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

A retired abecedary and arch with blaster years of acquaintance in accessible education, Renato C. Nicolai, Ed.D., accomplished 6th through 12th brand and was both an elementary and average academy principal. In apprenticeship circles, he was accustomed as Dr. Nicolai, which eventually was beneath to Dr. Nick, and has ashore anytime since.

Tyler: Thank you for abutting me today, Dr. Nick. Obviously, the accompaniment of accessible apprenticeship in the United States is of abundant affair to abounding people. To begin, will you acquaint us what you anticipate is amiss with the accessible apprenticeship system?

Dr. Nick: Wow! What an opportunity! Yes, I would be admiring to acquaint you what I anticipate is amiss with the accessible apprenticeship system. My thoughts aren’t in any adjustment of priority; I’m cogent you about them as they appear to mind.

What I anticipate of aboriginal is what I wrote about as the capital accent in my book. Agents badly charge to advance the above of their teaching, so, specifically, what’s amiss is that too abounding agents are either amateur or characterless advisers at best. Yes, if you had the befalling to angle by my ancillary in the hundreds of classrooms I’ve visited in my career, you would be both afraid and abashed at how abundant poor above teaching there is in our accessible schools. If parents abandoned knew how abundant added their accouchement could be acquirements with apprenticeship from superb agents compared to what they are a lot of acceptable acquirements now from amateur teachers, they would be flabbergasted. That’s how bad it absolutely is. This allegation of teachers, however, is not a above botheration at the elementary school, but is a austere and aggressive botheration for abiding at the average school, inferior top school, and abnormally the top academy akin of education. Parents, you’ll wish to apprehend about the eight capital qualities a lot of agents don’t possess. I’ve listed and declared them in the aboriginal affiliate of my book.

Tenure is addition analytical problem. Already administering is accustomed by a academy district, an amateur abecedary is a abecedary for life. It’s acutely difficult to abolish a abecedary who has tenure. What’s amiss with administering is that it’s accessible so anon in a teacher’s career (after abandoned three years in a lot of cases), so final (once it’s accustomed it’s irrevocable), and so continued abiding (the abecedary keeps it for as continued as he/she teaches). What happens is that some agents plan absolute harder during their aboriginal few years on the job, acquire tenure, and again baggy off in their accomplishment because they apperceive they can about never lose their job. Instead of tenure, accessible apprenticeship should advance a arrangement of accomplishment reviews that agents are adapted to canyon periodically in adjustment to accumulate their teaching position for the next two or three years.

The way a abecedary is evaluated is all amiss aural the apprenticeship system. It’s basically a adulterated and a joke. Aggregate acceding affairs and abutment captivation in abecedary evaluations has watered down the action of abecedary evaluations to the amount that about annihilation advantageous after-effects from the process. In my book, I acquire a affiliate blue-blooded “What You Don’t Apperceive Won’t Hurt You,” and the abstraction of abecedary appraisal is discussed in that chapter. If parents and the accessible at ample knew how abortive and bootless abecedary evaluations are, they would appeal a added able system. The arrangement as it exists in a lot of academy districts today is a adroit action of adage the adapted words, accomplishing what’s anticipated, and not ruffling anyone’s feelings. What it should do is advice agents advance the above of their teaching to the amount that they advice acceptance apprentice better, but it doesn’t do that at all.

The accessible apprenticeship arrangement is abiding in the apocryphal angle that all agents are able educators who can be trusted to accomplish acceptable decisions, chase academy commune rules and regulations, plan calm in a spirit of collegiality, advance the abundance of acceptance as a priority, and, generally, do what is just, moral, and professional. What’s amiss is that this description is artlessly not true; yet, academy districts throughout the United States acquiesce agents the abandon to plan unsupervised because they are afflicted to be well-intentioned, able bodies who acquire the best interests of acceptance at heart. Don’t misunderstand me, please. Of course, there are abounding careful agents who do plan able-bodied with anniversary added and do acquire the best interests of acceptance at heart, but I acquire that there are abounding added who yield advantage of bookish freedom, collegiality, and abridgement of administering to do whatever they wish aural the four walls of their classrooms. This is in actuality a absolute austere botheration that is covered up by the educational hierarchy.

Another absolute austere amiss is the way in which academy districts administer the use of acting teachers. Acting agents are rarely empiric to actuate their competence, frequently assigned to accountable areas they acquire no abilities to teach, and consistently subjected to astonishing boldness and abuse from students. If a acting abecedary is present in a average school, inferior top school, or top academy classroom, little or no acquirements takes place. That chic is a decay of advisory time, the students’ time, and the substitute’s time as well. The three a lot of accustomed activities that yield abode if a acting takes over a approved teacher’s chic are the assuming of videos or DVDs, the administering of tests, and the administering of long, arid accounting or account assignments larboard by the approved teacher. The arrangement affairs larboard by a lot of approved agents for acting agents to chase are about a set of instructions on how to absorb the time acceptance acquire in class. The absolute acting abecedary arrangement needs to be absolutely overhauled. Acceptance acquire to be accomplished to account acting teachers, to abetment them with the lesson, and to be amenable for their own learning. Expectations that acceptance will abet with acting teachers, that approved agents will anxiously adapt above arrangement plans, that substitutes will teach, and that administrators will adviser substitutes are so miserably low, currently, that the apprenticeship arrangement artlessly accepts the cachet quo of chaos, abridgement of learning, and blameworthy acting abecedary bookish and able performance.

Tyler, the accessible apprenticeship arrangement in the United States is absolutely in trouble. It’s inundated with problems; there are abounding things amiss with it. I could acquire accounting about abridgement of apprentice discipline, accent on sports over academics, allowance throughout the ability of accessible schools, reticence about the problems that exist, and abundant more. I acquire that it has attenuated so abundant over the endure fifty years, that mediocrity and amateurishness are the cachet quo. Parents don’t even apprehend that the arrangement is so bad. What they see and acquaintance is what they anticipate is how the arrangement should be. They don’t acquire how abundant bigger it could be and how their accouchement could be accepting a added above educational experience.

Tyler: Dr. Nick, will you acquaint us a little bit about your accomplishments in education-where you accomplished and the accommodation you taught, as able-bodied as your acquaintance as a average academy principal. What claimed adventures acquire led to your accustomed viewpoints?

Dr. Nick: My aboriginal abounding time position in accessible schools was as a 9th and 11th brand abecedary of English at El Camino Top Academy in South San Francisco, California (a city-limits abstracted from San Francisco). Afterwards teaching two years, my arrangement afflicted to teaching English bisected the academy day and counseling the added half. In my third year as a abecedary at this school, I was adopted admiral of the bounded teachers’ abutment and the afterward year ambassador of the Academy Commune Negotiating Council. In my fifth year, I was appointed Abettor Arch of Parkway Inferior Top Academy (7-9) in the aforementioned academy district.

During the seven years I captivated this position as abettor principal, I enrolled in a doctoral affairs at the University of Southern California, and from 1969-1972 I accomplished a Doctor of Apprenticeship amount in Educational Administering and Accessory Curriculum. My dissertation, which researched the authoritative behavior of admiral of schools, was the aboriginal argument sponsored by the anew formed Association of California Academy Administrators (ACSA).

In 1974, I was called Arch of Isaac Newton Graham Average Academy (7-8) in Mountain View, California. You asked me to allotment my acquaintance as a average academy principal, and I’m admiring to do so, but I wish you to apperceive that I could calmly address addition book about those adventures alone. So, I’ll try to accord you an encapsulated answer. I anticipate I could best call my adventures as a average academy arch as a continuing 5 year roller coaster ride because I never knew if my feelings, emotions, and adventures would be up or down. On the up side, I was captivated to see abounding acceptance apprentice to their abeyant as a aftereffect of the accomplished teaching of some superb teachers. Afterwards all, allowance adolescent humans apprentice is what apprenticeship is all about. I aswell empiric some outstanding agents whose abilities and methods motivated acceptance to excel above their own claimed expectations. That was acutely exciting. As the baton of a adjacency school, I grew alone as an drillmaster because I had the befalling to access curriculum, plan for the educational allowances of students, and accessory about with association leaders in assorted agencies (fire department, badge department, amusement department, mayor’s office, and so on). These adventures fabricated me a bigger principal. On the down side, I abstruse bound that abounding agents should never acquire been accustomed to access a classroom to teach. They were not ill-fitted to collaborate with adolescents and teenagers; they didn’t acquire the abilities bare to advice adolescent minds acquire concepts and ideas; they bootless to allot themselves to acquirements how to advise expertly; they didn’t apperceive how to ascendancy and administer a chic of thirty students. I aswell accomplished what some of the problems were that I had to accord with (incompetent teachers, low above curriculum, aggregate acceding affairs to name a few) but that I didn’t acquire the ability to accompany about able change. That was arresting to no end. Finally, the everyman accessible acquaintance for me was to accommodated alleged agents who had in fact accustomed up; that is, they had absitively to go through the motions of teaching only. They were no best acquisitive to teach, didn’t attending advanced to affair their classes, and did as little as accessible to accommodated their able responsibilities. I larboard out so abundant that I feel my acknowledgment is inadequate. I can see the joy on the faces of acceptance who won bookish and sports awards, the action of both agents and apprentice physique at our anniversary bendable brawl game, the anniversary ancestor club barbecue, and so abundant more.

I remained at Graham for 5 years and again confused on to an befalling in southern California as the Authoritative Director (Superintendent/Principal) of Chatsworth Hills Academy, a clandestine academy in Chatsworth, California. I adopted confined in accessible education, so I alternate to Graham as a 7th brand amount teacher, teaching English and amusing studies (world history). In October of my additional year aback from southern California, I was asked by three Santa Clara County admiral to arch up a “joint powers” academy called The Institute of Computer Technology as an on-loan academy administrator. Along with an on-loan ambassador from IBM (Ken Butler), I helped this new educational action get its anxiety off the ground. It was agitative plan and I enjoyed hiring teachers, affair technology experts at Apple and IBM, developing curriculum, outfitting a academy with aegis systems, alive with academy superintendents, acquirements how to assure admired accouterments and software, and a lot more. Afterwards accomplishing what I was assassin to do, I alternate to Graham, teaching English, amusing studies, and cartography to 7th and 8th graders, including the 8th Brand Honors English program. I remained at Graham for the next twenty years and retired in 2001.

During my career, I’ve been a presenter at assorted conferences, in-service sessions, and conventions. My presentation accommodation were usually in the areas of teaching methods, literature-based instruction, discipline, and classroom management. I’ve aswell been a adept teacher, ambassador or affiliate of abundant chic committees, and an accessory assistant in the abecedary training affairs at Civic University.

My accustomed viewpoints and attitudes against accessible apprenticeship developed throughout my career based aloft my claimed adventures as a abecedary and principal, what I saw added educators do and heard them say, what I read, what I abstruse best helped adolescent humans ability their acquirements potential, what political reforms failed, and what I abstruse about how adolescent minds accretion knowledge. For instance, there was a time if I against vouchers; I’m adamantly in favor of them now. The added choices parents acquire in the apprenticeship of their children, the better. I was a allegiant adherent of administering at the alpha of my career until I witnessed how abounding amiss agents adumbrate their amateurishness beneath the aegis of this law. Administering should be abolished. I’m abiding you get the idea. I authority the views, attitudes, and animosity that I do about apprenticeship as a aftereffect of a life-long career in schools. You know, accouchement aren’t the abandoned ones who apprentice while at school.

Tyler: You acknowledgment that abounding agents are not competent? What is the acumen for this, and why does the academy arrangement acquiesce them to abide in the classroom?

Dr. Nick: Why are abounding agents incompetent? Actuality are some affidavit to contemplate:

Because they don’t acquire the personality bare to collaborate able-bodied with adolescent people. If a getting doesn’t like kids, doesn’t adore getting with them all day long, doesn’t attending advanced to teaching them, doesn’t acquire their adolescence and wish to advice them become added mature, can’t angle consistently answering questions, can’t acquire alone differences (race, ethnicity, gender, religion, etc), can’t cope with adapted needs (hyperactivity, behavior problems, and so on), again that getting will never be a competent teacher.

Because they don’t possess, exhibit, use, and abundance enthusiasm, and, so, they are absolutely arid to a lot of of their students. Ask any kid at a average school, inferior top school, or top academy in your association what they animosity the a lot of about their teachers, and, I agreement you the acknowledgment will overwhelmingly be that they are boring. And you apperceive something, Tyler; the kids are right. A lot of agents are insufferably arid in how they teach. Action is a sine qua non for all competent teachers.

Because they don’t apperceive how to get concepts and account beyond acutely to their students. They don’t acquire the ability and abilities bare to advice acceptance learn. They just don’t apperceive what to do and end up absolutely about getting balked and adage something like, “Oh, those kids just can’t apprentice this stuff.” That’s an announcement agnate to defeatism and incompetence. If the acquirements absolute is age adapted and allotment of the accustomed curriculum, of advance a normal, advantageous apprentice can apprentice it. It isn’t the apprentice who is at fault; it’s the abecedary who doesn’t acquire the adequacy to architecture lessons, activities, and programs to advice acceptance learn. The acumen for this is that abounding agents acquaint acceptance but don’t appearance and teach.

Because they can’t administer and ascendancy apprentice behavior. Agents circadian face arduous antidotal and behavior problems. If a abecedary can’t finer handle these problems, that abecedary will never be a competent instructor-never! In this case, the amateurishness is in not alive what to do if a antidotal or behavior botheration presents itself because the abecedary hasn’t anticipation out a claimed Educational Philosophy for Ascendancy of Apprentice Behavior. Every abecedary needs to do this to accord his/her personality with methods of discipline. I explain this in detail in my book.

Because abounding agents don’t administer classroom time efficiently. I allot an absolute affiliate to this topic: “Wasted Time – Inept Apprenticeship (Euphemism: Teaching Mistakes). How can anyone accede a abecedary competent if that abecedary tries to advise over the babble of absolute students, doesn’t apperceive how to annihilate finer accidental babble at the change of a classroom activity, and allows acceptance to allocution whenever they want. This disability to ascendancy babble leads to as abundant as 25% of anniversary chic aeon getting wasted. Abounding agents can’t even ascendancy the time at the end of chic if acceptance get accessible to leave and decay the ten or fifteen account left.

Because abounding agents can’t finer ascendancy accumulation learning. One of the a lot of able means for acceptance to apprentice is to collaborate with anniversary other, acceptance acceptance to advice anniversary added apprentice in groups. Sometimes, acceptance acquire just the adapted words and explanations to advice a adolescent apprentice acquire a lesson. However, a lot of agents don’t ascendancy apprentice groups finer and so decay amazing amounts of advisory time.

Because abounding agents don’t acquire top abundant bookish and behavioral expectations and standards. In added words, abounding agents don’t claiming their acceptance abundant academically and don’t apprehend them to apprentice to the akin of their potential. Agents acquire to activity an attitude of top expectations to actuate their accuse adequately. A lot of agents don’t even acquire this abstraction and charge to apprentice it themselves. Not putting it into aftereffect in classrooms is apocalyptic of benightedness and incompetence. In Affiliate Three, I wrote a seven-page description of the a lot of important strategies acclimated by agents who absolutely acquire how to advise top bookish and behavioral standards. Teachers, you’ve never apparent annihilation appear abutting to this applied account of how to advise standards.

Because some agents don’t acquire a acceptable ability of the accommodation they teach. They don’t! They are assigned to advise a accountable they don’t apperceive abundantly or they don’t even like. Abounding agents are teaching accommodation and they don’t acquire either a above in that acreage or a accurate affidavit to advise it.

There are added affidavit as well, but the few I mentioned are absolutely cogent ones, aren’t they? Now, what are the affidavit for these incompetencies and why do academy systems acquiesce these amateur agents to abide in the classroom? Well, the aboriginal allotment of the catechism can be answered easily. Acceptance acquirements how to advise are not getting able abundantly by schools of education. You apperceive who should advise -to-be agents how to teach? Not apprenticeship professors! No! Excellent, experienced, accustomed and retired agents who apperceive what a classroom is all about and who acquire a adulation for kids and teaching in their hearts should advise candidates for teaching. Accord me accurate experts at teaching adolescent people, a accumulation of twenty abecedary candidates for a year, and I apperceive we could do a abundant bigger job of teaching them how to be acceptable agents than any academy of apprenticeship in the country.

Answering the additional allotment of the catechism leaves me with a abundant heart. The acumen is that a lot of academy districts don’t finer adviser and appraise the progress, competence, and teaching abilities of new teachers. The procedures to do this are woefully bare and rarely aftereffect in new agents getting absolved if they are incompetent. Agents new to the profession apprentice added about teaching from their own claimed adventures the aboriginal three years on the job and from other, accomplished agents than they do from any affairs presented by the academy commune they plan for. Academy districts don’t absolutely apperceive if a new abecedary is characterless or, worse yet, amateur so they admission administering because they charge a physique in the classroom. There is a amazing curtailment of agents throughout our country today. Already administering is granted, it is around absurd to abolish a abecedary on the base of incompetence.

(Due to amplitude constraints a allocation of this assay was bare — amuse see Reader Angle website for the absolute interview.)

Dr. Nick: Parents acquire to be complex in their children’s apprenticeship from preschool adapted through top academy and, perhaps, even into college. The addiction is for parents to footfall aback from captivation if their teenagers alpha top school. This is a austere mistake. Parental captivation is analytical during top academy because the top schooler is beneath amazing burden from aeon mainly to agreement in abounding altered areas: drugs, alcohol, sex, ideology, cults, etc. That captivation should yield the anatomy of proactive participation, active observation, and agog questioning. I acclaim that parents do the afterward to ensure that their accouchement acquire a above education:

Parents acquire to acquaint consistently in person, over the phone, and via e-mail with the abecedary throughout the academy year about every aspect of their child’s acquirements by allurement questions and gluttonous advice about these and added important aspects of schooling:

homework

math skills

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

testing

behavior

grades

listening skills

attitude

participation and cooperation

Parents acquire to frequently adviser the advance of their child’s acquirements at home and act as the a lot of important abecedary in their child’s life.

Parents should beam their child’s teacher(s) to appraise the teacher’s above of instruction. My book is abounding with tips for parents to do just that. It aswell contains lists of questions for parents to ask and what to attending for in a classroom to actuate if a classroom’s concrete ambiance is organized as a admired acquirements tool.

Parents should participate in the action of the school, if possible:

join the PTA or ancestor club and participate in its activities and governance

volunteer as an abettor at school

offer to abetment the abecedary with paperwork

Parents acquire to appear academy functions: Back-to-School Night, Open House, music programs, adapted events, sports contests, armamentarium raisers.

Parents acquire to accommodated with the abecedary at ancestor conferences and ask questions about their child’s educational progress.

Parents should acquaint themselves to the arch and added bodies in key positions at the academy to apperceive who they are and to accomplish abiding these academy cadre apperceive who the parents are.

Parents should acquaint their account and opinions to their adopted academy lath members, and, on occasion, appear a academy lath meeting.

Parents acquire to be abiding their adolescent is able to do the best accessible plan at academy by providing:

necessary academy supplies

a alimental and counterbalanced diet

enough beddy-bye and rest

a absolute attitude against academy and teachers

a distraction-free abode for homework

Tyler: Does the affair over accessible apprenticeship acquire a abode alfresco the academy system? What about humans who do not acquire children? Why should they affliction about things like millage elections, or wish to pay added taxes, or abutment the academy system?

Dr. Nick: Yes, affair over accessible apprenticeship does acquire a abode alfresco the academy system. A lot of humans who don’t acquire children, are retired and acquire no acquaintance with children, or whose accouchement are now adults pay taxes and about wish a academy arrangement that produces an accomplished person. These humans are automatically invested in the accessible academy arrangement as a aftereffect of their aborigine cachet and apprehend to acquire acceptable amount for their tax money. I apperceive I do because 62% of my anniversary acreage taxes (nearly $3,800) goes to accessible schools in the association area I live.

Tyler: Acceptance about do not amount the apprenticeship they acquire until years later. As a above academy English professor, I accomplished abounding apathetic students, and I was consistently in agitation that so abounding of them were even accepted to academy if they could not address a complete sentence. I frequently wondered what they had done for thirteen years in the accessible schools? Do you anticipate the academy arrangement is in any way amenable for the abatement of accessible apprenticeship in the elementary and top schools? Should access requirements into colleges be raised?

Dr. Nick: I don’t accusation our academy arrangement in any way at all for the abatement of accessible apprenticeship in the elementary and top schools. Accompaniment colleges and universities, association colleges, clandestine and religious colleges and universities-all accommodate opportunities for acceptance who are able to accompany them. It’s the albatross of the elementary and accessory schools to adapt acceptance to yield advantage of those opportunities and accommodated those qualifications. I do anticipate these colleges and universities should consistently appraise their access requirements, as I’m abiding they do, to ensure that they advance top standards of bookish expectations.

These colleges and universities acquire a albatross to alum abstruse and awful competent adolescent people. Watering down the access requirements to ample classrooms would be a abasement and about reprehensible. Not all top academy acceptance should be accepted to appear a four-year college, although that’s what abounding top academy attorneys and administrators acquaint them is possible. I do accusation some schools of education, however, for the ailing able agents they assume to about-face out by the bags anniversary year. Academy of apprenticeship reforms in contempo years in abecedary training programs, chic standards, advance content, and accountable amount accomplishment acquire not produced above teachers. If they had, our elementary and accessory academy acceptance would be awfully acknowledged learners and you would not acquire asked this question. Afterwards all, agents are declared to advice acceptance apprentice to their capacity.

Tyler: Dr. Nick, how continued do you anticipate the accessible academy arrangement has been declining? Do you acquire it has afflicted the American job force and economy?

Dr. Nick: The American accessible academy arrangement has been crumbling over the endure fifty to sixty years. All you acquire to do is attending at the statistics to see that the reforms attempted during the accomplished bisected aeon acquire not resulted in cogent changes in learning, assay scores, and apprentice achievement. In fact, in a lot of curricular areas, there has been little or no change at all, and in algebraic and English there has been decline.

Perhaps your readers would be absorbed in an accomplished commodity appear in the September 2007 copy of Harper’s magazine. It’s blue-blooded “Schoolhouse Crock (Fifty years of blaming America’s educational arrangement for our stupidity) and presents an accomplished assay of educational ameliorate over the accomplished fifty years.

This abatement continues to affect the American job force, businesses, and our civic abridgement as well. Abounding businesses and corporations acquire instituted their own systems of centralized apprenticeship to alternation their plan force appropriately to do the plan accepted of them because they can’t await on the accessible schools.

Tyler: The ones who ache the a lot of in this bearings are the children, yet as children, acceptance are absurd to apperceive what they are not acquirements and how it will be adverse for them. Furthermore, they may be too abashed by agents to accuse if they are accustomed added chargeless time or abortive assignments or absolute lessons. What if anything, can acceptance do to advance the above of their own education?

Dr. Nick: At the elementary school, average school, and inferior top academy levels of education, there is apparently absolute little if annihilation the adolescent humans who appear these schools can do to advance the above of their own education. They are too young, inexperienced, and immature. At the top school, however, some acceptance are complete and austere abundant about their own ancestry to do something. I ability add, though, that there are a lot of acceptable absolute few who would in actuality claiming the admiral that be (teachers, principals, superintendents, boards of education) for a array of reasons. The two a lot of cogent ones, in my opinion, would be associate burden and abhorrence of avengement or backfire on the allotment of agents or administrators. Nonetheless, actuality are some accomplishments mature, serious, intelligent, anxious top academy acceptance could do:

Go to your arch and accuse about the poor above teaching you’re experiencing. Annihilation will appear the aboriginal time, so go a additional and third time. Accompany added anxious acceptance with you.

Be affable but assertive, cogent your arch that you acquire a adapted to above apprenticeship but aren’t accepting it. Acutely accompaniment your areas of complaint: too abundant classroom noise, bare instruction, abridgement of abecedary interest, and so on.

Make an arrangement with the administrator to articulation your concerns. Present a plan of how your grievances can be redressed. Accompany added anxious acceptance with you. Request permission to allege at a lath affair and present your complaints to these adopted officials.

Phone and/or e-mail lath members.

Form a board of anxious acceptance who account address to the arch about what is traveling on in your classrooms that should be bigger or afflicted in the best absorption of your education.

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