Tennessee Virtual Academy Faces De-Enrollment for Poor Performance

Tennessee Virtual Academy (TNVA), the state's online school, may have to un-enroll 626 students before the school year starts in two weeks.

A letter from Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman to Union County Superintendent Jimmy Carter earlier this month suggested the district may want to limit the number of students enrolled at the academy to only those who had previously attended due to three years in a row of poor performance.

Under a new state law, the state can get involved when an online institution shows poor performance for three consecutive years, shown through poor test scores, which have yet to be released to the public.

According to Jeff Kwitowski, K12 senior vice president of corporate communications, online schools typically take a few years to show progress, and TNVA is right on track with this pattern. K12 is a provider of online programs throughout the country.

"TNVA increased its performance in virtually every category. Student proficiency rates improved in math and reading, and TNVA substantially increased its school growth measure in every subject and every grade," according to a K12 statement.

Union County Schools opened the academy in 2011 in contract with K12 Inc. for students across the state in kindergarten through eighth grade. Students are admitted from all over the state but the school is overseen by Union County. K12 provides the curriculum.

"I wish they would just leave us alone," David Coppock, Union County school board chair, said about the state's letter. "If we're not allowed to enroll new students, the students in attendance will soon be gone and then there won't be any students at the school."

The school had 3,015 students at the close of the spring semester in 2013. As of this July, the school had 976 returning students and 626 new students who are now in limbo until a decision is reached, reports Alexis Zotos for WATE.

"There's also the legal concern that once we enroll them, we can't un-enroll them," Coppock said.

According to Huffman, that concern only holds true for students who were previously enrolled. Once enrolled, a student may only be un-enrolled by a parent, writes Lydia McCoy for The Knoxville News Sentinel.

In a second letter, Huffman wrote:

"If, despite this explanation and opinion, you remain concerned about your authority to restrict enrollment in TNCA, out of abundance of caution, you may seek a waiver from the rule."

A waiver would allow the school to remain open, working with the state to enroll more students.

The Union County school board held an emergency meeting late last week, in which the members unanimously voted to request that waiver.

"Our concern at this point is we want to keep the virtual school open. We want to follow the rules and we are very empathetic to these parents who, here at this late stage, are trying to figure out what they're going to do," Carter said. "I want there to be an avenue for those students."

The waiver was submitted Monday and there is hope of a resolution this week.

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