Tennessee bureaucrats ignore progress being made at public virtual school helping 1,300 students achieve their education goals
Nashville, Tenn., March 9, 2015 — PublicSchoolOptions.org (PSO) is joining over 1,300 Tennessee families in their fight to protect the Tennessee Virtual Academy (TNVA) from an unfair closure by bureaucrats in the state Department of Education. The school has been ordered to close at the end of the current school year, despite the department’s own data that shows TNVA made academic progress from 2013 to 2014, and students enrolled in TNVA in their second and third years are making positive academic gains.
“By ignoring documented progress in their own data, the Department of Education is telling families of these children that they don’t matter,” said Beth Purcell, president of PublicSchoolOptions.org (PSO), a national alliance of parents that supports and defends parents’ rights to access the best public school options for their children.
“PSO intends to join our fellow Tennessee parents to push for fair treatment of a school that is making tremendous strides in educating children of all backgrounds and needs. Bureaucrats have exceeded their authority by targeting this one school for closure. We desperately need Gov. Haslam to step in and restore objectivity to the department. Even former Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman who ordered the closure agrees that TNVA’s returning students were making strong progress. This decision simply makes no sense.”
TNVA is a public school operated by Union County Public Schools and ultimately reports to the elected Union County Board of Education. TNVA faces several challenges serving a higher percentage of special education and low-income students than state average. 15 percent of TNVA students receive special education services – 25 percent higher than the state average, and 74 percent of its families qualify for free/reduced lunches.
“Despite serving a high at-risk population and receiving less funding per pupil than other traditional public schools, TNVA is rapidly improving. More than 100 schools in the state have the same overall three-year rating as TNVA but the public virtual school is the only school in this group ordered closed by the state, even though it is making real academic progress,” Purcell said. “Every student is enrolled because their traditional local school failed to serve their needs. TNVA families love their public school and want it to stay open.”
For many families, TNVA, the state’s only full-time, K-8 statewide online public school, is the lone school that fits the needs of their children. Last month, hundreds of students and educators descended on the state Capitol to express their support for protecting the rights of parents to choose the school that works best for their children.
“TNVA has been unfairly singled out for closure that no other public school faces – even though there are more than 100 other public schools across the state with the same overall rating,” said TNVA parent and PublicSchoolOptions.org parent leader Cathy Berg. “TNVA is working great for our children. Singling out TNVA for closure is unfair. We hope Gov. Haslam helps our children. Closing TNVA would be tragic for so many families.”
There are 1,300 unique students and 1,300 unique stories as to how and why TNVA is working, meeting student and family needs – students who are excelling, or who are far behind; students with significant, and in some cases debilitating or even life-threatening illnesses; students who have been threatened or bullied; students with special needs, including many students with autism, who find it difficult to achieve in a traditional classroom.
A TNVA family story
“Tennessee Virtual Academy (TNVA) has been a godsend for our family. My son has been with TNVA for 3 years. He has Asperger’s syndrome, ADHD, and anxiety. Traditional public schools let him fall through the cracks. TNVA has made such a difference in his life. He gets the instruction he needs at a pace he’s comfortable with. No more falling through the cracks. My other two students were not challenged in “regular” school. With TNVA, they work at their own pace and don’t have to wait on everyone else. The teachers are amazing, always willing to help, they make sure the kids get the concept of the lessons & also that they master the concept before moving on. After our experience with TNVA, I can’t imagine sending my children back to a traditional public school.”
Dan’yel Price, Whitesburg