Archives for category: GERM

Phil Cullen writes The Treehorn Express in Australia. He regularly reports on that nation’s slavish copying of the worst American ideas, especially testing and accountability. The Australian national testing program is called NAPLAN.

FELLOW EDUCATORS : Please send this along to people in schools as extensively as you can. Those who already do…..thanks from Treehorn and the other kids.

The Treehorn Express

Teacher Proofing

USA has a penchant for branding and packaging things as neatly as possible. As far as schooling is concerned, a canny money-hungry educator can extract bits from the regular school curriculum, invent a catchy vogue-word to describe what-ever-it-is that needs attention, then wrap the contents up and peddle it to the gullible. Bingo! Legs 11 ! Holidays at Waikiki. If it cannot be wrapped up, it is branded and sold in bulk…. as ‘Models’….. by sweet-talking peddlers at conferences and seminars;…. and cocktail parties..

This comes as little surprise when it is a fact of life that schooling in America is owned and dominated by well-heeled corporate plutocrats., whose political influence in the other three English-speaking GERM countries is becoming as extensive as it is in the old US of A. The teacher-proofing edubusiness is big time and is exercised in many forms. Its enormity and influence is far, far more extensive than the ordinary Michael Dundee Aussie would believe.

Sage educators in the UK and in NZ don’t usually do this. Despite the heavy hand of neoconservatism that all countries share, they have always tended to treat teaching as a noble profession that actually pupils [aka teaches] children according to each child’s frame of reference. The child is the package. The teacher’s role in the act of teaching and evaluating and moving ahead is total. Unsubstantiated, untested, unprofessional, gimmicky quackery stops at the classroom door of their lively learning centres, where the child is treated as the centre of the universe and its performance is judged by its interest in learning. Diagnosis and evaluation is part of each activity. A school’s reputation is based on the way it treats children. If parents want to know about the best school around, they go to a reliable source…..the shopping centre…get the real deal……certainly not to unreliable, crooked test results, used by the unwitty for comparative purposes..

Of the four English-speaking, politically-controlled education systems – the GERM countries – Australia religiously follows what the USA does; no matter what… blindly as a rule. It’s all high stakes data-laden emotion-free performance-testing stuff which Americans love. Aussie unemotional, couldn’t-care-less, morally corrupt testucators now use it without second thought. Bugger the feelings of kids. Obediently, we followed the ‘Kleinist Model’ holus-bolus, called it NAPLAN, and continue to maintain its demonic philosophies with the sternest controls possible…. Iraq-like.

How many of us teachers have tried and become enthused – for a while – by some such package, only to find that the package takes over the teaching? Precious school time is devoted to completion times and corrections while our own professional judgement and modes of evaluating take a back seat? In ancient times, I was an SRA structured reading and IMP specialist. Mea culpa. I hope such indiscretions are forgivable.

How often have we been seduced by brand names for special movements and innovations; and have crossed swords with colleagues until things settled down and the next craze came along? We have discoursed about…. open and traditional…. phonics and whole-word….new maths and maths…persuasive and traditional…..child-centred and subject centred….composite and multi-aged….charter and mainstream… and testucation….child-based and didactic….?

There is a new list on the way from up-above… instruction, blended learning, differential learning, closing the achievement and talent gap, student-centric instruction, yap, yap. Makes one ever wonder what ever happened to classroom teaching as a descriptor?

In America it is said: “Schools nationwide continue to adopt student-centric instructional models that use data to empower teachers and engage learners. Data-driven instruction has moved beyond the education-buzzword sphere to educators’ daily lexicon.” So, Kleinism aka Naplanism is now permanently embedded in many of that nation’s schools…..more so in ours. The article continues : “In this ASCD Smartbrief Special Report, we provide a round-up of news about recent trends in data-driven instruction, blended learning and stories about how some schools are preparing the next generation of data scientists.” Getting everybody ready to be rocket scientists! Thinkers and learners?

Read this? ……some schools in Utah have lengthened the school day from six-and-a-half hours to eight to cope with data collection and marking. There is a national lobby for longer school hours. “The National Center on Time & Learning (NCTL) is dedicated to expanding learning time to improve student achievement and enable a well-rounded education. Through research, public policy and technical assistance, we support national, state and local initiatives that add significantly more school time for academic and enrichment opportunities to help children meet the demands of the 21st century.” [Using didactic instruction for eight hours per day shouldn’t be very exhausting, compared to three or four hours of serious teaching, should it? Good idea?]

Whatever happened to test-free composite-strategy teaching ? [That’s a new vogue word that I just invented to keep up with the Yanks]

The sorts of initiatives that we have imported [e.g. charter schools] and embedded in the data-laden environment of NAPLAN and its hellfire cobbers are a serious threat to our future. Such restrictions to serious school learning will continue (“The whippings will continue until morale increases” policy. ) in Australia while we continue to adopt the American mind-set. Schools in Australia are not run by teachers any more, but by remote control.

Political control of national testing programs is the most successful method of isolating teachers from effective teaching known to mankind; and that kind of conditioning suits the package-deal spirit of teacher-proofing.

Coercion always induces low level acceptance of a profession as a profession, so the outcome is that better teachers are quitting; neophytes with potential don’t last long; and better-quality applicants don’t want to join the profession because of our leaders’ grossly unprofessional attitude to children and their teachers. Make no mistake. This is a critical issue.

The Deseret News of Salt Lake City makes this point following an America of the future conference: “The level of despondency within the profession is too high for our future to be safe. A fairly dispiriting conversation, to be sure, but the response to the host’s penultimate question left me feeling downright sad at first, and, then, upon reflection, a bit confused. Replying to the query ‘Do you think the quality of teaching will decline in the years to come?’ each panellist explained her sense that the profession and, thus, the state of education were in decline. To paraphrase the veteran teacher of the group, ‘I’ve encountered many great teachers in my years in the profession, but it’s getting harder and harder for these folks to hold on. At the same time, it’s getting more difficult to attract new people into teaching.’ Listening to that assessment about a core element —the core element?— of our public education system, how can you not become despondent?”

With the teacher-proofing of Australian schools based on the American MODEL, how can we not feel even more despondent down under? Let’s bring the child back into the equation, get rid of the rubbish and start TEACHING. {PLEASE NOTE. Those teachers who fly in the face of the coercion and teach without reliance on data…..please hang in there. The kids need you.}
If you wish to receive The Treehorn Express direct, please contact me.

Phil Cullen {… and their teachers first} 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point 2486 Australia 07 5524 6443 0407865999

Samuel Abrams, a researcher at Teachers College, Columbia University, was named a knight by the Finnish government.

“The honor was bestowed before family, friends, and colleagues in recognition of Abrams’s advancement of the understanding of Finnish education in the United States. Abrams has conducted a vast amount of research on Nordic as well as American education systems. Much of this research will appear in his book “The Children Must Play: Education, Business, and Conflict,” to be published by Harvard University Press in 2015.”

Sam Abrams taught for many years at Beacon High School in Néw York City.

“When asked about a specific trend or issue as a key factor in the success of Finnish education, Abrams brought up two things: the well-rounded curriculum of the Finnish educational system and the professionalization of teaching. In contrast to the American curriculum, Abrams said, the Finnish curriculum for students in grades one through nine comprises a lot of arts, crafts, music, and play while consisting of no standardized testing. Abrams said the Finnish approach thereby not only makes school more enticing for children but also cultivates significant collaborative skills and provides natural, hands-on opportunities for learning math and science. According to Abrams, this philosophy, combined with a nutritious hot school lunch, which is free for all students, makes Finnish schooling so effective.”

Abrams advised the Finns not to worry about PISA scores but to continue to do what was best for children.

Dr. Iris Rotberg of George Washington University writes that international tests have been fraught with methodological problems for fifty years. None of the problems have been addressed or corrected, yet today the international tests such as PISA are driving educational policy in dozens of nations, all competing for higher test scores.

Rotberg writes:

“The methodological critiques of international test-score comparisons began shortly after the comparisons were first administered 50 years ago, and they have continued. Methodological critiques of research are not unusual, but this situation is quite extraordinary for several reasons. First, the critiques of the international test-score comparisons are extensive and address virtually every aspect of the studies—sampling, measurement, and interpretation. Second, the studies continue to be administered, with few of the critiques addressed, but with continued participation of a large number of countries and other jurisdictions. These massive data collection efforts have been conducted 13 times in the past 18 years. The results of the most recent study, the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), were released in December 2013, only a year after the release of the other two major comparisons, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) (National Center for Education Statistics, n.d.-a, n.d.-b, n.d.-c). Third, despite the critiques, the studies have had a large impact on political rhetoric, public opinion, and public policies in countries throughout the world. This commentary focuses on PISA, the most recent international comparison released. Although the three international comparisons differ in some respects, the basic methodological problems described here are inherent in international test-score comparisons more generally.”

She adds:

“The international test-score rankings are almost universally interpreted by countries as an indication of the quality of their schools, despite the extensive methodological problems that make it virtually impossible to draw causal relationships between test scores and school quality. We are taking tenuous results and applying them in a questionable way. Even if the rankings were sound, a causal leap from test-score rankings to school quality would be unwarranted given the wide range of other factors that influence the rankings, such as the differences among countries in poverty rates, income distribution, immigration rates, social support services, and the extent to which children participate in academic programs and cram courses outside of school. And beyond all of these variables, there remains the basic question of whether a test score is a fair representation of the complexity and quality of a country’s entire education system. It has proven to be virtually impossible to unravel the cumulative effects of all the uncontrolled variables and then make valid interpretations of the implications of the test-score rankings.”

The international horse race, she says, has led to policies of dubious merit.

And she concludes:

“PISA’s own findings support a transition to studies of individual countries. They show that the proportion of variance in student achievement accounted for by socioeconomic status and other differences within member countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is nine times greater than the proportion accounted for by differences among OECD countries (OECD, 2010)—a finding that has been obscured by the emphasis on test-score rankings and largely ignored in the public dialogue. It is consistent with a research approach that focuses on problem areas within countries rather than on test-score competitions among countries. It also offers an opportunity to take Einstein’s advice and focus on issues that count, and count only what can be counted. After 50 years of test-score rankings, it’s worth a try.”

What would Lewis Carroll say if he were alive today about the corporate education reform movement? What would he say about the contemporary effort to destroy childhood in the name of “standards”? How would he respond if a learned pedant told him that “as you grow up in this world, you will learn that no one gives a s–t what you think or feel”? How would he explain this to Alice? Would he even try?

Jonathan Lovell has written a beautiful illustrated essay on the corporate reform movement, creative disruption, Alice in Wonderland, GERM, Lace to the Top, and the Jabberwock. He names the Jabberwock.

Read it and arm yourself against nonsense with imagination and insight, drawn from literature.

A few weeks ago, educators Heinz-Dieter Meyer of the State University of New York and Katie Zahedi, principal of the Linden Avenue Middle School in Red Hook, New York, wrote a protest letter against the international horse race inspired by OECD’s PISA examinations. They gathered other signers and went public. Since then, the letter has been translated into Chinese, Japanese, German, French, and Spanish, with Greek and Korean on the way.

PISA, they say, has encouraged short-term thinking like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, in which nations look to raise test scores to be competitive with other nations, instead of developing in-depth programs to enrich the education of their young people in the many ways that tests don’t measure.

Please open the link and consider signing.

In the past few days, the media has barraged us with stories about how American students rank on PISA’s “problem-solving” test. We were told that they scored better than average yet still behind other nations.


But what is the test and what does it mean?


Andy Hargreaves of Boston College, co-author with Michael Fullan of Professional Capital, tweeted to me an article in the British press that contains examples taken from the test.


As I read the questions, I am reminded of standardized test questions I have seen that pop up on tests of reason and logic or on IQ tests.


Why don’t we administer the PISA problem-solving test to our state legislators and publish their scores? Or to the top officials at the U.S. Department of Education?


Now that would be interesting, wouldn’t it?



Andy Hargreaves, Pasi Sahlberg, and Dennis Shirley are noted for their scholarly, articulate, and outspoken opposition to the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM), which is spreading like a virus.

Now, one of the chief exponents of GERM–(Sir) Michael Barber–has delivered a report to Boston informing the business community that the schools are mediocre and need a strong infusion of privatization and (of course) more testing. (Sir) Michael Barber previously worked for McKinsey, and he is now the thought leader of that esteemed pusher of testing, Pearson.

Hargreaves, Sahlberg, and Shirley write here about why (Sir) Michael Barber is wrong. (Sir) Michael Barber made his reputation as a creator of the UK’s system of standards and assessments; because of his love of “targets,” he is known as Mr. Deliverology when he is not known as (Sir) Michael Barber. However, the authors point out that there has been no educational renaissance in England and that Massachusetts scores higher on the targets than the nation that last took (Sir) Michael Barber’s advice.


They write:


What’s wrong with the report? First, its grudging acknowledgement of positive educational outcomes in Massachusetts and grim portrait of the state’s shortfalls have little to do with the facts. Massachusetts is the leading state in the United States on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. It is the only state in the United States with an “A” grade in the highly regarded Quality Counts 2014 State Report Card. It is also one of the world’s top-performing systems on a number of international assessments. Its rate of recent progress may be slower than some countries, but they’ve started from farther behind — Massachusetts literally has less room for improvement. To view the state’s school system as suffering from “complacency,” as the report claims, confounds all the findings of United States and international research on school achievement.
Moreover, the report draws many of its recommendation from the United Kingdom, where its lead author, Michael Barber, once worked as an advisor on education to former Prime Minister Tony Blair. England has made massive investments in “academies,” similar to government-supported charter schools here. It has explored various ways to prepare new teachers outside of a university setting. There have been targets and tests galore. Yet, results from the 2012 Program of International Assessment put England merely at the international average, 499, compared to Massachusetts students’ score of 524. For Bay State policymakers to follow England’s lead in education would be like the Red Sox taking coaching tips from the lowly Kansas City Royals.


Professor David Hursh of the University of Rochester visited New Zealand, where he explained so-called “education reform” in the United States. He very bluntly describes the bipartisan agenda that is proving to be harmful to students, teachers, and public education.

Hursh met with educators in Australia and New Zealand over a five-week period, encouraging them to resist the high-stakes testing movement.

A teacher in the UK describes what happens when superiors demand that he or should hit their predicted targets, without respect to reality.

It begins:

“The Secret Teacher

“Some years ago I was called by my head of department to discuss the grades I’d predicted for a year 11 class. They were aspirational and realistic. I was told to change them. My forecast was not in line with school targets for A*-C so if I didn’t change them I would be “targeting failure”. I changed them.

“I’ve got young kids, a mortgage and could do without the stress of a capability procedure. Morals don’t pay the bills. The class achieved close to my original prediction. I was admonished over my underperformance and the inaccuracy of my predictions – the predictions which weren’t actually mine at all.

“Following so far? Good. Because that’s target-driven education; a farce.
This September, Birendra Singh, who spent five years observing science teaching in three unnamed London schools, told BBC News that “the rate of cheating suggested in [my] small study may be indicative of a bigger picture”. He was right. It’s epidemic.

“We’ll go to epic lengths to fiddle controlled assessment. We’ll enter whatever number we need to make the spreadsheet turn green regardless of whether a kid has done the work. Until recently, we’d lie about pupils’ speaking and listening scores (easy pickings – nobody ever checked) to boost them to a C. In short, we remove every last scrap of accountability from the pupil and pull every trick in the book to make sure “they achieve their potential”.

“The result? There’s a demographic of our children with little cognitive link between hard work and achievement – that hard work leads to achievement. It doesn’t matter if you work hard or not, you’ll get the grade anyway and we’ll parade you under the banner of “improving standards”.

A reader describes the impact of GERM in Spain, where she teaches. The Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg coined the term GERM in his book “Finnish Lessons.” It refers to the Global Education Reform Movement. GERM refers to interlocking strategies of testing, choice, competition. PISA spreads GERM. GERM turns education into a competition for test scores, instead of a process of human development.

“Thanks for your blog I have just discovered two months ago.

“Here in Spain we are having lot of troubles in schools and as teachers, due to the policy of our new goverments whose only aim is to reach higher figures in school results without paying any attention to the needs of our students or the increasing difficulties of budgets. During the last year, they have been cutting our budgets and criminalised teachers, they have only paid attention to PISA results, but not in order to solve real problems. So reading your posts makes me see we are not mistaken, and our fight for a public and democratic school is legitimate.”


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 162,740 other followers