In the past year, the Tennessee Virtual Academy has made many changes to its programs. While parents are well aware that the TNVA administrators and teachers are working with their students’ best interests at heart, there are a number of changes that may be difficult for many parents and students to wrap their minds around—first and foremost the increased number of class connect sessions, live study sessions in which students are in direct contact with their teachers through the internet.
Since the release of state test scores, it has become obvious that TNVA students have not made the same gains as their peers in traditional brick and mortar classrooms. Because TNVA educators want what’s best for their students—including for the program to remain a viable option—they are cracking down hard on many of the school policies and increasing student participation as much as possible. Students are already expected to complete Study Island assignments, work through their standard assignments in the online system, and attend class connect sessions. Unfortunately, in many cases, these students are not completing the necessary work, and as a result, they’re not learning the material as well as they should.
According to Mr. Williams, who is in charge of many of the new changes, it’s not enough for the teachers to present the material. The kids have to be learning it—and showing that they learn it. Because many students are not showing learning the way the school would prefer, it’s time to make some changes, most of which will be implemented after fall break. Parents have been given a general idea what to expect; however, until fall break is over, it will be unclear exactly how many of these changes will work.
Increased class connect sessions. The increase will be most apparent for struggling learners or children who are otherwise behind—those who need the additional help and the additional work with their teachers. Students who are high-performing will not be required to attend as many sessions (and, in many cases, will not be required to stay as long in the sessions that they do have to attend). Students who need the additional help will find that teachers are available in class connect sessions as many as four to five hours daily.
Increased attention to progress. Students will be expected to complete progress in the OLS, progress in Study Island, and remain active in their class connect sessions. Students who do not complete this material will be faced with consequences.
Increased attention to attendance. The policy has always been that a student should never go for more than five days without logging attendance. Now, however, the policy will be more strictly enforced.
Overall, the changes seem to be student-centered, and the program seems to still be designed to work for students and parents. Of course, there will be some “glitches” as students and teachers, as well as learning coaches, learn how to work within the new changes. Hopefully, however, these difficulties will smooth over quickly to keep TNVA running as it should.