Tom Bloch on Revisionist Curriculum
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 there has to be some evolution to the curriculum, but I’m fairly old-fashioned and I like to teach basic math skills and I feel that in order to really master skills, you have to practice them, so I may not be the most innovative teacher in America, but I think I keep coming back to the standards that we have. Every teacher has his or her own skills and preferences in terms of how to teach, but I think we have to make sure that we learn the basics.
And one of the things I believe that happens in education is that we tend to latch on to the latest reform idea. I would call it the Reform du jour and I would suggest most of these reform movements that we have we’ve tried before they’re recycled with a new name slapped on them. So I’m not a big fan of new reform ideas and thinking that those reform efforts are silver bullets; I just don’t think this happens. Instead, I believe that it is the teacher who makes the difference. So if it’s a question of a program versus a person, to me it’s the person that is far more important than the program.
Recorded on: October 13, 2008
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