Interview with Dr Renato C Nicolai, Writer of “The Nightmare That Is Public Education”

A retired instructor and principal with thirty-eight years of expertise in public schooling, Renato C. Nicolai, Ed.D., taught sixth by way of 12th grade and was each an elementary and center faculty principal. In schooling circles, he was generally known as Dr. Nicolai, which finally was shortened to Dr. Nick, and has caught ever since.Tyler: Thanks for becoming a member of me right now, Dr. Nick. Clearly, the state of public schooling in the USA is of nice concern to many individuals. To start, will you inform us what you assume is unsuitable with the general public schooling system?Dr. Nick: Wow! What a chance! Sure, I might be happy to inform you what I believe is unsuitable with the general public schooling system. My ideas aren’t in any order of precedence; I am telling you about them as they arrive to thoughts.What I consider first is what I wrote about as the primary emphasis in my guide. Lecturers desperately want to enhance the standard of their educating, so, particularly, what’s unsuitable is that too many academics are both incompetent or mediocre instructors at greatest. Sure, if you happen to had the chance to face by my aspect within the a whole bunch of school rooms I’ve visited in my profession, you’ll be each amazed and horrified at how a lot poor high quality educating there’s in our public faculties. If dad and mom solely knew how way more their youngsters might be studying with instruction from very good academics in comparison with what they’re most definitely studying now from incompetent academics, they’d be flabbergasted. That is how dangerous it truly is. This indictment of academics, nonetheless, isn’t a serious downside on the elementary faculty, however is a critical and rampant downside for certain on the center faculty, junior highschool, and particularly the highschool degree of schooling. Dad and mom, you may wish to learn concerning the eight important qualities most academics do not possess. I’ve listed and described them within the first chapter of my guide.Tenure is one other vital downside. As soon as tenure is granted by a college district, an incompetent instructor is a instructor for all times. It is extraordinarily troublesome to dismiss a instructor who has tenure. What’s unsuitable with tenure is that it is achievable so quickly in a instructor’s profession (after solely three years normally), so last (as soon as it is granted it is irrevocable), and so lengthy lasting (the instructor retains it for so long as he/she teaches). What occurs is that some academics work very exhausting throughout their first few years on the job, obtain tenure, after which slack off of their efficiency as a result of they know they’ll nearly by no means lose their job. As a substitute of tenure, public schooling ought to promote a system of efficiency critiques that academics are required to go periodically with the intention to preserve their educating place for the subsequent two or three years.The way in which a instructor is evaluated is all unsuitable throughout the schooling system. It is mainly a sham and a joke. Collective bargaining contracts and union involvement in instructor evaluations has watered down the method of instructor evaluations to the diploma that virtually nothing worthwhile outcomes from the method. In my guide, I’ve a chapter titled “What You Don’t Know Won’t Hurt You,” and the idea of instructor analysis is mentioned in that chapter. If dad and mom and the general public at massive knew how ineffective and unproductive instructor evaluations are, they’d demand a extra environment friendly system. The system because it exists in most faculty districts right now is a tactful course of of claiming the suitable phrases, doing what’s anticipated, and never ruffling anybody’s emotions. What it ought to do is assist academics enhance the standard of their educating to the diploma that they assist college students be taught higher, nevertheless it would not try this in any respect.The general public schooling system is rooted within the false notion that each one academics are certified educators who could be trusted to make good selections, comply with faculty district guidelines and laws, work collectively in a spirit of collegiality, promote the welfare of scholars as a precedence, and, typically, do what’s simply, ethical, {and professional}. What’s unsuitable is that this description is just not true; but, faculty districts all through the USA enable academics the liberty to work unsupervised as a result of they’re assumed to be well-intentioned, skilled individuals who’ve the most effective pursuits of scholars at coronary heart. Do not misunderstand me, please. After all, there are various conscientious academics who do work effectively with one another and do have the most effective pursuits of scholars at coronary heart, however I imagine that there are various extra who benefit from educational freedom, collegiality, and lack of supervision to do no matter they need throughout the 4 partitions of their school rooms. That is truly a really significant issue that’s lined up by the academic hierarchy.One other very critical unsuitable is the way in which by which faculty districts handle using substitute academics. Substitute academics are not often noticed to find out their competence, continuously assigned to topic areas they don’t have any {qualifications} to show, and commonly subjected to unbelievable disrespect and insolence from college students. When a substitute instructor is current in a center faculty, junior highschool, or highschool classroom, little or no studying takes place. That class is a waste of educational time, the scholars’ time, and the substitute’s time as effectively. The three commonest actions that happen when a substitute takes over an everyday instructor’s class are the displaying of movies or DVDs, the administration of exams, and the supervision of lengthy, boring written or studying assignments left by the common instructor. The lesson plans left by most common academics for substitute academics to comply with are typically a set of directions on the best way to occupy the time college students have in school. All the substitute instructor system must be fully overhauled. College students have to be taught to respect substitute academics, to help them with the lesson, and to be accountable for their very own studying. Expectations that college students will cooperate with substitute academics, that common academics will carefully put together high quality lesson plans, that substitutes will educate, and that directors will monitor substitutes are so miserably low, presently, that the schooling system merely accepts the established order of chaos, lack of studying, and disgraceful substitute instructor educational {and professional} efficiency.Tyler, the general public schooling system in the USA is de facto in hassle. It is inundated with issues; there are various issues unsuitable with it. I might have written about lack of scholar self-discipline, emphasis on sports activities over teachers, permissiveness all through the tradition of public faculties, reticence concerning the issues that exist, and way more. I imagine that it has deteriorated a lot during the last fifty years, that mediocrity and incompetence are the established order. Dad and mom do not even notice that the system is so dangerous. What they see and expertise is what they assume is how the system must be. They do not perceive how a lot better it might be and the way their youngsters might be receiving a extra superior instructional expertise.Tyler: Dr. Nick, will you inform us a bit of bit about your background in education-where you taught and the themes you taught, in addition to your expertise as a center faculty principal. What private experiences have led to your present viewpoints?Dr. Nick: My first full time place in public faculties was as a ninth and 11th grade instructor of English at El Camino Excessive College in South San Francisco, California (a metropolis separate from San Francisco). After educating two years, my project modified to educating English half the varsity day and counseling the opposite half. In my third yr as a instructor at this faculty, I used to be elected president of the native academics’ union and the next yr chairman of the College District Negotiating Council. In my fifth yr, I used to be appointed Assistant Principal of Parkway Junior Excessive College (7-9) in the identical faculty district.Through the seven years I held this place as assistant principal, I enrolled in a doctoral program on the College of Southern California, and from 1969-1972 I achieved a Physician of Training diploma in Instructional Administration and Secondary Curriculum. My dissertation, which researched the executive habits of superintendents of faculties, was the primary dissertation sponsored by the newly shaped Affiliation of California College Directors (ACSA).In 1974, I used to be chosen Principal of Isaac Newton Graham Center College (7-8) in Mountain View, California. You requested me to share my expertise as a center faculty principal, and I am happy to take action, however I would like you to know that I might simply write one other guide about these experiences alone. So, I am going to attempt to offer you an encapsulated reply. I believe I might greatest describe my experiences as a center faculty principal as a unbroken 5 yr curler coaster trip as a result of I by no means knew when my emotions, feelings, and experiences could be up or down. On the up aspect, I used to be thrilled to see many college students be taught to their potential on account of the superb educating of some very good academics. In any case, serving to younger individuals be taught is what schooling is all about. I additionally noticed some excellent academics whose abilities and strategies motivated college students to excel past their very own private expectations. That was extraordinarily thrilling. Because the chief of a neighborhood faculty, I grew personally as an educator as a result of I had the chance to affect curriculum, work for the academic advantages of scholars, and affiliate typically with group leaders in numerous businesses (hearth division, police division, recreation division, mayor’s workplace, and so forth). These experiences made me a greater principal. On the down aspect, I realized rapidly that many academics ought to by no means have been allowed to enter a classroom to show. They weren’t suited to work together with adolescents and youngsters; they did not have the talents wanted to assist younger minds perceive ideas and concepts; they did not dedicate themselves to studying the best way to educate expertly; they did not know the best way to management and handle a category of thirty college students. I additionally realized what a number of the issues have been that I needed to take care of (incompetent academics, low high quality curriculum, collective bargaining contracts to call a number of) however that I did not have the facility to result in efficient change. That was irritating to no finish. Lastly, the bottom attainable expertise for me was to satisfy so-called academics who had actually given up; that’s, that they had determined to undergo the motions of educating solely. They have been now not keen to show, did not look ahead to assembly their lessons, and did as little as attainable to satisfy their skilled tasks. I not noted a lot that I really feel my reply is insufficient. I can see the enjoyment on the faces of scholars who gained educational and sports activities awards, the passion of each workers and scholar physique at our annual comfortable ball recreation, the annual dad or mum membership barbecue, and a lot extra.I remained at Graham for 5 years after which moved on to a chance in southern California because the Administrative Director (Superintendent/Principal) of Chatsworth Hills Academy, a non-public faculty in Chatsworth, California. I most well-liked serving in public schooling, so I returned to Graham as a seventh grade core instructor, educating English and social research (world historical past). In October of my second yr again from southern California, I used to be requested by three Santa Clara County superintendents to move up a “joint powers” faculty named The Institute of Pc Know-how as an on-loan faculty administrator. Together with an on-loan administrator from IBM (Ken Butler), I helped this new instructional enterprise get its ft off the bottom. It was thrilling work and I loved hiring academics, assembly expertise consultants at Apple and IBM, growing curriculum, outfitting a college with safety programs, working with faculty superintendents, studying the best way to defend useful {hardware} and software program, and much more. After doing what I used to be employed to do, I returned to Graham, educating English, social research, and geography to seventh and eighth graders, together with the eighth Grade Honors English program. I remained at Graham for the subsequent twenty years and retired in 2001.Throughout my profession, I have been a presenter at numerous conferences, in-service periods, and conventions. My presentation matters have been normally within the areas of educating strategies, literature-based instruction, self-discipline, and classroom administration. I’ve additionally been a grasp instructor, chairman or member of quite a few curriculum committees, and an adjunct professor within the instructor coaching program at Nationwide College.My present viewpoints and attitudes towards public schooling developed all through my profession primarily based upon my private experiences as a instructor and principal, what I noticed different educators do and heard them say, what I learn, what I realized greatest helped younger individuals attain their studying potential, what political reforms failed, and what I realized about how younger minds achieve information. For example, there was a time after I opposed vouchers; I am adamantly in favor of them now. The extra decisions dad and mom have within the schooling of their youngsters, the higher. I used to be a staunch supporter of tenure initially of my profession till I witnessed what number of poor academics disguise their incompetence beneath the safety of this regulation. Tenure must be abolished. I am certain you get the concept. I maintain the views, attitudes, and emotions that I do about schooling on account of a life-long profession in faculties. You already know, youngsters aren’t the one ones who be taught whereas at college.Tyler: You point out that many academics usually are not competent? What’s the cause for this, and why does the varsity system enable them to stay within the classroom?Dr. Nick: Why are many academics incompetent? Listed here are some causes to ponder:As a result of they do not possess the persona wanted to work together effectively with younger individuals. If an individual would not like children, would not get pleasure from being with all of them day lengthy, would not look ahead to educating them, would not settle for their immaturity and wish to assist them turn out to be extra mature, cannot stand continually answering questions, cannot settle for particular person variations (race, ethnicity, gender, faith, and so on), cannot address particular wants (hyperactivity, habits issues, and so forth), then that particular person won’t ever be a reliable instructor.As a result of they do not possess, exhibit, use, and treasure enthusiasm, and, so, they’re actually boring to most of their college students. Ask any child at a center faculty, junior highschool, or highschool in your group what they dislike essentially the most about their academics, and, I assure you the reply will overwhelmingly be that they’re boring. And one thing, Tyler; the youngsters are proper. Most academics are insufferably boring in how they educate. Enthusiasm is a sine qua non for all competent academics.As a result of they do not know the best way to get ideas and concepts throughout clearly to their college students. They do not possess the information and abilities wanted to assist college students be taught. They simply do not know what to do and find yourself very often being pissed off and saying one thing like, “Oh, those kids just can’t learn this stuff.” That is an expression equal to defeatism and incompetence. If the educational materials is age acceptable and a part of the accepted curriculum, after all a standard, wholesome scholar can be taught it. It is not the coed who’s at fault; it is the instructor who would not have the competence to design classes, actions, and applications to assist college students be taught. The rationale for that is that many academics inform college students however do not present and educate.As a result of they cannot handle and management scholar habits. Lecturers each day face difficult disciplinary and habits issues. If a instructor cannot successfully deal with these issues, that instructor won’t ever be a reliable instructor-never! On this case, the incompetence is in not realizing what to do when a disciplinary or habits downside presents itself as a result of the instructor hasn’t thought out a private Instructional Philosophy for Management of Pupil Habits. Each instructor wants to do that to harmonize his/her persona with strategies of self-discipline. I clarify this intimately in my guide.As a result of many academics do not handle classroom time effectively. I dedicate a complete chapter to this matter: “Wasted Time – Inept Instruction (Euphemism: Teaching Mistakes). How can anyone consider a teacher competent when that teacher tries to teach over the noise of unruly students, doesn’t know how to quell effectively unnecessary noise at the change of a classroom activity, and allows students to talk whenever they want. This inability to control noise leads to as much as 25% of each class period being wasted. Many teachers can’t even control the time at the end of class when students get ready to leave and waste the ten or fifteen minutes left.Because many teachers can’t effectively control group learning. One of the most effective ways for students to learn is to interact with each other, allowing students to help each other learn in groups. Sometimes, students have just the right words and explanations to help a fellow student understand a lesson. However, most teachers don’t control student groups effectively and so waste tremendous amounts of instructional time.Because many teachers don’t have high enough academic and behavioral expectations and standards. In other words, many teachers don’t challenge their students enough academically and don’t expect them to learn to the level of their potential. Teachers must project an attitude of high expectations to motivate their charges adequately. Most teachers don’t even understand this concept and need to learn it themselves. Not putting it into effect in classrooms is indicative of ignorance and incompetence. In Chapter Three, I wrote a seven-page description of the most important strategies used by teachers who truly understand how to teach high academic and behavioral standards. Teachers, you’ve never seen anything come close to this practical list of how to teach standards.Because some teachers don’t have a sufficient knowledge of the subjects they teach. They don’t! They are assigned to teach a subject they don’t know adequately or they don’t even like. Many teachers are teaching subjects and they don’t have either a major in that field or a valid certificate to teach it.There are other reasons as well, but the few I mentioned are really significant ones, aren’t they? Now, what are the reasons for these incompetencies and why do school systems allow these incompetent teachers to remain in the classroom? Well, the first part of the question can be answered easily. Students learning how to teach are not being prepared adequately by schools of education. You know who should teach prospective teachers how to teach? Not education professors! No! Excellent, experienced, current and retired teachers who know what a classroom is all about and who have a love for kids and teaching in their hearts should teach candidates for teaching. Give me proven experts at teaching young people, a group of twenty teacher candidates for a year, and I know we could do a much better job of teaching them how to be good teachers than any school of education in the country.Answering the second part of the question leaves me with a heavy heart. The reason is that most school districts don’t effectively monitor and evaluate the progress, competence, and teaching skills of new teachers. The procedures to do this are woefully inadequate and rarely result in new teachers being dismissed if they are incompetent. Teachers new to the profession learn more about teaching from their own personal experiences the first three years on the job and from other, experienced teachers than they do from any program presented by the school district they work for. School districts don’t really know if a new teacher is mediocre or, worse yet, incompetent so they grant tenure because they need a body in the classroom. There is a tremendous shortage of teachers throughout our country today. Once tenure is granted, it is virtually impossible to dismiss a teacher on the basis of incompetence.(Due to space constraints a portion of this review was omitted — please see Reader Views website for the entire interview.)Dr. Nick: Parents must be involved in their children’s education from preschool right through high school and, perhaps, even into college. The tendency is for parents to step back from involvement when their teenagers start high school. This is a serious mistake. Parental involvement is critical during high school because the high schooler is under tremendous pressure from peers mainly to experiment in many different areas: drugs, alcohol, sex, ideology, cults, etc. That involvement should take the form of proactive participation, diligent observation, and ardent questioning. I recommend that parents do the following to ensure that their children receive a quality education:Parents must communicate regularly in person, over the phone, and via e-mail with the teacher throughout the school year about every aspect of their child’s learning by asking questions and seeking information about these and other important aspects of schooling:homeworkmath skillslanguage arts skills (reading, spelling, grammar, writing)testingbehaviorgradeslistening skillsattitudeparticipation and cooperationParents must frequently monitor the progress of their child’s learning at home and act as the most important teacher in their child’s life.Parents should observe their child’s teacher(s) to assess the teacher’s quality of instruction. My book is filled with tips for parents to do just that. It also contains lists of questions for parents to ask and what to look for in a classroom to determine if a classroom’s physical environment is organized as a valuable learning tool.Parents should participate in the life of the school, if possible:join the PTA or parent club and participate in its activities and governancevolunteer as an aide at schooloffer to assist the teacher with paperworkParents must attend school functions: Back-to-School Night, Open House, music programs, special events, sports contests, fund raisers.Parents must meet with the teacher at parent conferences and ask questions about their child’s educational progress.Parents should introduce themselves to the principal and other persons in key positions at the school to know who they are and to make sure these school personnel know who the parents are.Parents should communicate their ideas and opinions to their elected school board members, and, on occasion, attend a school board meeting.Parents must be sure their child is equipped to do the best possible work at school by providing:necessary school suppliesa nutritious and balanced dietenough sleep and resta positive attitude toward school and teachersa distraction-free place for homeworkTyler: Does the concern over public education have a place outside the school system? What about people who do not have children? Why should they care about things like millage elections, or want to pay more taxes, or support the school system?Dr. Nick: Yes, concern over public education does have a place outside the school system. Most people who don’t have children, are retired and have no contact with children, or whose children are now adults pay taxes and generally want a school system that produces an educated person. These people are automatically invested in the public school system as a result of their taxpayer status and expect to receive good value for their tax money. I know I do because 62% of my annual property taxes (nearly $3,800) goes to public schools in the community where I live.Tyler: Students often do not value the education they receive until years later. As a former college English professor, I taught many lazy students, and I was constantly in dismay that so many of them were even admitted to college when they could not write a complete sentence. I frequently wondered what they had done for thirteen years in the public schools? Do you think the college system is in any way responsible for the decline of public education in the elementary and high schools? Should entrance requirements into colleges be raised?Dr. Nick: I don’t blame our college system in any way at all for the decline of public education in the elementary and high schools. State colleges and universities, community colleges, private and religious colleges and universities-all provide opportunities for students who are qualified to pursue them. It’s the responsibility of the elementary and secondary schools to prepare students to take advantage of those opportunities and meet those qualifications. I do think these colleges and universities should regularly evaluate their entrance requirements, as I’m sure they do, to ensure that they maintain high standards of academic expectations.These colleges and universities have a responsibility to graduate well-educated and highly competent young people. Watering down the entrance requirements to fill classrooms would be a disgrace and morally reprehensible. Not all high school students should be expected to attend a four-year college, although that’s what many high school counselors and administrators tell them is possible. I do blame some schools of education, however, for the poorly prepared teachers they seem to turn out by the thousands each year. School of education reforms in recent years in teacher training programs, curriculum standards, course content, and subject matter proficiency have not produced quality teachers. If they had, our elementary and secondary school students would be exceptionally successful learners and you would not have asked this question. After all, teachers are supposed to help students learn to their capacity.Tyler: Dr. Nick, how long do you think the public school system has been declining? Do you believe it has affected the American job force and economy?Dr. Nick: The American public school system has been declining over the last fifty to sixty years. All you have to do is look at the statistics to see that the reforms attempted during the past half century have not resulted in significant changes in learning, test scores, and student achievement. In fact, in most curricular areas, there has been little or no change at all, and in math and English there has been decline.Perhaps your readers would be interested in an excellent article published in the September 2007 edition of Harper’s magazine. It’s titled “Schoolhouse Crock (Fifty years of blaming America’s instructional system for our stupidity) and presents a superb evaluation of instructional reform over the previous fifty years.This decline continues to have an effect on the American job pressure, companies, and our nationwide economic system as effectively. Many companies and companies have instituted their very own programs of inner schooling to coach their work pressure correctly to do the work anticipated of them as a result of they cannot depend on the general public faculties.Tyler: Those that suffer essentially the most on this scenario are the youngsters, but as youngsters, college students are unlikely to know what they aren’t studying and the way it is going to be detrimental for them. Moreover, they might be too intimidated by academics to complain when they’re given extra free time or fruitless assignments or precise classes. What if something, can college students do to enhance the standard of their very own schooling?Dr. Nick: On the elementary faculty, center faculty, and junior highschool ranges of schooling, there’s in all probability little or no if something the younger individuals who attend these faculties can do to enhance the standard of their very own schooling. They’re too younger, inexperienced, and immature. At the highschool, nonetheless, some college students are mature and critical sufficient about their very own education to do one thing. I’d add, although, that there are most definitely only a few who would truly problem the powers that be (academics, principals, superintendents, boards of schooling) for a wide range of causes. The 2 most vital ones, in my view, could be peer stress and concern of retribution or retaliation on the a part of academics or directors. Nonetheless, listed below are some actions mature, critical, clever, involved highschool college students might do:Go to your principal and complain concerning the poor high quality educating you are experiencing. Nothing will occur the primary time, so go a second and third time. Carry different involved college students with you.Be well mannered however assertive, telling your principal that you’ve a proper to high quality instruction however aren’t receiving it. Clearly state your areas of grievance: an excessive amount of classroom noise, insufficient instruction, lack of instructor curiosity, and so forth.

Make an appointment with the superintendent to voice your considerations. Current a plan of how your grievances could be redressed. Carry different involved college students with you. Request permission to talk at a board assembly and current your complaints to those elected officers.Cellphone and/or e-mail board members.Kind a committee of involved college students who weekly report back to the principal about what’s going on in your school rooms that must be improved or modified in the most effective curiosity of your schooling.Tyler: Thanks for becoming a member of me right now, Dr. Nick. Earlier than we go, will you inform us a bit of bit about your web site and what further data could be discovered there about “The Nightmare That is Public Education”?Dr. Nick: My web site,, is presently being up to date. Nonetheless, there’s details about my guide that your readers will get pleasure from, I am certain, however I am engaged on together with way more.Tyler: Thanks, Dr. Nick. I hope you’ve got many dad and mom and educators visiting your web site and studying “The Nightmare That is Public Education.”At this time, Tyler R. Tichelaar of Reader Views is honored to talk with Renato C. Nicolai (Dr. Nick) about his new guide “The Nightmare That is Public Education: An Expose of What Really Happens in Public Schools.”