Many parents have long known that children’s state testing scores have little to no impact on most students as individuals. Rather, test scores help to determine the status of the teacher and the school—and that has never been so evident as it is now, with the Tennessee Virtual Academy coming under fire from lawmakers after test scores for the 2011-2012 school year were “substandard.”
Never mind that the bulk of the students coming into the school for the 2011-2012 school year came in mid-year, with dozens of teachers hired after Christmas just to ensure that the class sizes were manageable. Never mind that there is no telling what the students learned in their former schools, what circumstances led to them entering the Virtual Academy in the first place, or what it took to get them up to standards. Suddenly, lawmakers are peering at the Virtual Academy intently—and suggesting legislation that would prevent other parents from making this choice for their children.
According to the proposed legislation (the bill can be viewed here), students from Union County (the host district for the Tennessee Virtual Academy) would need to make up the bulk of the students in the school, rather than allowing students from outside the district to enroll at will. Only twenty-five percent of students would be permitted to come from outside the district, when currently, large numbers of enrollees come from the Nashville and Memphis areas. Furthermore, lawmakers would set the “cap” at a mere 5,000 students. Student enrollment at the Tennessee Virtual Academy is currently at approximately 3,200, and growing rapidly.
Moreover, the bill suggests that if immediate improvement in test scores is not evident, the Virtual Academy should be taken over by outside individuals or even forced to close its doors altogether. The attack is aimed at the K12 organization, which has been in operation for quite some time and allows parents to pay for its services. Lawmakers believe that having a private organization in charge of a public school is a pathway to disaster.
This bill would remove parent choice and prevent parents from choosing where they want to send their children to school. Parents choose virtual schooling for a variety of reasons. Some children who are virtual schooled would be homeschooled anyway; the Virtual Academy just presents an extra layer of accountability and assistance for parents. Others have chosen the Virtual Academy as a means to escape bullying, peer pressure, and other negative behaviors. What will happen to these students if the Virtual Academy is forced to close its doors?