Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tennessee's Virtual School: a Real Disaster

Posted By on Wed, Jan 30, 2013 at 10:03 AM

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One of the Republican legislature’s first big steps toward privatizing our public school system—the for-profit Tennessee Virtual Academy—is performing so miserably that Gov. Bill Haslam has been forced to actually do something.

In its first year, K12 Inc.’s online school narrowly averted scoring in the lowest 10 percent of student achievement in the state. Before any more of these cyber disasters open for business, the administration has filed legislation to cap the enrollments of online schools at 5,000 students each.

Haslam sat back and watched in 2011 as the legislature authorized for-profit virtual schools. Apparently embarrassed by the results of this particular experiment in school choice, he has kept quiet publicly about his new bill so far, and it’s not clear how it will fare in the legislature.

The poor academic results of online schools nationwide are well known. But Senate Education chair Delores Gresham seems content to ignore our virtual school’s poor test scores.

“I think it’s too early to judge and too early to pull the plug on a program that already we know, at least anecdotally, is succeeding,” she said after a hearing this month.

K12 Inc.—a contributor to Republican election campaigns—is doubtlessly already lobbying against the administration bill. K12 Inc. flack Jeff Kwitowski told Andy Sher today that "arbitrary student enrollment caps negatively impact children and parents the most." They also negatively impact K12’s bottom line.

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