The Union County school system has until Friday to tell the state its decision on whether it plans to enroll an additional 626 students into the Tennessee Virtual Academy in the coming school year, according to documents obtained by the News Sentinel.
In a letter to schools Superintendent Jimmy Carter, Kevin Huffman, Tennessee’s education commissioner, recommended the district “consider limiting enrollment … to those students previously attending the school” for the public online school because for the third consecutive year students in the program have shown low achievement in testing.
“As we have discussed, a close examination of the data shows the school’s challenges rest primarily with the school’s ability to demonstrate effectiveness with first-year students,” Huffman said.
“While the school has improved its performance with students attending the school for multiple years, it has not yet demonstrated the capability to have a positive educational impact on new students, which creates a mutual concern and I believe leads both of us to consider the best options for the district, the school and its students going forward.”
In 2011, the Union County Schools contracted with K12 Inc. to create the academy — the state’s first online public school — for students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade across the state. K12 Inc., a national provider of online school programs, provides the curriculum.
…Huffman told Carter in his July 22 letter that the school district can seek a waiver, but it is “imperative” that the decision is made as soon as possible so school system can communicate with the students and parents that could be affected.
On Wednesday, Carter said he appreciated Huffman taking the time to work with the district on the issue and the state giving the district options instead of just telling them what was going to happen.
“I just want to be careful not to put our board in a position to do something that could be challenged in court,” he said. “As far as the back and forth on the letters, they sound more stern than our conversations did. Honestly, he’s very direct in what he says and I appreciate that … you don’t leave wondering exactly what he wants from you.”