their blessing to the corruption of the school curriculum. . The year 2008 needs special mention in history books. It’s a first.  2008 – Australian introduced schooling system based on fear. [Refer: Nelson, Gillard, Klein, Pyne, Murdoch]

There is a difference between the ethical standards of each profession, of course. Soldiering follows the business of killing. The gentlest of soldiers are provided with sophisticated weapons and are trained to kill and destroy. As a rule, they remain loyal to the more regal aspects of their profession. Members of the teaching profession are trained to accept each pupil’s natural desire to learn and to develop each one’s learnacy potential at the same time as each one accumulates knowledge. There is no greater kind of care; no greater profession.

There is no greater professional ambition. But we know that we have been turned around. We are under instruction to ignore the best-known teaching techniques and to use “the soft bigotry of low expectations” [Newkirk] caused by judgemental tests..

A profession is defined as “…A disciplined group of individuals who adhere to high ethical standards and uphold themselves to, and are accepted by, the public as possessing special knowledge and skills in a widely recognised, organised body of learning derived from education and training at a high level, and who are prepared to exercise this knowledge and these skills in the interests of others.

Inherent is this definition is the concept that the responsibility for the welfare, health and safety of the community shall take precedence over other considerations.” [Australian Council of Professions}

The imposition of immoral [yes], high-stakes devices on law-abiding, institutionalised pupil-citizens, by politicians and efficacy hawks, challenges the professional attitudes of Australian teachers in a way that the profession has never before been challenged. Never, in Australia’s history of schooling, have totalitarian methods been used to demand compliance on such a wide scale. Political intolerance for views from the professionals at the chalk-face has seldom been expressed so dictatorially by any Australian government, with the exception of the Bjelke-Petersen regime in Queensland, way back when.  Naomi Wolf describes such a movement as a ‘fascist shift’ from democratic ideals.

Teachers have endured some pandemic curriculum assaults in times past, such as the minimal competency movements of the 1980s, but none as potentially destructive as this present one, nor as other-controlled.

Testing in various formative and summative forms is part of the everyday evaluation of pupil progress organised by each school, shared on a pupil-personal level so that parents can also share at the grass-roots and in step with their child’s level of competence at the time. Each head teacher aka principal is an expert at evaluation techniques that embed challenge with process. It’s each pupil’s personal business to evaluate progress…more than the business of anyone else; and each can be taught to share self progress with its parents and teachers. Shared evaluation and sensible curriculum time-limits ensures no ceiling to standards and achievements. It enlivens the ‘hunger for knowledge, insistence on excellence and reverence for language, science and math.” [Obama] and excellence in other learning areas as well. When tyrannical testing controls the curriculum, as it now does, it is dangerous and evil and, according to Martin Luther King, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetuate it.” Teaching’s professional ethics and the exercise of protection for their clients in the face of heavy fire-power is presently  being tested as never before.

This puts our present-day teachers in a position that older colleagues have never had to face. Teachers usually do as they are told and try to ‘do the right thing’ by covering an enormous range of learnings through their day-to-day activities. They are usually the busiest of the caring professions. Susan O suggests that they are placid and complacent because they come from a culture of people-pleasers who are always trying-to-be-agreeable. They need to overcome this disposition towards conciliation and compromise. “They must learn to refuse.” she says.

If they do not, they can be accused of gross passivity or creeping Eichmannism, named after the gent who organised the Holocaust because he was told to do so. There’s a similarity. . It’s a truly worrying professional ethics dilemma.  There needs to be determined support from much bigger and ‘higher’ professional power-sources to support the true blue; perhaps some professional organisations and subject associations that truly believe in their own ethical circumstances, and are prepared to shout loudly and exercise some political clout.

During 2009, in Australia, the notion of classrooms as sparkling learning centres was neutered. There is already abundant evidence that testing factories will soon dominate the landscape. Sadly it seems the only way to go while the various professional organisations remain timid and compliant, and the fourth estate exercises its selective scrutiny and preference for controversy.

While the press ignored the visit of Finland’s Professor Jouri Vaijari to Australia and the outcomes of the world’s most comprehensive report the world has seen on contemporary primary schooling for four decades: the Cambridge Primary Review, in October, there was a glimmer of hope in a November 2009 publication of the Queensland Teachers’ Union. Its magazine ‘Professional Magazine’ was a stand-out and provided sufficient detailed, definitive evidence for each professional organisation, Principals’ Association, and Teachers’ Union to tell the federal Minister for Education to desist….to jump in the lake. . If she wants to produce standard-setting tests, then she should send them to schools to use as they see fit or sell them to testucators on the street corner. They are a waste of money.

The evidence fell flat on its face. Nobody noticed. Nobody was told.The bozone layer was too thick.

When the various Principals’ Associations have had high level conferences with ‘world’s best’ speakers over the past decade, their advices have been totally ignored by the Australian media. The public has been mushroomed. It should be expected that such Principals’ Associations would have provided the most dominant leadership roles until now, because they are closer to the action and should know, more than most, the effects of rearranged school time just to cater for coercive accumulation of bits of static knowledge. When the Minister met with 150 Primary Principal representatives on 10-11 November,2009 our puppeteer  controlled them with a simple buz-baz conferencing technique. She was good. Like Charlie Chaplin in ‘Modern Times’, the principals’ associations  got caught in the big wheel and became part of the machinery.  Patient and passive, almost fawning, they joined the powerful sciolistic number crunchers in maintaining  rational order for the purveyance of political quackery; arranged so that any resistance by them  from then-on would be regarded as wilfulness. Under instruction, they are now forced to ignore any advice from any true professionals like Pasi Sahlberg, Sir Ken Robinson, Marion Brady, Kelvin Smythe,  thousands of other true-blue professional;  and even close their eyes to the use of  underhand  means for preventing  little Treehorn to talk to his tormentors.

A general educational apostasy is a probable outcome. It’s on the way.

Being professional should not be such a heavy burden. Principals of this decade,  at all levels of schooling,  face a dilemma of extraordinary proportions. They know of the outcomes of the damage being perpetrated on people who are forced to attend school, and they have a special duty-of-care towards them because of their detention centre circumstances. Principals as head teachers have always claimed top-billing amongst the caring professions, but their attitude towards caring is now under scrutiny. Ever cautious of doubting the intentions of those on whom they rely for organisational advice, for financial and technical support, for employment and placement and usually dutiful to a fault, they are slower to refuse or to question directions than most other professional people. Politicians and non-teaching-professional folk are now talking down to them; ordering them to interfere with healthy child development. That is profoundly clear. So, the principals of those schools that conduct blanket national testing for politically-based publication or for boasting purposes are in a real maelstrom between a rock and a hard place. The betting is that their associations will freeze their professional ethics as they search for a reasonable escape or excuse…..or capitualtion.

It’s a shame.

The children have no advocates of any consequence. While the present school day remains overcrowded with some non-essential chic subjects and some that could be left to un-trained teachers in non-school time; while the curriculum is based on whim and the latest fashion; and while governments refuse to standardise age-years and the number of years of schooling throughout Australia and an Explicit Instruction cult has started to infiltrate,  the pupils will have to get used to this kind of  attack on their natural love for learning, forget about learning how to learn more, and, as they have done in ages well past,  continue to consume large doses of educational baked beans. Professional ethics are being held in abeyance while dictatorial ministers and their  eminence grise tell the-once-upon-a-time great, ethical teaching profession  what to do and how to do it..

As a profession, teaching  is on its last legs. Teaching is changing rapidly into being just a job, a well-controlled occupation. Being told what to do and how to do it[by one person only – the federal minister for education – it must be noted],  requires little reference to “high ethical standards….accepted by the public as possessing special knowledge and skills in a widely recognised, organised body of learning derived from education and training at a high level, and who are prepared to exercise this knowledge and to use these skills in the interests of others.” [See above]…. Its demise is devastating.

I repeat. School children in Australia have no advocates. The professional ethics of teachers were their best chance. Gone.


Phil Cullen […….sad, very sad] 41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point Australia 2486   07 5524 6443

Bad News Day

Aussie Friends of Treehorn
Bad News Day
Is it all lost?
Some people have a bad hair day. In one day, I heard some seriously bad news as far as the future of Australian schooling is concerned.
UNSCHOOLING    Homeschooler Ken Woolford of Toowomba tells me that the number of families in Toowoomba that have now turned to teaching their children at home is between 200 and 300. This number for a city the size of Toowoomba would have been unthinkable when schools were free to teach. Since then, I am told, the numbers are real and are increasing day by day. OMG!
Multiplied by the number of cities around Australia with similar populations, it surely means that thousands of families around Australia are opting-out of mainstream test-based, fear-driven schooling and now wisely provide that love and attention and on-going challenge and self-evaluation that are essential to learning – the foundations for high achievement – at home. Schools don’t seem to cater for those sorts of things. Children are destined to sit still all day with tablets, electronic slates, ipads and look at white boards for 12 years.
Ken is involved with a centre that assists parents who teach children at home. 75 families have visited the centre this year! [Ken reckons that NAPLAN could be dropped completely and no one would be wiser ….or dumber. I don’t agree. All kids would be a helluva lot better learners if they were taught to learn at school in the same  manner that he and his wife teach their children at home.]
While this comes as no surprise under present circumstances, my vision of children bursting a blood vessel to get to school each day because of the wonderful learning challenges there…the personal interchanges, the play, the fun…. enjoying the beauty of Mathematics and Arithmetic, the wonders of science and the pleasures that our wonderful English language creates [including its challenging spelling and grammar]; each in his or her own learning style using endless appropriate teaching styles,  that schools are supposed to provide,  has been blasted apart ………. I am now convinced that no job educator or parent cares much about how children learn BEST….anymore.   It hurts. I had such faith.
DIRECT INSTRUCTION A recently retired teacher described to me what she was ordered to use DI because her Queensland school was forced to undertake the direct/explicit instruction gimmick, recently imported from the US. What she described seemed like the kind of bang-crash-wallop methods that a lot of us used to get kids to pass the Scholarship Examination way-back-when. The kids hated school and were turned off learning, but they passed the exam. We did a lot of damage.
This new DI method – is one of those located at the extreme didactic [sermonising] end of the teaching strategies continuum  –
                                                                                   Didactic                                          Group                                       Maieutic
     Adult Directed                                  Inter-action                                 Child-based
using only a few kinds of learning interaction. They appeal to the vanity of our federal minister and his Jesuit mind-set; and the state ministers, no doubt,  feel too underpowered to resist.
Criticised by endless numbers of US cognitive development theorists and practitioners, DI has its Australian critics:
  • DI focuses on teacher control of lesson pacing and content and does not encourage the engagement with student cultural resources, background knowledge and community context.
  • It deskills teachers by routinizing their work and downplaying their professional capacity to vary instructional pace and curriculum content depending on the student cohort and context.
  • It works through strict tracking of student progress and ability grouping, which research shows can severely disadvantage some students.
  • Finally, it places the teacher and child in a rigid relationship where the teacher is always the one with the power and knowledge with limited allowance or recognition of individual and cultural difference.  This relationship is not conducive to local adaptation of lessons or content to accommodate community, cultural or individual differences, creativity and innovation in teaching and learning.  [Allan Luke]
Real professional [vis-a-vis job] primary school teachers need to ask themselves whether this kind of forced confinement of young children in a special kind of nasty detention centre for children’s learning, practising more at the lower extremity of legitimate teaching strategies and enduring the requirement forced on them to suspend their ethical principles, is morally defensible and ethical.
CURRICULUM REPORT  Then word arrived that the Donnelly-Wilshire report was about to become available.  Ho hum.
However, are you looking forward as much as I am to the comments by our school experts about the influence of SBTs on a curriculum and the kinds of impact that they have on the classroom curriculum in action aka children’s learning? It is about the curriculum. If the curriculum in the classroom has been treated seriously, it’s bye-bye NAPLAN, for sure.
Otherwise.  Ho hum.
What a day. Thank God it’s Friday.
Phil Clullen […’s all a John Zupp] 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point   Australia  2486   07 5524 6443

What if…?

What if …?    No.2
What if Julia Gillard had not shared cocktails with lawyer Joel Klein in New York in 2007?
What if Julia had supped with Diane Ravitch [Former US Assist. Secretary of Education], instead, while in the Big Apple?
What if the lady had enjoyed an ale with Marion Brady in Washington or some other fair-dinkum U.S. educator?
What if she had gone to Finland and/or called on her Kiwi Labour Party counterpart on the way home, to compare notes?
What if she had started an Australian Council for School Learning staffed by thinking school principals to run a school improvement’s program, instead of ACARA?
What if she had chosen to talk with expert school principals before she went ‘up over’?
What if school principals, even her job principals,  had told her about their ethical ‘care for kids’ standards when she came home?
What if state departments had decided to tell parents fully about their rights?
What if NAPLAN questions were made available to the general public?
What if parents were told at NAPLAN test time, through personal letter and public announcement that their children did not have to do the tests?
What if parents were told of the emotional dangers of standardised blanket testing and their impact on a child’s mental health and attitude to learning?
What if Christopher Pyne and Julia Gillard had gone to a lower-middle-class school where the emphasis was on educating the children of poor and disinterested parents ?
What if our major parties cared about kids?
What if just one decent child-oriented politician could find the spunk to make a noise in the party room about the stupidities of NAPLAN?
 What if the Greens or the PUP or some pushy independent took a serious interest?
What if Australia stuck to its commitment to the core principles of THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD ?
What if some Australian organisations developed a strong advocacy for young children at school?

Education Readings October 10th

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!


The Perils of Plans: Why Creativity Requires Leaping into the Unknown

Which is a pretty good reason why standardising education is a step back into the past….

“Keats termed the willingness to embrace uncertainty, live with mystery, and make peace with ambiguity “negative capability” and argued that it’s essential to the creative process.

Integrating the 16 Habits of Mind

“The habits themselves aren’t new at all, and significant work has already been done in the areas of these “thinking habits.” However, in a 21st century learning environment — one often inundated with information, stimulation and connectivity — there may be a newfound context for their application.”

The Maker Movement: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants to Own the Future

“From constructivist theories of psychology, we take a view of learning as a reconstruction rather than as a transmission of knowledge. Then we extend the idea of manipulative materials to the idea that learning is most effective when part of an activity the learner experiences is constructing a meaningful product.”

Teachers on naughty step over pupils’ bad behaviour, but Ofsted report is unfair

More teacher blaming from England.

“The report’s headline that a “failure of leadership in tackling poor behaviour” is “costing pupils up to an hour of learning a day” will, of course, worry parents. But, even a cursory reading of the survey data invites scepticism.”

What Happens When Your Teacher Is a Video Game?

More moves towards the corporate vision of computerised instruction to replace humans.

“Rocketship’s model is based on four principles. First, the company cuts costs by eliminating teachers. Starting in kindergarten, students spend about one-quarter of their class time in teacherless computer labs, using video-game-based math and reading applications. The company has voiced hopes of increasing digital instruction to as much as 50 percent of student learning time.”

Online Learning is Just as Effective as Traditional Education, According to a New MIT Study

On the other hand, Tony Gurr tweeted a link to this article. What do you think?

“But a new study from MIT suggests naysayers should think otherwise. Massive open online courses are not only effective, researchers have discovered, they are as effective as what’s being traditionally taught in the classroom — regardless of how prepared or in the know students are.”

How teachers sometimes fool themselves

Another Alfie Kohn article to make you reflect…

“You have to look harder and think deeper to realize that what appears to be progressive instruction sometimes turns out to be more traditional and less impressive than it seemed at first glance. And if it’s your classroom, then acknowledging that possibility may require courage as well as insight.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

30 Ideas To Promote Creativity In Learning

“Much of the blame for a lack of creativity, and therefore innovation, can be traced to our traditional educational systems. It relies on teaching to the correct answer.  An innovative thinking model is needed. Robinson recently tweeted an article about a new study that suggested 80% of educators surveyed preferred creativity to be included as part of learning standards.”

What the Marshmallow Test Really Teaches About Self-Control

“One of the most influential modern psychologists, Walter Mischel, addresses misconceptions about his study, and discusses how both adults and kids can master willpower.”

Inspire Thoughtful Creative Writing Through Art

Bruce’s comment: For teachers who believe in integrating the arts into their curriculum check out this excellent link.

“Children naturally connect thoughts, words, and images long before they master the skill of writing. This act of capturing meaning in multiple symbol systems and then vacillating from one medium to another is called transmediation. While using art in the classroom, students transfer this visual content, and then add new ideas and information from their personal experiences to create newly invented narratives.”

Letting Go and Gaining Understanding

Bruce’s comment: Sensible stuff.

Rather than completely overhauling ourselves as teachers, we need to simply feel safe to reexamine how we do things. As I prepare for this school year, I will return to the three big ideas I gleaned from last spring: understanding drives learning, reexamination precedes revolution, and collaboration depends on trust. This school year, reference these concepts to reexamine your differentiation practices in your own classroom.”

30 Inspiring Quotes To Help You Get Through Your Work Day

Bruce’s comment: Some inspirational quotes to share with staff

From Bruce’s oldies but goodies file:

Educational Quotes 5: Leadership and Teamwork

A collection of quotes on leadership.

“Imposed bureaucratic ‘top down’ changes have resulted in school being ‘over managed and under led.’ Now is the time for courageous leaders, at all levels, to emerge and add their ‘voices’ to the debate. There are no experts with ‘the answer’ – we will have to invent the future ourselves together as we go along.”

Education Readings October 3rd

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!


Education Reform explained in 3 memes

Highly recommended post from Save Our Schools NZ:

“Feel free to right click, copy and share these memes as far and wide as you wish.”

Dickens and Standardized Testing

“And it is this that is so very chilling about this educational “reform,” which is not about reform at all, but something very ominous — control of the mind.

How better undermine education than by crippling thought; how better discourage critical inquiry than by stressing rote learning; how better weaken democracy than by subverting its schools!”

What’s wrong with standards-based education? Let me count the ways.

We had hoped that the recent New Zealand elections would see the end of GERM, sadly that wasn’t the case and so this article remains topical, as it is elsewhere in the world.

“However, standards are not a concern of wealthy kids and schools—why is this? By claiming one set of standards, we create the illusion of equal opportunity without the community development needed to create affluence which has been documented more than any other factor to determine school success. The truth is that standards are for poor kids. Wealthy kids don’t need them. Accountability measures strangle schooling in poor communities-wealthy schools can take them or leave them because they have the infrastructure of family, income, education and community that enables those students to do well, standards or not.”

‘How We Learn’ offers new look at how our brains work

“The science says something completely different. It says the brain is not by nature a school learner. It’s a scavenging learner, a foraging learner. That’s the way it has essentially evolved to learn, by pieces, on the move, picking up information as it goes along. The implications of that are huge for studying or for learning of any kind. It means that when we feel restless during practice it’s not because we’re not good learners, it’s because that’s the way the brain works.”

Thomas Kane On Educational Reform

Gene Glass comments: “Ask a Harvard economics prof how to reform schools and naive nonsense comes out.”

“I do have to say, though, as a former teacher, I would advise others to not heed the advice of a person who has conducted a heck of a lot of research “on” education but who has, as far as I can tell or find on the internet (see his full resume or curriculum vita here), not ever been a teacher “in” education himself, or much less set foot in the classroom.”

School’s quality does not affect gaps in attainment, research shows

Ah but who reads research when ideology is seen as the way forward?

“Professor Steve Strand, of Oxford University, says the stubbornness of the attainment gap across all types of schools suggests that the quality of a school is not enough to overcome a disadvantaged background.”

Father’s education level strongest factor in child’s success at school – study

More research to be ignored …

“A father’s level of education is the strongest factor determining a child’s future success at school, creating a self-reinforcing cycle of poverty and lack of achievement passed down from parents to children in Britain, according to research. The report from the Office for National Statistics claims that children are seven and a half times less likely to be successful at school if their father failed to achieve, compared with children with highly educated fathers.”

Why Teachers Can’t Have a Seat at the Table

“Knowing why teacher voices have not been pursued or included would tell us something about reformster attitudes about teachers and illuminate the relationships at the heart of how public education works in this country. So let’s consider the possible reasons that teachers are not, and have not been, at the infamous table. What are the reformsters thinking?”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Questioning the System- Are We Harming Kids?

Bruce’s comment: This is a great website to explore. This blog is about what dogs can teach us about personalising learning.

“That nagging feeling that we are doing more harm than good. That schools for the most part, as they currently exist are resulting in the dumbing down of education. We are developing mediocrity rather than excellence in our graduates. That we are missing opportunities to help children develop deep learning around their passion due to our one size fits most approach to learning in our schools.”

School garden teaches students many lessons

Bruce’s comment: Now that it is spring (in the southern hemisphere), is it time to think about establishing a school garden?

“The garden is tied to the student’s curriculum. Math, science, reading and healthy living are all part of the equation. The kids measured the beds for planting and record what’s going on in the garden.”

Here’s a number of articles from Bruce about passion based learning:

Passion-Based Learning: An Interview with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

“Educator Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach challenges us to rediscover our own passion for teaching by helping our students become passionate seekers of knowledge and understanding.”

Passion-Based Learning

“Passion is hot. It is a force that sells movies and margarine and everything in between. It is a force the can move mountains, inspire art and make the weak strong. We need to bring passion back into learning, in teaching and all around. Passion motivates. It makes a way out of no way. It allows students to overcome hardships to achieve a goal that is meaningful to them.”

25 Ways to Institute Passion-Based Learning in the Classroom

“Common sense tells us that students are more likely to learn if they are motivated by and engaged with the curriculum or project at hand. Now, hard science is telling us the same thing. When students are passionately engaged in their learning – when they are mesmerized by their learning environment or activities – there are myriad responses in their brains making connections and building schema that simply would not occur without that passion or emotion.”

How to Ignite Passion in Your Students: 8 Ways Educators Can Foster Passion-based Learning

‘In the end, it is passion that drives all great things to be achieved.  If passion is forgotten in classrooms, we are losing half the meaning of learning. As Einstein once said,

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”’