Tennessee Virtual Academy Gets One More Chance


A Nashville, Tennessee judge has ruled that the Tennessee Virtual Academy will remain open for this year. Quoting from the Knoxville News Sentinel, WRCB-TV reports Union County Director of Schools Jimmy Carter says after the next school year, a decision will be made about whether to close the online school.

The suit, aimed at keeping the struggling virtual school open, was brought to court by three families whose children have special needs and are doing well in the school. In 2011, the Union County school system contracted with K12, Inc to establish TNVA for Tennessee students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

For the past year, the school has been feeling pressure from Kevin Huffman, the Tennessee Department of Education commissioner, who threatened to close it because of its poor academic performance, and now the pressure is on from Commissioner Candice McQueen, who agreed with the decision when she became commissioner earlier this year.

The school has been averaging a Level 1 on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP} test for three years in a row. Now it has one year to pull that rating up to a Level 3 or be closed.

Marissa Alexander, however, was pleased with the school’s effect on her daughter, saying she has been flourishing at the school for the past three years. Now that changes in the school based on the effort to meet those higher standards, her daughter’s education has been hurt.

“We absolutely loved it. It was great,” Alexander explained. “The basic classes weren’t (challenging enough for Hailey), so they had her skip a grade and they had her do more challenging work, and they kind of customized things and worked with us.”

The virtual academy gave one last try to keep the school open in April by attempting to have an existing bill amended, but the effort failed. The amendment was an effort to reduce the level of student performance gains the virtual school would have to meet for next school year. TNVA’s Headmaster Josh Williams asked the lawmakers to allow the school to achieve a Level 2 in order to stay open.

“We deem it fair enough to go from a Level 1 to a Level 2 and still have a tremendous amount of gain there,” Williams said.

The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Frank Niceley (R-Strwberry Plains), said:

“If this school miraculously makes it to a level two, which I think it can do, it will stay open. We have a real shot of making it to a level two this year. It’s real simple. We either make it or we’re out of here,” said state Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, who sponsored the amendment.

Still, Sen. Dolores R. Gresham (R- Somerville) and some other legislators said the last-minute amendment should have been discussed in a committee.

“It is out of fairness, compassion and common sense that we say that this school has actually taken advantage of these students. Fairness, compassion and common sense will tell you these students have not been served well. To let it go on for another year is outrageous,” Gresham said.