NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Virtual Academy, the state subsidiary of K12, Inc., came under heavy scrutiny in a House Education Committee hearing earlier today over the poor academic results that have been seen in Tennessee and nationwide.
During the hearing Josh Williams, Head of Schools for the Tennessee Virtual Academy, and Megan Henry, Deputy VP of School Development for K12, Inc., struggled to explain why students in their program performed at much lower levels than the statewide average, and how they were going to improve results going forward.
Calling the math scores “pitiful,” Rep. Joe Pitts (D-Clarksville) asked for an example of which of the 30 states K12 operates in would be considered their “shining star”. In response, Deputy VP Henry pointed to states such as Colorado and Georgia which she claimed had “some good academic results.”
Both Colorado and Georgia’s virtual schools programs have come under fire for poor performance results and accountability in recent months. In November of 2012, the Georgia Department of Education threatened to pull the Georgia Cyber Academy’s charter for reasons such as the “failure to obtain individualized education plans special education students are taught from, problems in resolving parental complaints and failure to offer the individualized instruction special education students are eligible to receive under federal law.”
In Colorado, their Virtual Academy operated by K12 – which has been in operation for 12 years – has been criticized for “a pattern of multiple years of low growth, low proficiency, failure to close student achievement gaps between student sub groups and unacceptable graduation rates,” according to the Adams 12 Five Star Charter School Liaison Patti Gilmour.
In addition to questions about performance, Rep. Harold M. Love Jr. (D-Nashville) questioned why the costs of tuition are higher in Tennessee than in other states, asking, “does the internet cost more, does it cost more for computers?” The Representative of K12 responded that “each state is funded differently, some states are funded at a higher level, and some states are funded at a lower level.”
North Carolina recently voted to cap state payments to K12 at $3,504 per pupil, compared to the $5,302 per pupil that is paid in Tennessee, raising the question as to what extra value Tennessee is achieving with the extra $1,798 per student.
Calling the poor performance over the last year “unacceptable,” Rep. Pitts asked that the K12 administrators “dig down, because we have done a lot over the last 5 years in education reform in this state, and this is a setback, so I would admonish you to pay attention.”
Video of the House Education Committee hearing can be found here: http://wapp.legislature.state.tn.us/apps/videowrapper/default.aspx?CommID=840000
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 Washington, Wayne. “Georgia DOE blasts Georgia Cyber Academy, threatens to pull charter in report.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. November 20, 2012. http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local-education/georgia-doe-blasts-georgia-cyber-academy-threatens/nTBmZ/
 Hood, Grace. “Colorado Virtual Academy Answers Tough Questions on Operations, Academic Performance.” KUNC Public Radio. January 17, 2013. http://www.kunc.org/post/colorado-virtual-academy-answers-tough-questions-operations-academic-performance
 Ovaska, Sarah. “Online charter schools to get less money, show results.” The Progressive Pulse. January 10, 2013. http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2013/01/10/online-charter-schools-to-get-less-money-show-better-results/