TN Virtual Academy speaks out about governor's proposal

12:59 AM, Feb 1, 2013   |    comments
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Following Governor Bill Haslam's proposal to put a cap on student enrollment at the Tennessee Virtual Academy, school leaders say they need more time to prove the program is successful.

Recently, an article from The Tennessean stated the TNVA's first year TCAP scores were low in mathematics and reading for 3-8 graders. The article stated only 16.4% of all their students were "proficient" and "above proficient" in mathematics.

"Each student comes in with a unique need. So we've been working all last year to find these unique needs and unique situations for each child," said TNVA director Josh Williams.

He said since the academy, which is operated by Union County Schools and for-profit company K-12, is in its second year, it will take time before students' TCAP scores would increase. He added similar programs in other states show rebounding test scores as they established themselves.

This week, Governor Haslam announced legislation that would cap enrollment at the school at 5,000 students. Currently, there are about 3,200 students statewide that are in TNVA, nearly double from its inaugural year.

On Thursday, the school's 140 teachers met in West Knoxville to discuss how to start improving those scores.

"What we need to do as teachers is if 'Little Johnny' is missing something in fractions, we can help them improve in fractions," Williams added.

However, some leaders still do not feel the academy should be in service if these scores continue.

"We've seen in school systems in the northeast that have had the same organization for a while, the scores are not improving. There's no data to prove this will change," said Knoxville state Representative Gloria Johnson (D).

Some TNVA parents and educators still feel this program is good for students.

"They're learning their continents in Kindergarten. They're learning about Greek history, Roman history," said TNVA teacher and parent of two Suzy Elledge. "I hope they take into consideration how important the program is to so many students."

"We're providing that public choice. We're providing that option for students," Williams stated.

Currently, there is no word on when or if this proposal would be introduced into the state House and Senate.

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