Berke Questions Virtual School’s ‘Dismal’ Performance

Sen. Andy Berke is calling on lawmakers to conduct a “thorough review” of a for-profit virtual school operating in a Northeast Tennessee school district, citing state student testing results he charges show “dismal” results, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
Berke, D-Chattanooga, is a frequent critic of K12 Inc.’s Tennessee Virtual Academy, which in the 2011-12 school year opened its online school under contract with the Union County Public Schools system.
According to best estimates from K12, about 1,800 K-8 students from across the state signed up last school year to sit at their home computers and take courses online with support from K12 teachers. The company operates in states across the country.
In a letter Wednesday to Senate Education Committee Chairman Delores Gresham, Berke says state Education Department testing data for the 2011-12 school year show Tennessee Virtual Academy students “performed in the bottom 11 percent of schools statewide.
“As the [school] is advertising on television — and the state anticipates shifting millions of additional tax dollars to [the school] this school year — it is important that we examine K12 Inc.’s performance,” wrote Berke, whose efforts to require an audit of K12’s Tennessee school went nowhere in the Republican-controlled General Assembly last session.
Berke said in an interview Thursday that “if we’re going to use taxpayer dollars … we should ask for real achievement. K12 doesn’t give it to us.”
Gresham, R-Somerville, was the primary Senate sponsor of the 2011 law authorizing local school systems to contract with for-profit online schools. She did not respond Thursday to a reporter’s request to comment on Berke’s criticisms.
Tennessee Virtual Academy’s head, Josh Williams, said in an email that 2011-12 was the school’s first year of operation, suggesting it was unfair to judge results solely on that basis.
“All students were in their first year and most transferred from another district in the state,” he said. “The modality for learning and the school itself were new to every student.”

One thought on “Berke Questions Virtual School’s ‘Dismal’ Performance

  1. Eric Holcombe

    1. Can we PLEASE see the testing results for these same students BEFORE they went to TVA (for one year)? Were they in the bottom 11% BEFORE going to TVA? How well did the public system prepare them before their escape?
    2. Were these students forced to use TVA or was this choice made by their parents? Can’t those parents also choose to go back to the public brick-and-mortar school they came from if dissatisfied with academic progress? Do they really need NEA-Andy to make the choice for them?
    TVA saves us money because TVA receives much less per student than the average public brick-and-mortar does. If public tax dollars should give us “real achievement” as NEA-Andy says, what should we be getting for the $9,000 per student that we are already spending at the public brick-and-mortars? Are the current proficiency rates in the 40’s acceptable?

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