Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A possible solution for Tennessee Virtual Academy?

As a consultant in the virtual school world, and a strong proponent of the concept of virtual learning, I am fascinated with the debate now going on here in Tennessee -- should Tennessee Virtual Academy (TNVA) be closed due to poor performance, or does it merit more time to demonstrate gains?

Oh sure, the overall issue at hand right now is the furtherance of the virtual school bill authored by Tennessee Sen. Dolores Gresham (R) to extend the Tennessee Virtual Schools Act to 2019. But, make no mistake, the real issue at hand is the fate of TNVA and K12.

The lines have been drawn. On February 15, Tennessee Rep. Joe Pitts (D) penned an editorial Time for Tennessee Virtual Academy to go -- probably guessing you can determine his stance on it.

Then, not to be outdone, on February 26, Cathy Berg, parent leader of the Tennessee chapter of, offered a rebuttal: Pitts is wrong about Virtual Academy.

Rep. Pitts seems to take issue primarily with the idea of a for-profit company running a public school -- ". . ., it is the structure and profit-taking by this company (K12) that is failing." In addition, he states, "Furthermore, there are now some who want to allow for-profit companies to operate charter schools in our state. Not a good idea."

Pitts also lays out the core of what is going on here. If TNVA, which has scored a "1" for the first three years of its existence (on a scale of 1-5 with "1" being worst performing), can score a "3" or higher then they obtain a reprieve for one year. If not, then they may have to close their doors -- barring any special legislative or legal actions to keep them open.

On the other side of the spectrum, Ms. Berg, who has one child in TNVA, says TNVA is actually now "one of the fastest-improving schools in the state." She then proceeds to try and offer additional counterpoints to Pitts' argument for closure.

So far from what I have seen the disputation is a Yes-No offering: Should TNVA be closed? Yes, or No.

My thought is what if a different question was asked? What if the Tennessee Legislature offered an opportunity for TNVA to remain open if they sought out another provider of services, removing K12 from the equation? Just something to consider for those wanting to put the students first.

Or, perhaps TNVA can demonstrate true academic progress by scoring a "3" this year and negating this parley altogether.

More to come on this.

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