Saturday, September 29, 2012

Australia/ New ZealandPRINCIPALS’ CONFERENCE - the Darwin Effect


The Darwin Effect

By Phil Cullen ex Director of  PrimaryEducation Queensland

Phil's website Primary Schooling

I remember the day when the first news came through that Darwin had been bombed. The Japs knew how to spoil my 14th birthday. We school kids mirrored the grim faces of our parents and teachers; another ‘Pearl Harbour’ was right on our door-step. Things were very, very serious.
As far as almost all Australians knew, Darwin was bombed for a couple of more days after that ...and all was clear. It wasn’t until the end of the war, over three years later, that the Australian population learned that Darwin was bombed over fifty times, but the news was hidden for morale purposes. Someone somewhere controlled the supply of news.
Over one thousand primary school principals from Australia and New Zealand gathered in Melbourne on 18-21 Sept. 2012 to discuss issues attached to ‘LEADING LEARNING’. It was meant to be huge and it was. It was meant to be forthright and meaningful and it was. For those who attended, it was a huge event. For many, it was a once-in-a-life-timer.
The conference had been advertised and marketed with outstanding style for world to see, for the Australian and New Zealand public to learn more about the principal’s place in leading pupils through vital learning experiences during these tumultuous times; and press releases were made on Conference Eve and through the period. All sections of the media knew what the conference was about and where it was located.
For parents, grandparents like me, teachers, and for those interested in primary schooling, there was a promise of headlines in the daily press to inform us of the world’s best practices and what Australia and New Zealands’ pupils and parents could look forward to....especially the place of NAPLAN and ‘National Standards’ in the processes of leading learning in schools.
Things looked so promising. .
Should we imagine that a covert embargo on expert-based professional comment is an extension of the overt government control of professional opinion and action at the school level?
Too close to a conspiracy theory isn’t it....but is weird, isn’t it? How?. Why?

Thank God for Google. Here you can find audio clips, abstracts, a full text or two on a well organised site. Click...
I have listened to the learned presenters and authors on this site. An hour each spent on the provoking opinions, statistics and anecdotal evidence with Andy Hargreaves, Pasi Sahlberg, Kishore Mahbubani and Yong Zhao means four hours well spent....and to then read their books! Trust me. Their cogent, thoughtful views should be of enormous assistance to those principals and officials, whom we trust to Guide Our Nation’s School Kids Intelligently. One such person, a local keynote speaker, Tony Cook of the Department of Education etc., forewarned the unsure, however, with his well-presented, well-organised paper illustrating that Australia principals will be required to get their NAPLAN scores up to scratch according to the 2025 Gillard Goals. They will! He concluded his address, “ And if you have done that, then you will truly have helped to make the world a better place, and your contribution will have been an immeasurable one.” ?
Tony Cook’s viewpoint was unremarkably similar to that of Peter Garrett, the Australian Minister for Education and other things, who spoke of his government’s plans for the future. Peter boasted to our visitors:-
“We now have a national curriculum, national teacher standards and a national teacher performance and assessment framework.”
“And there is more to do – a second wave of reform is underway
“Between 2000 and 2009 our performance overall, declined relative to other countries.”
“ By Year 9, a student from the poorest quarter of Australian schools is, on average, up to three years of schooling behind a student from the wealthiest quarter of the population.”
“We are prepared to invest substantially more in our schools, but only if there is agreement from state governments to a National Plan for School Improvement. Our plan will help us to see Australia ranked as a top 5 country in the world in Reading, Science and Mathematics by 2025. The Gillard Government intends to continue to work in good faith with state and territory governments, the Catholic and Independent school sectors to deliver our plan. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get this right. It is an objective that has escaped us as a nation in the past.”'
“I know it’s an objective that you share.”
It is fortunate for Peter that he was not present for all of the conference, because he prefers hard evidence from tests and tends to ignore child-oriented provocations. Testees are children and they have no feelings nor thoughts....can’t vote. Classrooms teachers don’t care....and Principals are on he indicated. The presentations by world reputed thinkers would have made him feel uneasy. But then...
He’s on a roll. The objectives are shared with Australian principals [he said]. {Are they? That’s a worry.} 2025! Here come the heavies!

Preferring to trust the opinions and anecdotal evidence of experienced commentators, I went seeking through the papers to find some solutions for the needs of ignored present-day school children. I went looking deliberately for statements about leading-learning that might apply to NAPLAN [Aus.] and National Standards ]NZ] testing; and help such pedagogical purulence to be banned. The tests are so evil and nasty. I found a gem.
Paul Drummond Paul Drummond, President of NZPF, said directly to both NZ and Australian their face :
”You have unravelled a first class schooling system [NZ has always been near the very top on PISA]; you have removed the right of every child to follow the richness of a sound curriculum along multiple pathways; you have not invested wisely; you have replaced collaboration with competition; your adoption of GERM principles has caused great sadness; your gimmickry [e.g. charter schools] is unprofessional. You have altered our children’s social future.”
He said to his colleague principals from both sides of the Tasman
: Our profession has been under siege. We share the despair of working in a system that is entirely political and not educational. Morale is low in both countries. It is such a difficult time in which to live. We are being used as political pawns. We need to strengthen our moral purpose and stress our professional ethics courageously and loud.”
“Let’s stay true to our moral compass.”
This was the most profound address of the conference. Listen to it carefully. My summary does not do it justice.

Some extracts and quotable quotes from other distinguished visitors ....
Kishore Mahbubani [Singapore]
“ The West’s domination has been an aberration in world history, and all aberrations come to an end. Now that the west is receding, the two western countries left in Asia are New Zealand and Australia. They will have a positive future but they will need different mental images.
“China is having a sputnik moment; the US needs one as well.”
“The most optimistic people in the world are young Asians.”
Andy Hargreaves [Boston College]
“Globally, we are poised on the edge of a great transformation of what teaching and learning will look like and how schools will appear to us. It will be the greatest change since our present industrial model of schools started in the 19th century.”
“The issue is about Professional Capital. We need to promote the concept widely – Capital includes social capital, human capital, natural capital. It you want a return, you need to make an investment.”
“We cannot replace teachers with technology
We must be proud of who we are and what we do. Teaching is the most valued profession in the world. BE PROUD.”
How does your government see you? Does it understand? Do politicians appreciate the joys of teaching and learning?”
How many years at the work-face does it take to become an efficient, experienced teacher? 
“Unions need to become the agents of positive change as they used to be.”
Pasi Sahlberg [Finland]
“There has not been a miracle in the education system, in Finland.”
Equity rather than choice is the keynote of the system; co-operation rather than competition; individualisation rather that standardisation [the enemy of creativity].
GERM Global Educational Reform Movement [market-based thinking about education]; competition [among schools], standardisation [setting standards and then measuring], school choice [private vs public], test-based accountability [high stakes testing] has become the way of thinking for a number of countries. Australia is hot and strong on this, as well as NZ.
Test core subjects only Teach broad & Creative Learning
Standardise – same skill for all Customise – ‘each one is different’
Encourage pre-test panic Each at own pace – NBT [No Blanket Tests]
Adopt ideas of corporate world CHILD as inspiration for change
Rant measurement numbers Share evaluation as part of learning
Drill and skill Look to future, play & dare to dream
“Does GERM work ? Maths results are declining in GERM countries. Finland’s results are up.”
“Students in Finland have less classroom time [190 days per year] and are given less homework, so they have more time to play [that’s what a kid’s job is – learning to understand how their mind and imagination and body work.”]
“When they take the PISA test at age 15, Finnish kids have had 4 fewer years of schooling all told than Australian and New Zealand kids. Finnish kids start school at age 7. Australia and New Zealand start at age 5.”
“People think that choice enhances equity and equality – it does the opposite. Highest performing countries combine quality with equity.
“Lessons from Finland:
  • More collaboration, less competition.
  • More trust-based responsibility, less test-based accountability.
  • More professionalism, less bureaucracy.
  • More personalisation, less standardisation.
  • More pedagogy, less technology.”
Yong Zhao [Oregon]
Where are we? How did we get in this mess?
What do you want to do?
What kind of education do you want for your kids?”
“There’s a new middle class – the creative entrepreneurial class – filled with new ideas, confident, developmental, exerting leadership qualities with ease.
Global homogenisation is not the way to go. The drive for higher test scores does not produce confidence, energy nor passion to succeed. Why teach a fish to climb a tree?”

Fortunately for NZ and Australian politicians and testucators the Conference material has been kept secret and not made public!
Our children will be stuck with NAPLAN and National Standards.
Darwin will continue to be wrecked; and the public won't know.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Educational Readings: Jo Bower, Will Richardson,Steve Wheeler

Educational Readings - By Allan Alach

The usual potpourri this week. The quantity of valuable educational articles available online is an excellent illustration of how the internet is being used to sidestep traditional communication sources, leading to the internationalisation of educational developments and activism.

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

This week’s homework!

Tests and grades are just tools -- it's how they are used that matters most.

Two articles from Canadian teacher Joe Bower who is always on the ball. Here’s a quote from an earlier article:

When learning is enslaved by the quantifiable, we fall victim to the MacNamara Fallacy which refers to the quantifying of success while ignoring other variables - particularly variables that are inconveniently difficult to measure.”

The end of testsandgrades

Our Numbers Obsession Will Kill Us

Will Richardson is yet another very valuable commentator on matters educational. Here he reviews the problems with quantifiable assessments that fail to record what really matters.

Nineteenth Century English Schools for the Poor in Yuma, AZ: Only the Monitors Have Been Swapped Out

The great neo-liberal dream for education is for computer based instruction, using online delivery - hence their raves over the Khan Academy. Here is our ultimate GERM future, unless the forces of rightness prevail!

Five-year-olds put to the test as kindergarten exams gain steam

A national push to make public schools more rigorous and hold teachers more accountable has led to a vast expansion of testing in kindergarten. And more exams are on the way, including a test meant to determine whether 5-year-olds are on track to succeed in college and career.” 

Is further comment required?

Studies Find Payoff in 'Personalizing' Algebra

Thanks to Bruce Hammonds for this link about algebra. Can’t argue with the findings, however - did it need research to work this out? Personalising any learning is going to make it more relevant to the learners.

The future is a big place

Another article from Steve Wheeler, discussing topics from a recent Windsor Debate he attended. Seems the consensus was that the future is going to be much different from today and so we need to be preparing for that. Obvious, yes? Then why are GERM minded governments taking education back to the late 19th century?

From Metaphor to Global Nightmare: The World Bank’s Influence on US Education Reform Policies

Want to know where GERMs breed? Not just USA GERMs but international GERMs.

Socio-economic conditions determine educational under-achievement

This is an analysis of New Zealand ‘national standards data’ but the message is valid elsewhere.

Background information on Mike Feinberg and KIPP (Knowledge is Power Programme)

As part of the agenda to promote charter schools in New Zealand, power brokers calling themselves “The Aotearoa Foundation” (comprised of business etc) brought Mike Feinberg from USA to extol the virtues of the KIPP schools. Here’s an article on the Quality Public Education Coalition website (NZ) that explains the other side of KIPP.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Will you be there? The Dominion, Hartvelt, and league tables

 By Kelvin Smythe

We said national standards would harm children’s learning.
They wouldn’t listen.
Or didn’t care.

John Key said let them eat national standards.
That will be better for them than decent wages, housing, and health.
National standards as a cure for poverty.
We’ll do nothing, or worse – meanwhile  
Let them do national standards.

And now it has come to this.
Primary school education shifted on its axis.
A great harm inflicted
League tables yellow pressed.
We knew it was coming, but of no comfort.
Something like a death.

Tolley promised no league tables.
Key promised any release, if they ever occurred,
Would be surrounded by safeguards.
Not a skerrick prime minister.
While you Laurel and jap
A bloody slather.

None of the safeguards occurring in Australia
Mind you, not that these really matter:
But reveals the nature of you and your heartless government.

John Hartvelt of the Dominion sets out to justify:
Led by journalists from the beginning.
He lies.
The real beginning?
The editor of course.
Prose of mouth-frothing contempt for public schools.
On the morning after National’s re-election
The editor mocked,
Then, in effect, said bear the pain you losers.

Hartvelt is right, though, not a business decision,
But neither is it one of freedom
As he claims.
It is an ideological one taken above the journalists.

Harm the teachers.
Harm public schools.

And Hartvelt’s justification for publishing: ‘We cannot lose faith in our readers so much that we feel we have to censor them from information just because it is challenging.’
A Dominion   journalist concerned with censoring education information.
Is this a tragic, cosmic joke?
A journalist expressing trust in readers’ judgement.
God in heaven above!

Newspapers, themselves have behaved like bloody idiots
Pigs in muck
In just the one day.
And who is taking the burden of the risk in the trusting?
The primary school children of New Zealand.

177 academic researchers declared league tables harmful to children’s learning.
But Hartvelt declares it a matter of freedom.
One community institution intruding exploitively into another: the media into public schools.
If it was royal breasts, an outcry;
For public schools and children, it is freedom.
The exercise of freedom at the cost of innocent others.

What is best for children?
Ever asked?
No – just a resort to a spurious (in the context) abstract concept.
It was teachers he was after.
Damaging them.
The children contingent.

Will you be there to enrich the withered curriculum?
Will you be there to prevent an education
For the less able, devoid of heart and cognitive challenge?
Drill and kill?
Will you be there to engage the disengaged?
Will you be there to protect the low decile school?
 (A high price for a Maori girl’s trip to Waitangi, wouldn’t you say?)

Will you be there to receive the unwanted?
Will you be there to provide hope for the failure at six?
Will you be there to reduce the ghetto?
Will you be there to take the children in your arms?

In publishing league tables, the medium is the message.
Curriculum areas selected for attention.
Learning is that which is measurable.
Forget creativity, imagination, and cognitive flexibility
Children’s learning expressed in the labelling of children.
It doesn’t matter if the labelling is inaccurate (which it is),
Labelling is the message.
Labelling set out for school comparison.

Relationship between teacher and child as something rawly public.
Teacher motivation compulsion, competition, and fear.

Power to the politicians and the bureaucrats.
This is education for the 21st century.
Before the reading
The key messages have already been communicated by the medium
How noble of Hartvelt to declare trust in the reader.
No cost to him,
Or risk of it.
In complete denial of historical experience.
Perpetrates the dreadful act,
Then tries to out the spot.
It won’t be outed: bear the shame.

Intrusion between teacher and child.
The struggling child to struggle more.
The brilliant child blighted in the act.
Alien concept
On the indigenous and beautiful.
Public education reduced
In the name of freedom.

But you won’t be there.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Educational Readings by Allan Alach: Steve Wheeler, Joel Klien

Standardisation of education Henry Ford would be proud! .

Madness has spread to both sides of the Tasman Sea this week, with the publishing of Naplan test results in Australia and of national standards ‘data’ in New Zealand.  As usual politicians and media are making the most of this, regardless of all the evidence to the contrary. This GERM is very contagious and hard to eradicate.

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

This week’s homework!

Learning by making

English academic Steve Wheeler is very good value and this article is no exception.

Education Reform: Treating Schools Like Businesses is Wrong

We know this. The problem is that the businesses who see $$$$$$ don’t know, and don’t want to know, the basic truth.

Education Reform Sucks: Driving a Stake through High Stakes Testing

Phil Cullen has covered this excellent article in a Treehorn Express - well worth reading again.

A Global Fund for Education: Achieving Education for All

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Sorry, this is aimed at the GERMing of education worldwide.

Proposed Competencies for Learning Outcomes: Early Childhood, Primary, and Post-Primary

This is a draft of an international set of competencies, linked to the articles immediately above. What do you think? Is this as altruistic as it is framed?

Joel Klein: Enormous Resistance to Change in K-12 System

Murdoch stooge Joel Klein (Mr Naplan in Australia), a New York lawyer, pronouncing on educational change. Time for educators to reform the legal system, it seems.

Free schools are a disaster

‘Michael Gove's flagship policy is a huge waste of money, socially divisive and won't raise educational standards’

Free schools in the UK are the same as charter schools elsewhere, and are just as ineffective. However deformers will ignore this, to the peril of real education. Given that the head of New Zealand/s Ministry of Education, Lesley Longstone, was brought over from the UK because of her expertise with free schools, it is pretty clear where NZ’s charter school programme is heading.

U.S. Education in Chinese Lock Step? Bad Move.

The education systems in China and the United States not only are headed in opposite directions, but are aiming at exactly what the other system is trying to give up.’

As Children’s Freedom Has Declined, So Has Their Creativity

Self explanatory!

The 9th problem with the Common Core standards

Another excellent article by Marion Brady, that reinforces the article above about declining creativity. While relating to the USA, his points are valid wherever core standards are being decreed.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

As I feared, we stuffed up responding to Parata

As I feared, we stuffed up responding to Parata

Guest Blog by Kelvin Smythe

The propaganda, the culture of lying, and the control of institutions mean that education policies under National are almost impenetrable to wisdom and historical experience.

Response beyond the normal is required. All the old conventions should be null and void.

In recent posting, ‘A pivotal moment in primary education history: are we awake?' I wrote:

The overall matter is truly serious.’

‘I know it is hard for Wellington-based people to fully appreciate, but all the meetings, the insider information, the gossip, the rubbing shoulders, the purpose-based groupings, the sense of inclusiveness, the hi-mum moments – don’t matter a damn in these changed times.’

Huge damage is about to be wrought on the primary education system, the primary system as a whole. This is not the time for Wellington matters and ritualised saucer-licking, but time for system’s matters and really saying it as it is.’

‘Both teacher organisation leaders have the capacity to be much bigger than they are.’

‘This is the time to make a strong stand; this is the time to develop a comprehensive policy of change; this is the time for bold moves; this is the time to say things that are irresistible to the media; and of course, this is the time to leave that dreadful Forum.’

In the situation the most relevant words in my posting were: ‘this is the time for bold moves; this is the time to say things that are irresistible to the media …’

NZEI’s response was infinitesimal relative to the provocation and the opportunity provided by Hekia Parata’s pre-announcement of league tables. Its response was puny and routine (this morning’s response sweet, sincere, but too rational); NZPF’s I didn’t catch, but it raised no media waves. (I have read NZPF’s response this morning: sensible, well-expressed, but given the context, unmemorable.)

Parata’s announcement provided a platform to correct the lies and distortions; also the myths so firmly fixed in the public and media mind, for instance, that national standards were needed to identify children, and that national standards came without a cost to children’s learning.

I’m sorry to say, that teacher organisations don’t seem to have caught the direness of the situation; I sense they are holding back in interests of what they consider the wider interests of their members.

The teacher organisations needed to grab the initiative to say what needed to be said, needed to say something bold and to the point.

They didn’t.

The bombed.

We were asleep.


[The headline grabber I would have gone for is to announce that a campaign was to be begun to agitate for funding compensation for the harm caused by national standards. The particular focus being extra ancillary aides as a means to give special individual attention to children to compensate for national standards’ ill-learning effects.]

Parata’s tissue of lies, distortions, omissions, and misleading statements

Lie:Until now we’ve had to rely only on NCEA data – at the end of compulsory schooling – to provide us with a picture of our education system.’

This is a whopper!

For 15 years we had the world-renowned and truly independent National Education Monitoring Project based in Dunedin which provided a terrific picture of the education system and encompassed all parts of the curriculum. National closed this down so it could muddy, it seems, the data waters and control education statistics. For a ‘picture of our education system’ we now have the narrowly focused, massively intrusive, dizzyingly complex, high stakes’ national standards, and NCEA. And NCEA is being systematically, but quite understandably in my view, manipulated in schools to push lower ability children through.

Lie: ‘NS data reported for the first time has set a baseline of years’ 1-8 learner achievement.’

This is a whopper!

For 15 years we had the world-renowned and truly independent National Education Monitoring Project based in Dunedin which provided a terrific picture of the education system and encompassed all parts of the curriculum. National closed this down so it could muddy, it seems, the data waters and control education statistics. For a ‘picture of our education system’ we now just have the narrowly focused, massively intrusive, dizzyingly complex, high stakes’ national standards, and NCEA. And NCEA is being systematically, but quite understandably in my view, manipulated in school to push lower ability children through.

Lie: ‘In maths, 72 per cent were at or above, and writing the figure was 68 per cent.’

Parata knows the figures are no-where near accurate. [By the way, the maths figure being so high is a give-away and an absurdity. We sure went to town on that one.]

Lie: ‘Parata said the first set of data was “powerful for identifying and providing support for all learners”

National standards do not serve that purpose; identifying and providing support for learners comes from where it always has come from: teachers working with children and non-high stakes’ testing.

Distortion, omission: ‘A concerning number of Maori and Pasifika children not meeting the standards.’

National standards were not needed to establish this.

What programmes has National funded over its four years to help lift the learning of Maori and Pasifika children?

What is the degree of damage done to the learning Maori and Pasifika children by national standards?

Distortion, omission: ‘Boys were also over-represented in not meeting the standard in reading and writing.’

National standards were not needed to establish this.

What programmes has National funded over its four years to help lift the learning of boys?

What is the degree of damage done by national standards to the learning of boys?

Lie, omission, distortion, misleading statement: ‘National standards data will now allow us to support all learners and target those who are behind much earlier and give them the help they need.

Utterly insulting, massively incorrect, and straight out nasty from this incompetent minister – what a show pony she is, taking away the mana from teachers in the way she does – to say national standards will mean teachers will identify early children falling behind is risible. Good heavens! Teachers are beside children everyday and regularly dispense a range of standardised tests, especially old reliable, PAT.

Oily rag is it?

What cant.

Distortion, misleading statement: ‘We also have a range of support in place to help learners, e.g. reading recovery.’

All the tools for a range of support were in place before national standards, for instance, reading recovery and ALiM.

As well, no extra money has been allocated to schools to make these fairly expensive processes available. This despite the greater need for their services arising from the increased poverty, and National’s song and dance about achievement and caring about the education of Maori and Pasifika children.

Lie, Distortion: Good quality data is absolutely essential … to achieve a system wide lift … to ensure all our learners leave school with the skills they need in modern society.’

Parata knows the data is rubbish, and almost certainly has some inkling that national standards’ data always will be.

As well, she would have read that 177 research academics said that national standards and league tables would be harmful to children’s learning – all children’s learning of all abilities

All this nonsense in a brief media release. It is rather an avalanche of dishonesty than a culture of it.

The teacher organisations should declare they have lost confidence in the minister’s ability to present education information in a fair and balanced way.

We must learn to speak our minds and let the consequences fall where the may.

National is making a wasteland and calling it education.

It restricts and impedes and calls it education for the 21st century.

And the minister assumes a deadly freedom to lie, omit, and distort as if nobody will take the trouble to challenge her, or have the courage to make it stick.

Who is going to do it within the teacher organisations, or will it have to come from without?



Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The government and Christchurch, and Lesley Longstone

The government and Christchurch, and Lesley Longstone at the normal school conference
From Kelvin Smythe
As explained in my posting alert, I am having my web site renewed (‘rejuvenated’ is not employed having recently acquired a whole new meaning) and which will be out of action until late on Thursday. I have posting ready to send out on PaCT (that is, national standards, version 2), and my response (Heath Robinson meets education), but it is eight pages; too long for an attachment, so it will have to wait.

This posting is a belated comment on Christchurch (I’ve been in Whangarei checking out my northern grandchildren) which I link to a chilling speech by Lesley Longstone at the recent Normal School Conference in Wellington. It is a speech of unplumbed ignorance which she dissembles with sky high arrogance. This is a deeply insecure person, faking it. What she had to say, links with what has happened in Christchurch, and my predictions for government policy in postings last year.

To take a course at a local school (‘How to teach without objectives’ it went superbly) I happened to be in Wellington on the day of the Normal School Conference so I decided to slip myself into it (as regular networkonnet readers will know I have done such a slipping in on other occasions). I waited for her to arrive at the Novatel (accompanied by Frances Kelly), gave her a decent time to start her speech, then I snuck into the room (and snuck out just before she finished). Two or three principals noticed and recognised me but nothing untoward was to happen.

Dear readers, what a sight loomed before me.

Now any man commenting on the appearance of a woman is in dodgy territory, but I venture to do so because I had viewed her a number of times on YouTube and the difference was startling.

 What I’m suggesting is the appearance was the message.

Her dress was carefully unfashionable; her hair arranged to appear bedraggled; and her back festooned by a knapsack.

This was a very English way to express her view of the audience.

She began by referring to her notes, the usual claptrap about partnership. The insincerity was palpable.

Then she showed her teeth – literally it seemed to me, as she spoke away from notes.

Longstone said in applying for the job as secretary she did some reading about New Zealand, which she said was Ben Levin, and in reading Ben Levin, it seems to me, she read an article from Phi Delta Kappa.

Ben Levin, on education should not be dismissed, he has some useful things to say, but all those useful things are seriously undermined, making him harmful to education in a range of Western countries, as a result of one deeply serious fault, a fault he shares with Longstone and her ilk: they don’t understand, refuse to value the knowledge of, what happens between teacher and child in learning. Regular networkonnet readers will know I have written a posting on curriculum-driven leadership relating it to schools, but the same should pertain to system leadership. It surely is inarguable that the system should start from establishing regulatory environments that enhances learning; but for that to happen, those who lead the system need to understand the nature of those things that happen between teacher and child in the learning. 

And this leads to an associated fault. Teacher-developed knowledge needs to be valued as much as academic knowledge. Academic syntheses are not the visions of objectivity they are portrayed. John Hattie’s research, for instance, is utter rubbish.

In New Zealand, teacher knowledge was the basis for rejecting the deep phonic’s approach. New Zealand teachers will know that recent research comparing New Zealand readers with Scottish readers, showed New Zealand readers beating the Scottish readers and deep phonics hands down. (The whole language approach was also found to be the most successful in languages other than English.)

Levin is also horribly wrong in saying New Zealand public schools, even after taking into account matters of the poverty, are failing Maori and Pasifika children. The research shows exactly the opposite. I challenge Longstone to disprove this.

Levin is also wrong in his interpretation of Cathy Wylie’s comment about Tomorrow’s Schools and its ‘decentralisation’ not achieving ‘any great system-wide gains in student performance or learning’. Wylie was criticising the neo-liberal decentralisation, which is very different from the degree of independence New Zealand schools have traditionally had to develop teacher knowledge and display curriculum initiative. Wyllie is a great admirer and supporter of the learning benefits of that degree of independence.

Levin, because he doesn’t have a grasp of the curriculum, the beautiful nuances that are so crucial to learning, and because he is focused on official structures, doesn’t appreciate the huge and powerful informal unity established between New Zealand schools.
Reading Levin’s article you can sense he is vexed and a bit at a loss with New Zealand because it challenges his ideas of the need for centralisation as the basis for a successful system. (What does he make of Finland?)

How can any fair-minded, caring, academic of integrity justify that?se he is vexed and a bit at a loss with New Zealand because it challenges his ideas of the need for centralisation as the basis for a successful system. (What does he make of Finland?)

For a somewhat more balanced view on the New Zealand education system and a more sensitive appreciation of the role that central government should play, Longstone should read various OECD reports.

When it comes down to it, Levin is just another power hungry administrator who has no qualms about distorting children’s learning for his own ends. The true manner of the man can be judged by his central statement in his latest book that education systems should just concentrate on the learning results from one or two curriculum areas that are understandable to the public.

Is that education for the 21st century?

That’s not the education I want for my grandchildren. And it won’t be the one Lesley Longstone wants for her children.

And don’t you think, Lesley Longstone, that in the circumstances you should consult with the parents of New Zealand what they want for their children, rather that learning it from Ben Levin?

But that is the bible for our secretary of education, and our future: a truncated, non-aspirational, second-class education.

But back to her address at the Novatel. (You may have guessed that the Ben Levin foray just undertaken was not planned, it just happened. I think I will have to curtail commenting on the implications for Christchurch, you will have to draw those for yourselves.)

Yes – that’s right, away from her notes, and her teeth bared, I swear it, or was it my overactive imagination?

The New Zealand education system, she said, was not mature enough to handle the decentralisation of Tomorrow’s Schools and schools shot off in all directions.

The opportunity to weed out poorly performing schools should have been taken at the time, but the opportunity was lost. This meant, she said, there was a need to weed out such schools out now.

Longstone then made a considerable song and dance about in-school variability of children’s school performance. This was the fault she said of inefficient principals.

By coincidence and as a serendipitous response to this, in this morning’s Herald, Graham Stoop, for his own purposes – defending the review office’s dropping of decile references – pointed to a school that had a lot high income families and a significant number of children from low income families which meant the school ended up as a decile 5. It’s as simple as that Longstone; for goodness sake have you half an analytical brain? Or do you circumscribe its functioning when it suits you? Heard of demographics?

The point she kept driving home, or implying, was that the system needed more centralisation, more simplification, less resistance from the periphery, so that government policies could be implemented swiftly and without obstruction.

Get the message?

Christchurch is all about that: getting rid of small schools; increasing the size of schools; tacking intermediates onto secondary schools; and developing clusters headed by secondary schools and supra-boards.

All this was delivered in a take it or leave it style. The lady, she seemed to be communicating, couldn’t care a damn.

A few questions were asked. One was a moment of minor tragic-comedy.

How do you see normal schools?

I don’t. They are invisible.

With that I slipped out.

Have a happy day.