In 1976, Tom Bloch joined H&R Block, the world's largest tax services provider, where his father was CEO. In 1981, after introducing automation to the company's office network, he was elected President of the Tax Operations. Later, he oversaw the company's innovative practice of filing tax returns electronically to the IRS, which revolutionized the industry. Bloch was promoted to President of the corporation in 1989 and CEO in 1992. His second career began in 1995 as a middle school math teacher at St. Francis Xavier, an inner city parochial school. Five years later, he co-founded the University Academy, a public charter school in Kansas City. Bloch continues to teach 7th and 8th grade math at the urban college prep school he helped design and launch. He is also President of the school's board. The Academy has grown from 200 students in grades seven through nine in its first year to over 1,000 students in kindergarten through grade twelve. The school moved into a new, $40 million facility in 2005, and it became the first school in Missouri to receive a ten-year extension of its charter. Over the last five years, all but two graduates of the Academy have gone on to attend college, an almost unheard-of success rate for an urban school. Bloch is the author of Stand for the Best, a memoir about his journey from CEO to inner city teacher and school founder. He graduated cum laude in 1976 from Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California.
Question: Is No Child Left Behind an effective vehicle for reform?
Tom Bloch: I think the general concept of No Child Left Behind is a good one. I think, in practice, it is terribly flawed, and something needs to be done. But I think the idea to get all students to be achieving in high levels is a worthy goal, but we have disparities from one state to another state, and we also have a lack of funding of this law. It was intended that there would be billions and billions more spent in public education than there is today. And so, for the goals to still exist but without the adequate funding is really just wrong.
Question: How would you advise the next administration?
Tom Bloch: Some major changes need to take place. I think one of the things that we have to do is remove the disparities from one state to the next. In other words, you could take a test in one state, perform at a certain level, and that’s considered adequate or proficient, and with that same score, you could be deemed inadequate. And so that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, so I think there needs to be some standardization. I think, in some cases, there should be exit exams. I think, too often, we have students who will get a high grade in a class but yet, when you take that standardized test, it does not measure up. And so those kinds of things, I think, need to be addressed as well as the funding level.
Recorded on: October 13, 2008