As the Tennessee Virtual Academy appears more and more often in the mainstream media, its low test scores and poor progress are being highlighted more and more clearly. Unfortunately, the media is often quick to blame the faculty of the virtual academy for their low scores—when in many cases, that is not the reason for the problem. It’s natural—and even easy—to blame teachers when things go wrong…but what about when the parents are to blame?
In addressing the issue, TNVA faculty has made a number of changes. They have cracked down on attendance; they have cracked down on progress being posted based on attendance logged; they have cracked down on students’ completion of Study Island activities and attendance in class connect sessions.
All of these are things that students should have been doing anyway.
Putting a child in a virtual school does not give them license to skip assignments. It does not give them license to choose not to work for days at a time. It certainly doesn’t give them permission to ignore the instructions of their teachers.
Virtual schooled children are still enrolled in school. They still have assignments—daily assignments, weekly assignments, and, in the case of middle school students, even monthly syllabi that give them an idea of what they are expected to complete over the course of the month.
Key words: expected to complete.
This means that they should be working, and working regularly. Learning should take place, if not Monday through Friday, then at least five days a week, for at least six and a half hours a day, just like it would in a traditional public school.
Virtual school is not an excuse to slack off.
Virtual students are expected to learn, just like every other student in the state of Tennessee. An education is mandatory for all children. Parents can choose the medium through which their students learn, but they can not choose to simply not educate them at all—and that means that their children are going to have to work.
Not just glance over the material when they feel like it. Not skim over the top of the material, click the lesson complete, do the bare minimum to get by, and then move on to whatever it is that they’d rather be doing.
Too many virtual schooling parents are using the fact that their children are virtual schooled as an excuse to let them run wild. After all, they have teachers to be responsible for their learning. Why should the parent have to put in any effort?
Virtual schooling is a commitment, not just on the part of the student, but on the part of the parent. It’s a commitment every bit as stringent as truly homeschooling, if not, in some ways, more so. Attendance must be logged. Papers must be graded. The parent must pay attention to their student’s learning, keeping the teachers apprised of any problems that might arise. Sure, older students can be more responsible for their own education in many cases—but that doesn’t give the parents a free pass. They still have to be there, checking over their students’ work, making sure that they’re actually doing it, actually accomplishing what they’re supposed to be accomplishing, actually learning the material.
It’s not enough that it’s there. It’s not enough that the child has been enrolled. Learning can only take place if the child is actually engaged in the material—and that can only happen if the parent stays on top of things.
Lazy virtual schooling parents—parents who don’t care if their children are learning or not, who don’t pay attention to what their kids are doing, who don’t provide help, or materials, or guidance—risk ruining it for everyone.