Monday, September 15, 2008

A View on Teaching from a wealthy career switcher

Dallas Morning News EDUCATION
12:00 AM CDT on Sunday, September 14, 2008
Diane Stafford, McClatchy Newspapers

"In early 1995, quite deliberately, I stepped down as CEO of H&R Block, where I was making nearly a million dollars a year."
So begins Stand for the Best, a new book by Thomas M. Bloch, son and nephew of the co-founders of the largest income-tax preparation service in the country.
In recent years, Mr. Bloch has worked for no pay at all.
Tom Bloch evolved from corporate executive to middle school math teacher, first at a small Catholic school and now at University Academy in Kansas City, Mo., a charter school made possible partly by his family's money. Along with the Helzberg family, Mr. Bloch helped lead efforts to create the preparatory school, largely for inner-city residents, with the goal of teaching, graduating and sending students on to college.

Mr. Bloch's experiences have given him some strong opinions about teaching and the U.S. education system.
He acknowledges that few people enjoy the financial pillow he had to leave a job and spend a year or two in midcareer retraining, not to mention have the resources to help finance a personal desire "to make a difference ... to find meaning at work."
While Mr. Bloch has more than enough money to teach without drawing a paycheck, he is greatly concerned about the relatively paltry paychecks of fellow teachers. To him, increasing teachers' pay – and funding for public education in general – is crucial.
"We do not respect or pay teachers enough," he said.
"Elevating public funding of education is our biggest problem and most important priority. We must be able to attract more talented people to education."
If he could wave a magic wand, he said, master teachers, the best in their craft, would earn $100,000 a year to teach in public elementary, middle and high schools.
Lagging. He believes in higher taxes – progressively higher for the wealthier – and especially in taxes to fund public education.

"U.S. student achievement is lagging compared to other countries, especially in the sciences and math," he said. "The problem is acute in the inner cities. We can't continue to do what we're doing. There are two Americas in terms of our education system, and that can't continue."
That is partly why he took a year off from teaching to write the book.
"If I can help elevate teaching in importance, if I can draw attention to the matter of public education, maybe I can direct conversation. As it is, we spend a lot of money in this country on things that aren't important. We need to do better."

Mr. Bloch long ago lost any rose-colored glasses he might have had about his ability to make a quick difference. He's faced apathetic students and combative parents. He's had his temper strained to the max by surly and unruly middle schoolers. He's been shocked at the lack of respect and caring granted fellow educators.

His second career also cemented his opinions about American education, including a horror of social promotion, in which students are passed to the next grade even if they have not met minimum requirements.

He wants more accountability for teachers. No Child Left Behind is an effort in that direction, he said, but it didn't get the evaluation formulas right.
He is not in favor of paying teachers more just because they have been on the job longer or obtained another degree. Their pay should be based on how well they teach and how well their students learn, he said.
He is also distressed at grade inflation, which, because of parental demands, college admission pressures and teacher practices, has "made far too many students straight-A or honor roll students. ... It's almost meaningless anymore."

Underlying many of the large problems, he believes, is the need to pay higher salaries to attract more good workers to teaching.
In the book he writes:
"We can't depend on filling enough classroom vacancies with able individuals willing to make a financial sacrifice. Kids deserve better. So do teachers." __._,_.___

Speaking of social promotion try this:

Report: High schools don't prepare students for college challenges

One in three college students need remedial classes, costing colleges and taxpayers more than $2 billion annually, according to a Strong American Schools report released today. "These students come out of high school really misled. They think they're prepared. They got a 3.0 and got through the curriculum they needed to get admitted, but they find what they learned wasn't adequate," said former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer, who chairs the group.
The New York Times/Associated Press (9/15)


Anonymous said...

Granted Mr. Bloch taught math in middle school (maybe for two years and then he wrote a book about it. He writes about everything, but curriculum.

Finn writes about standards, but not curriculum. Bellevue teachers have had it with top down management telling them to teach scripted lessons. That would be enough to make anyone quit. That's not professionalism, that's a bunch of baloney being passed out by reformers. Why doesn't Finn touch upon things that really matter in education? Answer he gets paid to write about things that can't be fixed.

Don't think for a minute that Bloch is any different or any more sincere. His charter school is know different than Kipp or ... The principle involved is churning students.

What Republicans need is a red state with a white fence all the way around it. I would have it border Iraq and Iran. Make Bush president for life (I really don't care).

Finn says: We have lots to learn from other nations, but lets not follow slavishly. (BS)

Finn has got to go. He's the reason teachers have to slavishly rewrite standards and discuss aligning curriculum without any substantive reason every five years. What a hypocrite. Finn won't admit it, but the US is already enslaved by the right wing Fascists who hired him.

I opt for the less creative, more practical solution of adopting Singapore curriculum which is already aligned to world standards. They're not treated as separate ideas. Ex out the publishers and their lobbyists. Somebody should muzzle the MSU-Ann Arbor prom queens (I have an 8 minute lesson plan). Pack it up folks, you aren't fooling anyone.

Have I been black-listed? Yes and I'm plenty mad. Utah needs 100,000 signatures, they need everyone's support. If you disagree with the current policies, don't renew your membership to organizations like the MAA, NCTM, NSF, AAAS. etc... They're not helping you do your job.

By adopting a common, world-class curriculum, you are essentially setting the stage for revolutionizing school and eliminating:

1. De Facto segregation
2. Social promotion
3. Wasteful expenditures
4. Fraudulent research
5. Reform legislation

Anonymous said...

What's really going to change education is when the majority of children enrolling in high school speak a language other than English. At that point, either teachers quit or they teach and its amazing how calm everything becomes. At my current school, students raised their scores 30 points. And would you believe, the majority speak more than two languages - ironically, we are an overflow school and take students from all over our community and surprisingly, very few of our students qualify for Title I. And the majority of our staff, speak more than one language. This is a public school of the future.