Education Readings July 29th

By Allan Alach

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

How to Get Started With Genius Hour for Elementary Classrooms?

Well worth trying in your classroom.

‘I believe that every single child is gifted and that every kid has a talent which we as educators should help uncover. This is not easy when you have a curriculum to follow and tons of material to teach. But that given we need to make time to work with kids in a different and more creative setting. It’s important to let them explore new things that may not be present in your curriculum but are in your students’ heads all the time. This is how we can awaken curiosity in young children and help them develop creative thinking.’

Idea to retire: Technology alone can improve student learning

‘Yet each successive wave of technology has failed to live up to its hype, and millions have been spent trying to make technology do what it, alone, cannot do. Ultimately, it is not the technology that does the teaching.  Technology is a tool that is wielded by people to accomplish specific ends.  While it can serve as an accelerator, it can just as easily accelerate poor strategies as effective ones.  It is the teaching approach—the pedagogy—that ultimately determines learning outcomes.  Once this is understood, a series of other misconceptions also fade.’

What Bruner Really Meant: a personal viewpoint

If you are a user of ‘WALTS’ or other learning outcome type procedure, I suggest you read this.

‘The idea of starting with a learning objective is somewhat at odds with a constructivist approach, yet in far too many schools in the United Kingdom, teachers are still required to display just such an objective at the start of every lesson, despite there being no evidence that this achieves very much at all. Just to be clear, a learning objective is a good and important thing, but children are not mere machines – sometimes their thoughts will lead them ‘off script’ and they may make important connections and realisations that fall outside the narrow scope of an objective. Thus it is as pointless as showing them the end of a film before they have had a chance to work through the story and watch the plot develop.’

How Billionaires Are Successfully Fooling Us Into Destroying Public Education—and Why Privatization Is a Terrible Idea

This is an extract from Diane Ravitch’s book “The Death and Life of the Great American School System.” While written about the USA, we can find the same things happen in many other countries, including New Zealand.

A powerful, well-funded, well-organized movement is seeking to privatize significant numbers of public schools and destroy the teaching profession. This movement is not a conspiracy; it operates in the open. But its goals are masked by deceptive rhetoric. It calls itself a “reform” movement, but its true goal is privatization.’

10 Ways Pokémon Go Augments Real-World Education & Student Learning

This week’s Pokémon Go article…

‘As with all sudden fads, a host of important caveats have emerged this past week, including safeguarding private information, respecting hallowed locations, and ensuring personal safety. Also, as with most fads, this one game will not revolutionize education. That being said, here are 10 ways that Pokémon Go can support the skills of contemporary learning:’

Early Academic Training Produces Long-Term Harm

An article by Peter Gray that discusses the  ‘school reform’ agenda of making very young children jump academic hurdles.

‘Research reveals negative effects of academic preschools and kindergartens.

The results are quite consistent from study to study:  Early academic training somewhat increases children’s immediate scores on the specific tests that the training is aimed at (no surprise), but these initial gains wash out within 1 to 3 years and, at least in some studies, are eventually reversed.  Perhaps more tragic than the lack of long-term academic advantage of early academic instruction is evidence that such instruction can produce long-term harm, especially in the realms of social and emotional development.’

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

We Don’t Like “Projects”

Project based learning based on authentic inquiry lost in many schools – this applies to New Zealand schools

‘I uncovered some frankly stunning assumptions that many students have about learning:The word “project” is not a happy word. When I say project-based learning, most students grimace as they imagine prescribed PowerPoints;If a teacher doesn’t plan it, it’s not learning;If there isn’t a test, it wasn’t real.Their personal interests cannot inform their learning. Learning is sterile, and the actual usage of the word “learning,” to them, is quite different from what a professional might consider learning.’

Secret Teacher: My pupils’ creativity is being crushed by the punctuation police

Students creativity in writing being crushed- and its the case in New Zealand as well

The technocratic approach to assessment is supposed to be raising standards, but I do not see how. The children in my class have not become better writers this year. They haven’t had as many opportunities to be creative. They haven’t been able to focus on good story writing.’

Facing Resistance? Try a New Hat

Modern Learning Environment leadership and diverse styles.

‘Leading complex change requires trying on different perspectives to understand the various ways people respond to change.When I first stepped into Lyn Jobson’s school in Melbourne, Australia, and saw the open classrooms, I must admit that I flashed back to some bad memories of my own school days in the 1970s, when our “open classrooms” had wide breezeways into shared space instead of doors and were separated by thin, movable walls. What I recall most was the noise, distracting outbursts from other classrooms—and carpenters turning up circa 1980 to reinstall the doors.Yet Jobson’s K–8 public school, Alamanda College, was different.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

 Creating Conditions for Creativity. Steven Johnson’s ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’

‘If organisations such as schools and classrooms embraced creating the conditions for creativity  they would do better at nurturing new ideas. Johnson writes that we are better by connecting ideas than building walls around them – good ideas want to be free, they want to connect, fuse, recombine.’

Survival of the fittest or the best connected – Market Forces or creating conditions for all to thrive. A new look at Darwin.

From the same author as above – where good ideas come from.

‘Steven Johnson, in his book ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’,writes that Darwin realised that the true story of nature was not just one of ruthless competition. Darwin understood well the paradox of the  importance of interdependence as well as competition.Johnson writes that the most creative ideas come from open environments where people share and build on each others ideas – in Darwin’s day the coffee shop. Creating such fertile ideas environments is the theme of Johnson’s book.’

The miracle of community

The power of an organic learning community.

‘For the past decade or so schools have been too busy, sidetracked trying to implement imposed technocratic curriculums and accountability demands, to consider a more effective way of working, that of being a ‘learning community’. And, in turn, teachers have become so obsessed with complying with requirements that they too have neglected the real source of power – shared beliefs that they and their students forge through working together for their mutual benefit.’


Education Readings June 26th

By Allan Alach

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

This week’s homework!


Hattie’s research: Is wrong Part 5 – this should clinch it.

Education academic John Hattie has been in the news recently as part of another self promotion tour. Here’s Kelvin Smythe’s latest critique of his so-called research that is being used by governments as an excuse to rip apart and privatise primary education.

“At some time in the future, Hattie’s research and his opinions will be revealed for what they are: a huge charade. But you don’t need to wait – all you need to do is read the postings in the Hattie series and clear-sightedly and undistractedly employ your critical faculties. Everything about Hattie’s research is false except for some opinions which, while true, are also false, because he claims them to be evidence-based.”

Can data really define ‘coasting’?

Think things are bad in your neck of the woods? How about new legislation in England defining and targeting ‘coasting’ schools and then using this to force schools to become academy (aka charter) schools?

‘Coasting’ suggests a lack of effort but all we have, with results data, is a statistical end product: the output numbers. Teachers could be working phenomenally hard, and yet failing to improve results as much as outsiders might wish, because schools, in reality, do not have full control over results. These are, inevitably, subject to unpredictability, from the motivation and ability of pupils to ‘perform’ on the big day to the vagaries of marking. And there may be a sense of a zero-sum game: ‘below-average’ schools will always be penalised, even if all schools are working very hard, if the indicators used are based on comparing one school’s results to others’.

1984 Arrives Thirty Years Late: Say Goodby to Privacy Forever if This Bill Passes

This article by Diane Ravitch highlights concerns in USA; however the implication for other countries is just as ominous as similar data collection systems are established and extended.

‘What it really means is that the federal government will:

 authorize the creation of a federal database of all college students, complete with their personally identifiable information, tracking them through college and into the workforce, including their earnings, Social Security numbers, and more. The ostensible purpose of the bill? To provide better consumer information to parents and students so they can make “smart higher education investments.”’

Big Bird Can Close the Achievement Gap? Not So Fast…

Here’s a response to a recent news item that highlighted the benefits of Sesame Street.

“Don’t get me wrong: I love Big Bird as much as the next guy. But when people start talking about how Sesame Street is just as effective at closing the achievement gap as preschool, I start to worry that we’re becoming enamored with a seductively simple characterization of a deeply complex problem.”

Deeper Learning in Practice

“Across the education sector, we define what students need to know and should be able to do for succeeding in college and career. We know that they need more than just the ability read and write — today’s constantly changing workforce shows that they must be able to master academic content, communicate and collaborate effectively, think critically, and become life-long learners. Supporting students as they develop these skills, understandings, and mindsets often requires a shift in how we think about classroom learning and the competencies needed by teachers to facilitate that learning.”

Debunking 10 Big Myths About Gifted Kids

“Here are myths about gifted kids and some realities, based on years of classroom observation and interaction with teachers who work with them.”

Teachers’ fightback against the destructive ideals of Germ has reached global proportions

“The fight takes different forms in different countries, but there are common threads throughout. Not only are the attacks part of the same neoliberal agenda but, in each case, resistance relies on the ability of education unions to mobilise the mass of their membership, developing their political consciousness through struggle. Teachers and their unions emerge from this process changed — stronger, more democratic and with a wider vision for education.”

Beliefs about innate talent may dissuade students from STEM

This is a lengthy article, which also includes a couple of videos, and is very worth reading.

“We need to abandon dangerous ideas that some people just can’t do math. Neuroscience and educational research flatly contradict such beliefs. As the new study suggests, valuing hard work over innate “genius” might even spur students to tackle new challenges.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Lessons from Finland

Finland, as ever, offers a high trust community orientated alternative to the GERM corporate  target based model the Anglo American world is taking.

“In recent years, Finland’s students have been at the top or near the top on a range of international indicators. Furthermore, Finland’s commitment to social equity has led to low levels of variance in student results from school to school.However, this has not always been the case. In the early 1990s, Finnish students achieved mediocre results on international tests such as PISA and TIMMS. Yet, they turned this around. Notably, they didn’t do this through introducing high-stakes testing, introducing charter schools, or enforcing superficial compliance with central mandates. Rather, they did it through placing teachers at the very heart of school reform.”

How Can Teachers Develop Students’ Motivation — and Success?

Most teachers will have heard of Carol Dweck but how many implement her ideas in their rooms?

“What can teachers do to help develop students who will face challenges rather than be overwhelmed by them? Why is it that many students seem to fall apart when they get to junior high or middle school? Can the “gifted” label do more harm than good? Do early lessons set girls up for failure? Is self-esteem something that teachers can or should “give” to students? Those are some of the questions Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Columbia University, answers. Some of her responses will surprise you.”

Why Glorify Failure to Enhance Success?

The difference between mistakes and failure – and the teachers role in helping their students.

“Teachers must help  students understand that the conditions for success are within their control and that thry will help them remedy their learning errors when they occur. Teachers, must have a growth orientation to learning, and help their students develop the same orientation. As Dweck reminds us, a growth orientation creates motivation and enhances productivity. When shared by both teachers and students, it also builds positive relationships.”

Academic subjects alone won’t ‘set every child up for life’

Beyond the basics! The importance of innovation and creativity

“What successful employers, big and small, hi-tech and no-tech, are crying out for are recruits who are innovative and creative, who can think laterally, communicate clearly and work as part of a team. These are all abilities that are most effectively developed for children through the arts and music.”

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Putting critical information literacy skills into action – use them or lose them

To make good use of exciting learning experiences students need a full range of literacy, numeracy observation , inquiry, and expressive skills to be in place. Real literacy requires a context, or need, so that students can see the point of acquiring such vital skills. Literacy and numeracy are all about gaining meaning and power. Exciting studies provides the context for such learning.”

The artistry of the teacher

The killing of a Vikings’ chieftain’s horse – and the artistry of a creative teacher

“Teacher artistry and sensitivity is required to enter into dialogue with the individual learners to help them develop in-depth thought. Lack of depth and understanding is all too commonly seen today in students’ observational or scientific writing as well. How do you help a student get the most out of an experience? Read on.”

Write Now Read Later

“These days reading, or better still the language arts ( now called by a more technocratic title ‘literacy’) seems to have been taken over by academics who are pushing a phonemic approach onto schools – ‘P’ Pushers! This is an approach that distorts the organic relationship between experience, oral language, writing and reading – all premised on a need to make meaning and to communicate. The traditional language arts programme has also been distorted by those who are peddling an meta-cognitive approach that sees acquiring reading skills as an end in themselves.”

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

Aussie Friends of Treehorn: Mum says,”Screw You.”

 Aussie Friends of Treehorn 

“I let the fury get the best of me. Like I said, my eyes welled up with tears out of anger and frustration. You diminished my child to five categories.

…Screw you, Common Core State Standards [=NAPLAN] and all the people that came up with this crap program.”

 In one of her facebook entries, Diane Ravitch [“Reign of Error”], printed a letter that she had received from a non-teacher US mother who had just received notification from the equivalent of Australia’s ACARA to tell her that her slow learning son was performing at a level below the New York state standards for Mathematics. In this extract, I have changed some organisational descriptors to suit Australian conditions………as if the letter was written by an Aussie mum. Check on the original if you wish on

 “I let the fury get the best of me. Like I said, my eyes welled up with tears out of anger and frustration. You diminished my child to 5 categories and to simplify the wording you chose, deemed him “too stupid to be in the grade level he is currently in. “ Screw you ACARA and all the people that came up with this crap program. Screw you for its horrible implementation. Screw you for not considering the kids who are not on the right side of the bell curve. Screw you for not thinking about the kids who are developmentally delayed. Screw you for not thinking about the kids who aren’t developmentally delayed, but just don’t test well. Screw you for putting pressures on teachers. Screw you for allowing the kids to feel this pressure; it is bound to impact them. Screw you for allowing this chaos to spill over into our homes and mess with our emotions, both child and parent. Screw you for NAPLAN and evaluating my son’s teachers on his test score. Screw you for creating a problem in which our kids are ragdolls and in which big businesses will be allowed to profit. I’m not a conspiracy theorist; I just call it like I see it. I am done with this. I’m not political. I’m for kids. I am for teachers and most importantly I’m for my son.

 I am still learning about NAPLAN and I don’t claim to know it all, as some do, but what I do know is this, he is not a score and neither are his teachers! I don’t care what he received on these tests. I never did and I told him the same. What I do care about and what I would hope you do too is what you can’t measure on these tests. The light in the eyes when he finally tackles a problem, be it Math or Literacy, which he has been struggling to get and because of the help of his teachers he succeeds. The hard work my son demonstrates at the dining table, studying spelling. The joy we ALL feel because he has stood up for someone who was being bullied. The time when he conquered his fear of heights, outside of school on a Saturday, using tools he learned in school, from whom? Yes, from his teachers! I realise carrying the diagnosis of autism is not the norm for most; however were children, like my son, in mind when NAPLAN was implemented? Because he sure doesn’t like it.

 I will say this one more time. My son, Liam, is NOT your NAPLAN test score. He is a 9 year old boy, who works hard in all aspects of school. He receives tremendous support and kindness and life lessons from his teachers. He will be successful because of them, not because of this test. How do you evaluate that? That is my million dollar question.”


  Chris Pyne should read this letter. Julia Gillard should read it. State Minsters should read it. ACARA staff should read it. APPA and ASPA should read it. ACE and ACEL should read it. All principals’ and teachers’ associations should read it. AEU and state teachers’ unions should read it.

 Their complicity and use of SBT testing, such as NAPLAN, has had too many Aussie victims like Liam. A few hundred victims are too many. There are thousands. Far too many.

Screw all testucators. They shouldn’t be allowed near schools.


 As Sir Ken Robinson said,

  • “The dominant culture of testing is dangerous. It obstructs learning and does not excite curiosity and creativity.”
  • “While literacy and numeracy are important, tests can’t measure the things that matter.”
  •  “ Education is not mechanical; it is human. We need to embrace a different metaphor – a human one.”
  • “ We need to institute a climate of [a] Individualised teaching and learning; [2] Accord high status to teachers. Invest in teachers. [3] Pass full responsibility to schools to get the job done.
  • “ The good work being done in schools is being done in spite of the dominant culture of testing; not because of it.
  • “The real role of leadership is not ‘command and control’, but to control a climate of possibilities.

“Benjamin Franklin says that there are three kinds of people in the world: 1. Those who are not moveable. 2. Those who are moveable. 3. Those who move. When people move, that’s a revolution – that’s what we need.”


Phil Cullen 41 Cominan Avenue, Banora Point 2486 07 5524 6443

Learnacy – A curriculum for the Future

The Treehorn Express 

Welcome New Readers

Treehorn, the hero of The Shrinking of Treehorn by Florence Heidi, represents all the young school children of this world whom adults allow to be treated in most shameful ways and just don’t care. Most shameful of all are the quack-medicine notions of politico-lawyer testucators of various countries, who believe that fear, shame, creation of stress, competition, extra coaching, use of performance-enhancing medicines and direct didactic sermonising techniques motivate learners to perform well at forms of Standardised Blanket Testing [SBT] that sadistic legislators impose. The sparkle and joy of child-centred learning is deliberately discouraged and replaced by an insatiable quest for acceptable numerical scores from blanket tests.. The outcome, clearly, is mediocrity in test results, distaste for the challenges of learning, bullying in the playground and from administrative levels; and discouragement for the attractions of teaching as a true-blue caring profession.

Ask yourself whether honourable adults would be brave enough to impose the kind of hard-wired, cruel and long-lasting stress on fellow adults that the testucating fraternity imposes on small school children in countries that claim to be seeking education reform.

NCLB, NAPLAN and ‘National Standards’ are these kinds of nasty testing programs held in GERM countries for reasons beyond the normal. If the world was fair and democratic, it would care for its young and inhume all SBTs asap.

The brain-child of lawyer politicians, SBTs represent a form of cognitive malnutrition, imposed and maintained by flat-earth testucators on powerless, neglected and ignored young children so that program producers and publishers can increase their wealth.

It is now so noticeable that wholly-owned ‘professional’ groups and associations, that once fearlessly upheld the dignity, social and mental health of children, now prefer to discuss educational principles, successes and achievements and decline, in numbers and test scores. Progressive child-based shared-evaluation achievements in learning terms are seldom discussed. Educational ethics and codes of school-based professional rectitude have deteriorated seriously during the past decade and the prospects for a bright, creative, progressive, schooling future for all GERM countries are dim. You know it. We all know it. There’s evidence galore.

The dog-whistle politics aimed only at a gullible, disinterested and couldn’t-care-less public, is working. Testucators are now deliberately using their debased version of the language of learning, their pseudo-technical woo, in order to destroy schooling’s cognitive base. They use words like ‘achievement’, ‘improved performance’, ‘better outcomes’ as they universally describe the mechanical, robotically contrived, useless results from deceptively unreliable and invalid testing programs. They talk educational gibberish using PISA-style measurement bullshit. At no time in the history of GERM countries has schooling been so debased; its teachers devalued and abused by flat-earth policies, miseducated ‘experts’ and test-publishing profiteers. And they have the floor. They now own the territory because we have allowed them to do so…..forgetting to protect the kids. We dropped the ball.

Australia’s ACARA, the organisation that conducts the tests, can only discuss the effects and outcomes in mathematical terms, deliberately ignoring the effects of their crude tests on human dignity, young children’s emotions, teacher ethics and concerns of parents. The collateral damage from SBTs to children’s lives is enormous; shamefully hidden from public view. ACARA says that it “…provides students and parents with nationally comparable information on….performance.” Yes. Monkey-like. So what?

In its pitiful “ACARA’s response to 60 Minutes”, it responded to the query “How much does NAPLAN cost?”, deceptively replying that the cost to ACARA as $7 to 7.5 million; as if that portion of the overall cost was peanuts – AND – not mentioning the states’ costs for administration and control by senior officers nor the marking of papers by hundreds of state tick/cross counters – many millions more of wasteful expenditure. The full truth is deliberately impossible to find.

The question has to be asked, as demonstrated by the testing-giant Pearson’s handling of the Pineapplegate affair last year: “Should the testing industry be allowed to police itself?”

 Shouldn’t serious school-based educators reclaim the territory, their profession? Shouldn’t they care a lot more about kids than they do now?


It is a child’s birthright to learn in the best way possible. No child should be badgered by unseemly lower level motivational techniques nor subjected to in-built emotional ridicule and stress-related operations. One should never expect that a child’s basic human rights will be assaulted in a school classroom, nor its individuality fractured to the extent that SBTs do. Our children are not just robots made of meat.

Each child is different. During the most important stages of development, children gather together at a primary school and mix with others of various backgrounds, various personalities, various interests and various stages of intellectual development for about 7 years. Although each one is different in so many ways, present day testucators crazily try to standardise their learning efforts and manipulate their attitudes using techniques that run counter to the social and psychological needs that children share…..

  •  school pupils are naturally curious and interested in the world around them;
  • school pupils enjoy play and prefer to be happy;
  • school pupils are curious young people. They love to handle things, explore situations and try things out;
  • school pupils always feel thrilled and motivated by achievement….. as much as they feel disappointed, rejected and depressed by ‘failure’.
  • school pupils learn effectively when their own interests are being satisfied;
  • school pupils learn by doing, observing, imitating and teaching other children.

Why have these kinds of essential elements of the basics of the teaching/learning act been despised and ignored during the past decade? [We have a lot to answer for.] Why have these basics been forced to make way for the strict demands of a ‘robust’ SBT-based curriculum. [You and I know very well that we must use distressed kids for testucators profit.] Why do most of our more eminent organisations decry the shameful behaviours that SBTs bring, and support their use at the same time? [Must be a new definition of ‘crazy’]

Children know [and adults forget] that learning is an active, pleasureable experience. Children believe that schools are learning places….happy places…challenging places…free from stress places. They know [and adults forget] that they cannot and will not learn a thing unless the circumstances suit them. Learning resides in the individual.

“You testucating bullies cannot make me learn, if I don’t want to.”

 “Hey Teach. I have ways of learning that you had better learn about if you want to help me. Forget about that SBT crap. It just doesn’t work.”

 “I’m your pupil…NOT a helpless test-dummy. I want to become a life-long student. I want to learn as much as I can and be good at it” [See below]

 “Help! Someone!”

If a child does not know and understand why he or she is at school, he or she is not at school. If pupils are forced to believe that they are there to try to pass tests and to achieve at a mediocre level, instead of building-up their personal learning ability to its dizzy limits, they are not at school.

Let’s think about LEARNACY……how it works… and how TESTUCATION works.


 Surely we need a schooling authority that is based on Freedom to Learn with serious expectations of high achievements,

to the limits of personal ability,

by finding joy in the learning act itself?

Freedom from fear. Freedom from stress. Freedom from shame. Freedom from feeling a failure. Freedom from bullying. Freedom from high-stakes pressure. Freedom from useless tests.



 Let’s look with noetic intensity, at the kind of schooling now being endured by children. Let’s look seriously at the ‘criminally insane’ outcomes – charter schools, performance pay, business managerial structures vis-a-vis educational administration arrangements.

Let’s check out what thoughtful writers and child-warriors of this decade have to say. Diane Ravitch. She’s one of us…a Treehorner. Here is a review of her latest book.

 “Diane Ravitch’s Reign of Error takes the myths surrounding public education head on and provides her readers with logic and reasoning sorely missing from the current debate. Diane is a fierce warrior against the so-called reformers whose ideology exacerbates the problems of poverty and inequity. Reign of Error takes on each of the common myths and blows them up with the reformers’ own holy grail – DATA!! Data that disputes the miracle schools, the effects of poverty and myth of the dropout factors. Ravitch also takes on the Billionaire Boys Club with swipes at their handmaidens of destruction, including Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, and Wendy Kopp, and the book provides the solutions that will change the trajectory away from so-called destructive innovation towards equitable, high quality education for all children.”

—Karen GJ Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union

 “American educational reformers have fashioned a narrative that has become so pervasive that it has effectively silenced alternative accounts. In this courageous book Diane Ravitch persuasively challenges both the narrative’s presentation and analysis of data and its underlying value system.”

—Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education,

Harvard Graduate School of Education

Maybe, amongst the new readers of The Treehorn Express, there are some true-blue educators wandering around the Tiananmen Squares of our SBT countries looking for the bully-boys’ tanks from the ‘Billionaire’s Boys Club’ to divert. Maybe. You?


 I was good at everything

-honest, everything –

until I started being here with you.

I was good at laughing,

playing dead,

being king.

Yeah, I was good at everything!

But now I’m only good at everything

on Saturdays and Sundays…

 [Albert Cullum “The Geranium on the Window Sill just Died but Teacher you went right on” P.40 Harlin Quist, Belgium 1971 ]


 Phil Cullen, 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point 2486 07 552 6443

Unpacking the sound bite “quality teaching eliminates socioeconomic advantage”

by Dianne Khan

Reposted from Save Our Schools New Zealand

New Zealand Minister of Education Hekia Parata this weekend said that experts had found that four consecutive years of quality teaching eliminated any trace of socio-economic disadvantage.hekia

In her now typical teacher-bashing way, she went on to say “In New Zealand we provide 13 years. You’d think it would not be too much to expect that four of those are good quality.”

Ignoring the snarkiness, just think about what she said:  Four consecutive years of quality teaching eliminates any trace of socio-economic disadvantage.

That’s a mighty big claim.

Where did it come from and does it stand up to scrutiny?

Where did they find their catchy soundbite?

Neither The Southland Times nor Hekia Parata provide a reference for their claim.  You’d think someone making bold statements like that would be more than happy to cite their source, wouldn’t you?

They merely use it to end their article with a flourish.  After all, it sounds good, doesn’t it?  Very catchy. And they’re not alone – many newspapers and online publications including The Boston Globe used the same quote, also with no reference,

Whatever.  I searched on.

A Bit of Digging

A flicker of something I read on Twitter came to mind, and a quick search led me to an article called The economic case for sacking bad teachers.  Nice title.  I felt sure this would be a clear, research-based, unbiased article…digging

The article largely ignores the actual report it is supposedly based on and, indeed, misrepresents its conclusions. But wait!  They manage to get a nice soundbite out of their expert, Eric Hanushek.  I sense he is going to prove interesting.

In the article, Hanushek is quoted as saying:

‘A good teacher can get 1.5 years of learning growth; a bad teacher gets half a year of learning growth.’

The article goes on to say:

Having four consecutive years of high-quality teaching, [Hanushek] says, can eliminate any trace of economic disadvantage. (5)

Leaving the validity of the first of his statements aside, what on earth does that have to do with the 2nd statement?  That is not discussed at all in the OECD paper the article is meant to be about.  Why throw it in?  Did the journalist just find Hanushek’s most famous tidbit and throw it in for good measure?  Who knows.

And again, no reference.

Just an acceptance that this bold statement is fact.

And why would the journalist question it?  It sounds good doesn’t it?  And look at the great headline it gave them.


Further Digging

Still no clearer as to where this assertion had come from, I enlisted the combined research abilities of the experts I  know. With their help, I found some very interesting stuff.

Take this quote from Diane Ravitch:

[Eric] Hanushek and Rivkin projected that “having fiveyears of good teachers in a row” (that is, teachers at the 85th percentile) “could overcome the average seventh-grade mathematics achievement gap between lower-income kids (those on the free or reduced-price lunch program) and those from higher-income families. (7)

Ravitch goes on to say that, at the conference where they claims were presented, they were fervently disputed. Richard Rothstein  said they were “misleading and dangerous.” (7)  Criticism continued after the conference, and the debate of the statement’s validity raged.  

New reports came out, suggesting that 3, 4 or 5 years in a row with a good teacher could override the socioeconomic status (SES) of a student.

And despite being incredibly contentious and there being many experts arguing against the claims and plenty of research to say otherwise, it is too good a headline grabber and too utterly irresistible  for journalists.

Ravitch tells us that:

Over a short period of time, this assertion became an urban myth among journalists and policy wonks in Washington, something that “everyone knew.” 

This is the danger.

The sound bite wins the day.

reading-newspaperYour Average Newspaper Reader

Do you think the readers of The Southland Times will stop to wonder how rigorous was the research that lead to that soundbite?

Do you think they will ponder whether it has been challenged?

Do you think they will have eight solid hours and a goodly handful of experts to help them look into it, like I did?

No, me neither.

Luckily, I had the time.  And even more fortuitously, some anti-GERMers with a larger platform that I did, too.

A Fallacy and a Rebuttal

Renowned education expert, Pasi Sahlberg tackled the “four consecutive years of quality teaching” fallacy:

“This assumption presents a view that education reform alone could overcome the powerful influence of family and social environment mentioned earlier. It insists that schools should get rid of low-performing teachers and then only hire great ones. This fallacy has the most practical difficulties.

The first one is about what it means to be a great teacher. Even if this were clear, it would be difficult to know exactly who is a great teacher at the time of recruitment.

The second one is, that becoming a great teacher normally takes five to ten years of systematic practice. And determining the reliably of ‘effectiveness’ of any teacher would require at least five years of reliable data. This would be practically impossible.

Everybody agrees that the quality of teaching in contributing to learning outcomes is beyond question.  It is therefore understandable that teacher quality is often cited as the most important in-school variable influencing student achievement.

But just having better teachers in schools will not automatically improve students’ learning outcomes.” (8)

As Sahlberg says, there are many other factors that lead to students success, and global reforms tend to ignore those that the most successful countries have implemented, namely

“… freedom to teach without the constraints of standardized curricula and the pressure of standardized testing; strong leadership from principals who know the classroom from years of experience as teachers; a professional culture of collaboration; and support from homes unchallenged by poverty.” (8)

Controversial Expert

Eric Hanushek

Eric Hanushek

But back to the original statement.  Who is Eric Hanushek, who made the claim?

Hanushek is an economist. He is not without controversy, and his research methods have been called into question in the past. (6)

However, disputes with his methods and conclusions have not stopped him from promoting his views widely in professional and public media, nor have they prevented the US administration and now our very own Education Minister, Hekia Parata, using his work and his words to justify further education reforms that education experts argue are not in the best interest of students. (3, page 40-42) and (4)

What does Hanushek say makes a Good Teacher?

His measurement of a good teacher is one whose students get high test scores.

One wonders what this means for a teacher of special needs students of lower cognitive ability, or students with English as a second language, or students who have a low educational ethic.  Are those teachers bad because their scores are lower than a teacher with more able students?

It’s a tad disconcerting, isn’t it?

You will have your own ideas on what makes a good teacher.  Anecdotal evidence tells me that for many Kiwi parents, it is more than test results.  I shall tackle this in detail some other time.  Meanwhile, you might want to read this and ponder the issue further.

rich kid poor kidFact or Snappy Sound Bite?

Back to the sound bite, then.

Quality teaching is, of course, of huge importance.  But the best that can be said for the assertion that four consecutive years’ quality teaching eliminates any trace of socio-economic disadvantage is that it is contentious.

Certainly there is evidence out there that supports the view that poverty has an impact on student achievement.  And great teachers are likely to do more than just improve test scores.

One thing I know for sure, though: Whether even the best teachers can completely override the impact of a student’s socioeconomic situation is not something that can or should be tackled by a sound bite.

~ Dianne

With sincere thanks to the many experts who were kind enough to help me today.

References and further reading:

(1) The high cost of low educational performance

(2) The Market for Teacher Quality  Eric A. Hanushek, John F. Kain, Daniel M. O’Brien and Steven G. Rivkin* December 2004

(3) School Reform Proposals: The Research Evidence (Research in Educational Productivity) by Alex Molnar (Mar 1, 2002)

(4) Minister: I don’t like deciles

(5) The economic case for sacking bad teachers – The Spectator

(6) Does Money Matter?  A meta-analysis of studies of the effects of differential school inputs on student outcomes, by Hedges, Laine, and Greenwald (1994)

(7) The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, by Diane Ravitch

(8) What if Finland’s great teachers taught in U.S. schools? by Pasi Sahlberg

(9) The Washington Post – The Answer Sheet – The “three great teachers in a row” myth

(10)  The Boston Globe Gets It Wrong on Teacher Evaluation

Educational Readings August 31

 The Treehorn Express

Treehorn’s story Open attachment.

[Maintained by NZ educator Allan Alach]


Educational Readings

By Allan Alach

Hard to beat this item on Diane Ravitch’s blog as a great introduction to this week’s readings:

There have been many times in history when the evidence and discoveries by researchers and scientists (such as Galileo and Darwin) was suppressed by those in power. This is one of those times.

The peer-reviewed unbiased research in biology, neuroscience, education, and social science corroborates a humanistic, child-centered, constructive approach to how we raise and educate our children.  It’s amazing how the biological research into the workings of the brain supports the research from education and social science.  Many of us know that there is already evidence that tells us to do the opposite of what the laws and policies require.

Someday people will look back and ask, “How could a society have done that to their children when they knew better?”

Diane Ravitch’s blog will be there, in archive, to tell the future how it happened. Thank you Diane.’

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

This week’s homework!

Finding the Genius in Every Child

Self explanatory, except for politicians and other school ‘deformers.’

Being a profession?

New Zealand educator, e-learning specialist, and blogger Derek Wenmoth offers valuable commentaries in his blog. Here’s an example, commenting on the seemingly endless discussions and policies on teacher professionalism.

‘This debate has been around for a long time and never seems to be fully resolved, and may never be as long as we have a situation where teachers and teaching is subject to so much direct political influence and interference. There is hardly a day goes by when we don’t see teachers and/or teaching represented in a negative light by the media who seldom waste an opportunity to position teachers as “a problem to be fixed.”’

The Great Interactive Whiteboard Swindle…a 70s themed post!

Yes indeed, came to the same conclusion when I investigated IWB for a sabbatical project.

New Forms of Assessment: measuring what you contribute rather than what you collect

Can’t see the deformers buying into this, therefore is must be good…..

Seven Sins of Our System of Forced Education

This article dates back to 2009, but that doesn’t affect its relevance. Health warning to GERM laden deformers …. read at peril of having your prejudices challenged.

We can use all the euphemisms we want, but the literal truth is that schools, as they generally exist in the United States and other modern countries, are prisons.”

Want to Kill Student Curiosity in 12 Easy Steps?

Here’s how.

Why Scotland’s approach to publicly funded education works

Can we import some Scottish politicians?  Seems that they are immune from GERMs.

The People Holding Us Accountable Should Be Held Accountable Themselves.

Sounds like a reasonable proposition to me.





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