TN Virtual Academy faces tough questions over low scores - WSMV Channel 4

TN Virtual Academy faces tough questions over low scores

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Some Tennessee lawmakers are ready to pull the plug on an online school system that is taking millions of taxpayer dollars but has some of the worst TCAP scores in the state.

The Tennessee Virtual Academy draws students from all over the state, including here in Nashville, and its population is growing.

Last year it taught about 1,800 students, and that has swelled to some 3,200 students this year.

Taxpayers spend about $4,400 per student for that education - nearly $14 million total - but some lawmakers say dismal test scores are now giving them second thoughts.

In its first year, only 16 percent of the virtual academy's students were proficient in math. Overall, the school scored a 1 out of a possible 5 points on the TCAP.

"We didn't pilot it. We just jumped right in there, and I think we're getting ready to pay the price for it," said State Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley.

Leaders of the Tennessee Virtual Academy answered to a legislative panel Tuesday about why their test scores were so low.

They said sometimes they didn't get the students until a month before the TCAP, but they also had another theory.

"This is a rumor, but some of the districts would try to take the kids that would score low and push them our way," said Josh Williams, head of schools for Tennessee Virtual Academy.

Some lawmakers want to cut them slack, but others seem ready to pull the plug.

State Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, plans to file a bill to ban virtual schools in Tennessee.

Other lawmakers have big concerns because more students are enrolling, and millions of dollars are going to a program that is taking millions from other public schools.

"When these things don't work, you're not dealing with a failed business venture and something you can correct. You are dealing with children, and once a child fails or gets behind, it's tough to catch that child up," Fitzhugh said.

The company that runs the academy is called K12, which has faced questions about student performance in virtual schools it runs in other states as well.

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