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


A retired instructor and fundamental with thirty-8 years of enjoy in public education, Renato C. Nicolai, Ed.D., taught 6th thru 12th grade and changed into both an primary and center college most important. In training circles, he become known as Dr. Nicolai, which finally turned into shortened to Dr. Nick, and has caught ever due to the fact.

Tyler: Thank you for becoming a member of me these days, Dr. Nick. Obviously, the kingdom of public schooling within the United States is of brilliant difficulty to many human beings. To start, will you inform us what you think is inaccurate with the public training machine?

Dr. Nick: Wow! What a possibility! Yes, I might be thrilled to tell you what I think is incorrect with the public education gadget. My mind isn’t in any order of precedence; I’m telling you approximately them as they arrive at mind.

What I consider first is what I wrote about as the main emphasis in my e-book. Teachers desperately need to enhance the nice in their coaching, so, specially, what is incorrect is that too many teachers are either incompetent or mediocre instructors at great. Yes, in case you had the opportunity to stand with the aid of my aspect within the hundreds of classrooms I’ve visited in my career, you would be both surprised and horrified at how a good deal bad nice teaching there may be in our public schools. If parents best knew how a great deal greater their children may be studying with guidance from awesome instructors compared to what they are most probably getting to know now from incompetent instructors, they might be flabbergasted. That’s how bad it definitely is. This indictment of teachers, but, isn’t always a prime hassle on the fundamental faculty, but is a extreme and rampant hassle for certain on the center faculty, junior high faculty, and in particular the excessive faculty level of schooling. Parents, you may need to read approximately the 8 critical qualities maximum teachers don’t own. I’ve listed and described them inside the first bankruptcy of my book.

Tenure is any other vital hassle. Once tenure is granted by way of a college district, an incompetent trainer is a teacher for lifestyles. It’s extremely difficult to push aside a teacher who has tenure. What’s wrong with tenure is that it is workable so soon in a teacher’s profession (after handiest 3 years in most instances), so final (once it is granted it is irrevocable), and so long lasting (the teacher continues it for as long as he/she teaches). What occurs is that some teachers paintings very hard at some point of their first few years in the process, obtain tenure, after which slack off of their overall performance due to the fact they realize they are able to almost in no way lose their task. Instead of tenure, public training should sell a system of overall performance opinions that instructors are required to skip periodically if you want to maintain their teaching position for the following two or three years.

The way a trainer is evaluated is all incorrect inside the education device. It’s basically a sham and a shaggy dog story. Collective bargaining contracts and union involvement in trainer opinions has watered down the process of teacher opinions to the diploma that almost nothing worthwhile outcomes from the technique. In my ebook, I have a bankruptcy titled “What You Don’t Know Won’t Hurt You,” and the idea of instructor evaluation is discussed in that bankruptcy. If mother and father and the general public at massive knew how useless and unproductive instructor evaluations are, they might demand a greater green gadget. The machine as it exists in maximum school districts nowadays is a tactful technique of pronouncing the proper words, doing what’s predicted, and now not ruffling absolutely everyone’s feelings. What it need to do is help instructors improve the first-rate of their teaching to the degree that they assist college students learn better, but it doesn’t do that at all.Education

The public training device is rooted within the fake belief that all teachers are certified educators who may be trusted to make appropriate decisions, observe college district rules and rules, paintings collectively in a spirit of collegiality, sell the welfare of students as a priority, and, usually, do what is simply, moral, and professional. What’s wrong is this description is genuinely not true; but, school districts at some stage in the United States permit instructors the freedom to work unsupervised due to the fact they’re assumed to be properly-intentioned, expert persons who’ve the best pastimes of college students at coronary heart. Don’t misunderstand me, please. Of course, there are numerous conscientious teachers who do work properly with each different and do have the satisfactory pastimes of students at heart, however I trust that there are numerous more who take gain of educational freedom, collegiality, and shortage of supervision to do something they need inside the 4 walls of their school rooms. This is sincerely a very critical trouble that is covered up through the instructional hierarchy.

Another very extreme incorrect is the way wherein school districts manipulate using alternative instructors. Substitute teachers are not often found to determine their competence, often assigned to issue areas they haven’t any qualifications to train, and often subjected to improbable disrespect and insolence from college students. When a substitute trainer is present in a center school, junior high college, or excessive school lecture room, little or no learning takes place. That class is a waste of instructional time, the scholars’ time, and the synthetic’s time as nicely. The 3 maximum not unusual sports that take place whilst a substitute takes over a regular instructor’s elegance are the displaying of films or DVDs, the administration of tests, and the supervision of long, uninteresting written or reading assignments left by means of the ordinary trainer. The lesson plans left by most normal teachers for alternative teachers to observe are generally a set of commands on a way to occupy the time students have in magnificence. The entire alternative teacher machine wishes to be completely overhauled. Students need to study to respect substitute teachers, to assist them with the lesson, and to be chargeable for their very own getting to know. Expectations that scholars will cooperate with alternative instructors, that regular teachers will rigorously prepare satisfactory lesson plans, that substitutes will educate, and that directors will screen substitutes are so miserably low, presently, that the education system truely accepts the status quo of chaos, lack of gaining knowledge of, and disgraceful alternative teacher educational and professional performance.


Tyler, the public training device within the United States is certainly in trouble. It’s inundated with issues; there are numerous matters incorrect with it. I should have written about loss of scholar field, emphasis on sports over academics, permissiveness during the way of life of public faculties, reticence approximately the troubles that exist, and lots greater. I believe that it has deteriorated so much over the last fifty years, that mediocrity and incompetence are the fame quo. Parents do not even realize that the system is so terrible. What they see and experience is what they assume is how the machine have to be. They do not understand how plenty better it can be and how their kids may be receiving a more advanced instructional enjoy.

Tyler: Dr. Nick, will you tell us a little bit about your background in education-wherein you taught and the topics you taught, as well as your revel in as a center school major. What have personal experiences led to your contemporary viewpoints?

Dr. Nick: My first complete time position in public faculties was as a ninth and eleventh grade trainer of English at El Camino High School in South San Francisco, California (a town become independent from San Francisco). After coaching years, my mission changed to coaching English half the school day and counseling the opposite half. In my 0.33 yr as a instructor at this faculty, I was elected president of the neighborhood teachers’ union and the subsequent year chairman of the School District Negotiating Council. In my fifth 12 months, I become appointed Assistant Principal of Parkway Junior High School (7-9) in the identical faculty district.

During the seven years I held this position as assistant primary, I enrolled in a doctoral application on the University of Southern California, and from 1969-1972 I carried out a Doctor of Education Diploma in Educational Administration and Secondary Curriculum. My dissertation, which researched the executive conduct of superintendents of colleges, changed into the primary dissertation sponsored by way of the newly fashioned Association of California School Administrators (ACSA).

In 1974, I changed into selected Principal of Isaac Newton Graham Middle School (7-eight) in Mountain View, California. You requested me to proportion my experience as a center college predominant, and I’m pleased to achieve this, however I need you to understand that I may want to effortlessly write some other e book about those reports by myself. So, I’ll try and give you an encapsulated solution. I think I could high-quality describe my studies as a middle college fundamental as a continuing five year curler coaster ride because I in no way knew while my emotions, feelings, and experiences might be up or down. On the up facet, I changed into thrilled to peer many students learn how to their potential as a result of the excellent coaching of a few awesome instructors. After all, supporting young people learn is what education is all approximately. I also observed a few outstanding instructors whose abilties and strategies stimulated students to excel past their very own personal expectations. That was extremely interesting. As the chief of a community college, I grew personally as an educator because I had the possibility to influence curriculum, work for the academic blessings of college students, and partner frequently with community leaders in diverse companies (hearth branch, police branch, undertaking department, mayor’s office, and so forth). These stories made me a better most important. On the down side, I learned quickly that many instructors must by no means were allowed to go into a study room to train. They have been not applicable to interact with young people and young adults; they did not have the skills needed to assist young minds understand principles and thoughts; they failed to devote themselves to studying a way to train expertly; they did not recognize the way to control and control a category of thirty college students. I additionally realized what some of the issues were that I needed to address (incompetent teachers, low excellent curriculum, collective bargaining contracts to call some) however that I did not have the strength to result in powerful alternate. That become frustrating to no give up. Finally, the bottom possible experience for me became to fulfill so-known as instructors who had literally given up; this is, that they had decided to go through the motions of coaching handiest. They were now not eager to educate, did not look ahead to assembly their classes, and did as low as possible to fulfill their expert obligations. I omitted so much that I feel my answer is insufficient. I can see the pleasure in the faces of college students who received instructional and sports activities awards, the keenness of both personnel and scholar body at our annual soft ball game, the yearly discern club barbeque, and a lot greater.

I remained at Graham for 5 years and then moved directly to an possibility in southern California as the Administrative Director (Superintendent/Principal) of Chatsworth Hills Academy, a private faculty in Chatsworth, California. I preferred serving in public schooling, so I returned to Graham as a 7th grade core instructor, coaching English and social studies (international records). In October of my 2nd 12 months back from southern California, I become asked with the aid of three Santa Clara County superintendents to go up a “joint powers” school named The Institute of Computer Technology as an on-loan college administrator. Along with an on-mortgage administrator from IBM (Ken Butler), I helped this new instructional organisation get its toes off the floor. It turned into exciting paintings and I enjoyed hiring instructors, meeting era experts at Apple and IBM, growing curriculum, outfitting a faculty with security structures, operating with faculty superintendents, mastering how to defend treasured hardware and software program, and plenty extra. After doing what I changed into employed to do, I lower back to Graham, coaching English, social studies, and geography to seventh and eighth graders, such as the 8th Grade Honors English program. I remained at Graham for the subsequent twenty years and retired in 2001.

During my career, I’ve been a presenter at numerous meetings, in-provider classes, and conventions. My presentation subjects were typically inside the regions of teaching strategies, literature-based guidance, subject, and classroom management. I’ve additionally been a grasp trainer, chairman or member of numerous curriculum committees, and an adjunct professor of the trainer education program at National University.

My modern viewpoints and attitudes closer to public education advanced throughout my career based totally upon my non-public reviews as a trainer and main, what I noticed different educators do and heard them say, what I read, what I found out nice helped young humans reach their gaining knowledge of capability, what political reforms failed, and what I discovered about how young minds gain knowledge. For example, there was a time after I opposed vouchers; I’m adamantly in favor of them now. The greater selections mother and father have the schooling of their kids, the better. I became a staunch supporter of tenure at the beginning of my career till I witnessed how many deficient teachers cover their incompetence beneath the safety of this regulation. Tenure have to be abolished. I’m sure you get the concept. I hold the views, attitudes, and emotions that I do about training because of a life-long career in schools. You recognize, children are not the simplest ones who learn whilst at faculty.

Tyler: You mention that many teachers are not equipped? What is the cause for this, and why does the college system permit them to remain in the study room?

Dr. Nick: Why are many teachers incompetent? Here are a few reasons to ponder:

Because they don’t own the character needed to have interaction well with younger humans. If someone doesn’t like kids, would not revel in being with all of them day long, doesn’t stay up for teaching them, would not accept their immaturity and need to help them become more mature, can not stand constantly answering questions, can’t take delivery of individual differences (race, ethnicity, gender, faith, and so on), can not deal with unique desires (hyperactivity, conduct troubles, and so forth), then that individual will never be a equipped teacher.

Because they do not possess, show off, use, and treasure enthusiasm, and, so, they’re in really boring to the maximum in their college students. Ask any child at a center college, junior high faculty, or high college to your community what they dislike the most approximately their teachers, and, I assure you the solution will overwhelmingly be that they’re uninteresting. And you understand some thing, Tyler; the children are right. Most instructors are insufferably boring in how they train. Enthusiasm is a sine qua non for all capable teachers.

Because they don’t know a way to get standards and ideas throughout simply to their college students. They don’t possess the understanding and abilities needed to assist students examine. They just don’t know what to do and grow to be pretty often being frustrated and pronouncing some thing like, “Oh, those kids simply can not study these items.” That’s an expression equal to defeatism and incompetence. If the studying fabric is age suitable and a part of the time-honored curriculum, of direction a everyday, healthful student can research it. It isn’t the scholar who is at fault; it’s the instructor who does not have the competence to design instructions, sports, and packages to help students learn. The reason for this is that many instructors tell students however do not display and teach.

Because they cannot manage and control pupil conduct. Teachers daily face tough disciplinary and conduct troubles. If a teacher can’t effectively manage these troubles, that instructor will in no way be a ready teacher-by no means! In this case, the incompetence is in no longer understanding what to do when a disciplinary or conduct hassle provides itself because the teacher hasn’t concept out a personal Educational Philosophy for Control of Student Behavior. Every teacher wishes to try this to harmonize his/her personality with strategies of discipline. I provide an explanation for this in element in my e-book.

Because many instructors don’t manipulate lecture room time correctly. I dedicate a whole bankruptcy to this subject matter: “Wasted Time – Inept Instruction (Euphemism: Teaching Mistakes). How can everybody recollect a trainer equipped when that trainer tries to educate over the noise of unruly students, doesn’t know the way to quell correctly needless noise on the change of a study room interest, and allows college students to talk on every occasion they want. This incapacity to govern noise leads to as a whole lot as 25% of each magnificence length being wasted. Many instructors can not even manage the time on the quit of class whilst students get ready to go away and waste the 10 or fifteen minutes left.

Because many teachers can’t effectively manipulate institution studying. One of the best ways for students to examine is to have interaction with each other, allowing students to assist every different research in businesses. Sometimes, college students have simply the proper words and causes to help a fellow scholar recognize a lesson. However, most instructors do not control pupil companies effectively and so waste remarkable quantities of educational time.

Because many instructors don’t have excessive sufficient academic and behavioral expectations and standards. In other phrases, many instructors do not project their students sufficient academically and do not count on them to learn how to the extent in their capability. Teachers have to project an mindset of high expectancies to encourage their prices appropriately. Most instructors don’t even recognize this concept and need to examine it themselves. Not setting it into effect in classrooms is indicative of lack of expertise and incompetence. In Chapter Three, I wrote a seven-web page description of the most important techniques utilized by instructors who absolutely understand the way to educate excessive academic and behavioral standards. Teachers, you have by no means seen something come near this realistic list of the way to teach requirements.

Because some teachers do not have an enough understanding of the subjects they train. They do not! They are assigned to teach a topic they do not know effectively or they do not even like. Many teachers are coaching subjects and they do not have either a first-rate in that area or valid certificates to teach it.

There are other motives as nicely, however the few I stated are in reality vast ones, are not they? Now, what are the motives for these incompetencies and why do school structures permit these incompetent teachers to remain in the school room? Well, the primary part of the query may be spoke back easily. Students studying how to train aren’t being prepared correctly through colleges of education. You recognize who need to train potential instructors the way to educate? Not education professors! No! Excellent, experienced, modern-day and retired teachers who realize what a lecture room is all approximately and who have a love for youngsters and coaching of their hearts should teach candidates for coaching. Give me verified experts at teaching young people, a group of twenty instructor applicants for a 12 months, and I recognise we ought to do a far higher job of coaching them how to be right teachers than any college of education in the country.

Answering the second one part of the question leaves me with a heavy heart. The cause is that most college districts do not effectively screen and examine the progress, competence, and teaching capabilities of latest teachers. The strategies to do this are woefully inadequate and rarely result in new teachers being brushed off if they’re incompetent. Teachers new to the profession examine more approximately teaching from their own non-public reports the primary three years at the task and from other, experienced teachers than they do from any program provided with the aid of the faculty district they paintings for. School districts don’t absolutely realize if a brand new teacher is mediocre or, worse but, incompetent so they furnish tenure because they need a body in the lecture room. There is a incredible shortage of teachers during our country today. Once tenure is granted, it’s miles really not possible to brush aside a instructor on the basis of incompetence.Interview

(Due to area constraints a portion of this evaluation became not noted — please see Reader Views internet site for the whole interview.)

Dr. Nick: Parents must be worried of their kid’s training from preschool proper via high faculty and, possibly, even into college. The tendency is for dad and mom to step again from involvement when their teenagers begin high school. This is a critical mistake. Parental involvement is critical throughout excessive school because the excessive schooler is beneath high-quality pressure from peers specially to test in many exclusive areas: capsules, alcohol, sex, ideology, cults, and so on. That involvement ought to take the shape of proactive participation, diligent statement, and ardent wondering. I propose that mother and father do the subsequent to ensure that their youngsters obtain a exceptional training:

Parents must speak frequently in person, over the phone, and through email with the instructor all through the school year about every element in their baby’s learning by means of asking questions and searching for records about those and different important components of education:


math talents

language arts skills (reading, spelling, grammar, writing)

checking out



listening capabilities


participation and cooperation

Parents need to frequently display the progress in their child’s mastering at domestic and act because the maximum crucial teacher of their child’s lifestyles.

Parents have to have a look at their child’s trainer(s) to evaluate the teacher’s exceptional of instruction. My e-book is full of hints for dad and mom to do just that. It additionally carries lists of questions for mother and father to invite and what to search for in a classroom to determine if a study room’s physical surroundings are organized as a precious getting to know the tool.

Parents need to take part inside the life of the school, if feasible:

join the PTA or discern club and take part in its sports and governance

volunteer as an aide at school

provide to help the teacher with office work

Parents should attend college functions: Back-to-School Night, Open House, Song applications, special activities, sports activities contests, fund raisers.

Parents should meet with the trainer at determine conferences and ask questions about their baby’s academic development.

Parents must introduce themselves to the fundamental and different folks in key positions on the college to know who they are and to make sure these school personnel recognize who the dad and mom are.

Parents need to communicate their thoughts and critiques to their elected faculty board individuals, and, once in a while, attend a faculty board meeting.

Parents have to make sure their toddler is geared up to do the fine feasible work at school by using offering:

important faculty supplies

a nutritious and balanced eating regimen

enough sleep and rest

a wonderful attitude toward college and instructors

a distraction-unfastened area for homework

Tyler: Does the priority over public education have a place outside the school gadget? What about folks who do no longer have children? Why should they care approximately things like millage elections, or need to pay more taxes, or help the college system?

Dr. Nick: Yes, difficulty over public education does have a place out of doors the school gadget. Most people who don’t have youngsters, are retired and haven’t any touch with kids, or whose children are actually adults pay taxes and typically need a college gadget that produces an knowledgeable man or woman. These human beings are robotically invested within the public school system as a result of their taxpayer status and anticipate to get hold of excellent value for their tax cash. I realize I do because 62% of my annual property taxes (almost $3,800) is going to public schools within the network wherein I live.

Tyler: Students often do no longer fee the education they get hold of till years later. As a former university English professor, I taught many lazy college students, and I turned into constantly in dismay that so a lot of them have been even admitted to college when they couldn’t write a complete sentence. I regularly questioned what that they had achieved for thirteen years inside the public schools? Do you think the university machine is in any way liable for the decline of public schooling in the fundamental and excessive colleges? Should front necessities into schools be raised?

Dr. Nick: I don’t blame our college system in any manner in any respect for the decline of public education within the simple and high colleges. State faculties and universities, network schools, non-public and non-secular faculties and universities-all offer possibilities for college kids who are certified to pursue them. It’s the obligation of the fundamental and secondary colleges to prepare college students to take gain of these opportunities and meet those qualifications. I do suppose those faculties and universities have to frequently examine their front requirements, as I’m sure they do, to ensure that they hold excessive requirements of educational expectancies.

These schools and universities have a duty to graduate nicely-knowledgeable and distinctly ready younger humans. Watering down the entrance requirements to fill lecture rooms might be a disgrace and morally reprehensible. Not all excessive faculty students must be anticipated to wait a four-yr university, although that is what many high school counselors and directors inform them is viable. I do blame a few colleges of schooling, but, for the poorly prepared instructors they seem to turn out via the heaps each 12 months. School of education reforms in current years in teacher education applications, curriculum requirements, path content, and difficulty rely talent have no longer produced first-rate teachers. If they had, our simple and secondary faculty college students could be especially successful newbies and you would now not have requested this query. After all, instructors are supposed to assist students learn to their potential.

Tyler: Dr. Nick, how long do you suspect the general public school gadget has been declining? Do you consider it has affected the American process force and economy?

Dr. Nick: The American public faculty system has been declining over the past fifty to sixty years. All you have to do is have a look at the data to see that the reforms attempted in the course of the past 1/2 century have no longer led to massive adjustments in mastering, take a look at rankings, and student fulfillment. In truth, in maximum curricular areas, there was the very little alternate at all, and in math and English, there was decline.

Perhaps your readers could be interested in an incredible article posted inside the September 2007 edition of Harper’s mag. It’s titled “Schoolhouse Crock (Fifty years of blaming America’s educational system for our stupidity) and gives a tremendous evaluation of educational reform over the last fifty years.

This decline keeps having an effect on the American task pressure, groups, and our national financial system as properly. Many businesses and businesses have instituted their very own structures of internal training to educate their paintings pressure well to do the work anticipated of them because they can not rely on the public colleges.

Tyler: The ones who suffer the most in this example are the kids, yet as kids, students are not likely to recognize what they are no longer mastering and the way it is going to be destructive for them. Furthermore, they will be too intimidated by way of teachers to bitch while they’re given greater free time or fruitless assignments or actual classes. What if anything, can college students do to enhance the satisfactory of their very own education?

Dr. Nick: At the simple faculty, middle college, and junior high college levels of training, there might be little or no if anything the younger individuals who attend these colleges can do to enhance the first-class of their very own schooling. They are too young, inexperienced, and immature. At the high college, however, some college students are mature and critical sufficient about their very own education to do some thing. I would possibly upload, although, that there are maximum probably very few who might actually task the powers that be (instructors, principals, superintendents, boards of education) for a variety of reasons. The most massive ones, in my opinion, could be peer pressure and worry of retribution or retaliation on the part of teachers or directors. Nonetheless, right here are some actions mature, extreme, clever, involved excessive faculty college students could do:

Go on your essential and complain approximately the terrible first-class coaching you’re experiencing. Nothing will appear the primary time, so move a 2nd and 0.33 time. Bring different concerned students with you.

Be well mannered but assertive, telling your important that you have a right to exceptional guidance but aren’t receiving it. Clearly kingdom your areas of grievance: an excessive amount of study room noise, insufficient education, lack of trainer interest, and so forth.
Make an appointment with the superintendent to voice your concerns. Present a plan of how your grievances can be redressed. Bring different involved students with you. Request permission to talk at a board meeting and present your court cases to those elected officers.

Phone and/or e-mail board individuals.

Form a committee of worried college students who weekly file to the fundamental approximately what goes on in your lecture rooms that have to be progressed or modified in the exceptional interest of your training.

Tyler: Thank you for joining me these days, Dr. Nick. Before we go, will you inform us a touch bit about your website and what additional records can be determined there about “The Nightmare That is Public Education”?


Tyler: Thank you, Dr. Nick. I desire you have got many parents and educators traveling your internet site and analyzing “The Nightmare That is Public Education.”

Today, Tyler R. Tichelaar of Reader Views is commemorated to speak with Renato C. Nicolai (Dr. Nick) approximately his new ebook “The Nightmare That is Public Education: An Expose of What Really Happens in Public Schools.”