A Message from Aurukun

Aussie Friends of Treehorn

protecting school children from nasty excesses of the greedy and misguided

Aurukun and NAPLAN

It’s been a week or so ago…off the radar now. ‘Na,na,nanana,’ says Treehorn. Who cares?

Yet the issue could be as large as any other educational issue of the past few decades.

 The Aurukun school riots provide a stark illustration of the effects of NAPLAN testing on learning at schools.

 Fact 1. Naplan is a pure data-collecting instrument and has nothing to do with the act of teaching and learning.

 But. When scores are down, PANIC! You’re expected to. Authorities demand it.

Measurement know-it-alls use it to account for what they believe reveals the standard of literacy and numeracy, but its reliability as a standard of school worth is zero. They just love data.

 Fact 2. Its value as a diagnostic or motivational  device is severely limited. 

 There is no substitute for classroom-based teacher evaluation of child progress.

Evaluation of progress is part of the act of learning.

NAPLAN’s  importance in the scheme of things has been overblown by artful politicians, whereas it’s really a flop.

 Aurukun school was judged by know-it-alls, early in the piece, as not doing well on NAPLAN tests.  Its overall performance in curriculum terms was fine, but scores were down in literacy and numeracy items.

 Fact 3. Someone decided that heavy concentration on imporoving test scores should dominate all school curriculum activities at Aurukun. 

 A packaged program called Direct Instruction was purchased from the United States to concentrate on NAPLAN scores. It took over the schooling.

 ‘Di,’ as it is described in the literature, is a well honed, ritualistic, tightly-sequenced,  teacher-proof package that boasts about improvements  in test scores . School time has to be extended and the work load is heavy so important aspects of a normally healthy curriculum are put to one side. Children do not enjoy it. As a small piece by small piece, ‘read aloud’ routine, the smooth continuance of the units is important. Miss a unit and the child has problems. The more ‘learners’ present at school to maintain the sequence, the better; even if pupils have to be forced to attend school.

Its introduction as a schooling device follows the Gillard style of innovative progress……. an influential, popular non-educator is first sold a pup……then…..when all else fails, double the effort…all hell….

Let’s try this with the medical or legal professions!

Direct Instruction became God. Testucators in the area believed that it should be used more widely because NAPLAN is mandated and there is no other more important thing for Australian schools to do, than to raise scores. Such testucrats don’t seem to realise that this politically controlled view of NAPLAN has a  nefarious and macabre background. Ask those parents who aren’t given a choice. All political parties have been caught in the undercurrent and none is brave enough to question things and won’t be allowed to do so, no matter how many Aurukun riots we have. The LNP, through Christopher Pyne gave it $22 million ‘off the cuff’, when asked. No evaluation.  No questions asked.

 Fact 4. Normal children want to learn – about all sorts of things. A positive attitude to learning is fostered in normal classrooms and is essential for intellectual progress. NAPLAN destroys healthy attitudes to particular subjects,to learning and to schooling generally.

 Aurukun children weren’t allowed to partake in normal holistic curriculum offerings. The use of Di is a busy business. 

 Standardised Blanket Testing devices such as NAPLAN are known for their negative impact on the mental health of school children.  Mental illness, bullying, suicide are outcomes that are not side-issues of learning-based authorities.

In most mainstream schools in Australia, neither pupils nor teachers like NAPLAN and their frustrations are now showing. NAPLAN is confirmed as a WOMBAT – Waste Of Money, Brains and Time.

Aurukun is a pleasant land-locked community. Because of its isolated, remote location it has always expressed its frustrations in dynamic style. It imported Di to concentrate, exclusively, on NAPLAN improvement. BIG mistake. Pupils’ frustrations became too much.

Denied the opportunities such as city-folk have – like the peaceful march on the house of decision-makers in Brisbane this coming Wednesday – the only attention-raising method available to its citizens is to riot.

Because of its remoteness and its aboriginality, whatever happens ‘way up there’ can be ignored by decision-makers south of Cooktown.

The Aurukun reaction to NAPLAN is a microcosm of the Australian population’s reaction. Most people dislike NAPLAN but can’t do anything about it. They do in Aurukun.

 Please don’t be too critical  of  the youth of Aurukun. It’s not their fault.  

Clearly, Aurukun has provided us with a reason to think more carefully about what we are doing to children. The riots have dramatically revealed Australia’s schooling problem…..

 NAPLAN controls schooling in Australia.

Preparation for NAPLAN testing is the most important function of schools in Australia.

NAPLAN test preparation is boring for child-learners.

Our tolerance for it has led to the birth of some cock-eyed ideas [e.g.Di]

Frustrations mount.

Pupils’ mental health and social attitudes are damaged.

Australian schooling standards suffer and sink.



Using crutches merely to improve NAPLAN scores is a big,big,sad mistake.

Decent learning-focussed schooling is urgently needed in Australia.

We must stop dominating learning with testing fads and their crutches.

Phil Cullen  41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point  Australia 2486  0   cphilcullen@bigpond.com             http://primaryschooling.net/                     http://qldprimaryprincipals.wordpress.com/

looking for a decent political party to vote for….one that thinks

 Let’s think 

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