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.
Tom Bloch: I think it is such an unfortunate situation that we have in this country when you look at student achievement by race, and it is just… it is for a democracy, to have a situation like we have in this country where we have white kids performing at such a high level relative to black kids, and we just have to address this.
We have to do what needs to be done, and maybe part of the answer is to pay teachers more to be in black schools to attract the better teachers, and I think part of the problem is that when you look at colleges of education today, and you look at the students in those classrooms, the future teachers of America, they really tend to be white and female. And where do these folks want to teach? Primarily in the same kind of schools that they lived in, grew up in. So it’s very difficult to get people who really want to teach in an urban setting, because it is a much tougher environment. And now, with increased emphasis on accountability and standardized test scores, the pressure on all teachers, not just in the urban core but on all teachers, is pretty fierce. So there is a great demand to show student improvement on test scores, which puts a fair amount of pressure on everybody.
Recorded on: October 13, 2008