TN Virtual Academy supporters lobby legislators to block closing

Hundreds of parents, students and educators visited the state Capitol Tuesday to advocate for Tennessee Virtual Academy, an online public school set to close this summer because of low student academic gains, according to The Tennessean.

Former state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman ordered the closing of the low-performing school last July. The school must make significant academic gains this year to remain open. The Tennessee General Assembly also would have to renew the Virtual Public Schools Act, which allows online virtual schools in Tennessee.

School administrators and staff say the state’s Department of Education has unfairly ordered the closing of the school, citing hundreds of other public schools in the state that have not been ordered to close despite having similar low academic gains.

“We just want to be treated fairly. We are an improving school,” said Josh Williams, head of the online virtual academy. “Our school is one of the fastest-performing schools. We made tremendous gains since last year,” he said.

TNVA is an online public school that serves 1,300 students in kindergarten through eighth grade in Tennessee. Union County Public Schools contracts with K12 Inc., a for-profit company that operates TNVA and other online schools in the country.

Since its opening in 2011, the school has failed to demonstrate student learning gains above a “Level 1,” the lowest category on a scale of 1 to 5. The school would need to demonstrate student learning gains at a “Level 3” or higher to remain open.