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TN Virtual Academy: Students Earn ‘Grades They Receive’

Press release from the Tennessee Virtual Academy; February 12, 2013:

MAYNARDVILLE, Tenn., Feb. 12, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — The following is a statement by Josh Williams , Head of School, Tennessee Virtual Academy:

Some recent media reports have unfortunately mischaracterized the grading procedures used at Tennessee Virtual Academy (TNVA). Recently, our academic team made the decision to modify aspect of our internal grading procedure to recognize middle school students’ most recent progress and unit assessment scores rather than averaging a series of scores. Consistent with our school’s unique mastery-based learning model, this modification was designed to help increase student engagement by rewarding students who made an extra effort to master the material and improve their scores. Our decision did not impact the integrity of our grading system and had no relationship to any state tests. TNVA students earn the grades they receive.

In schools all across Tennessee, principals, academic leaders, and teachers develop their own internal grading procedures and policies. They can vary by school, course and class. The decision by our academic team was made carefully and with the best interest of our students in mind. Our goal as educators is to advance student learning by finding the best ways to measure individual student progress, identify gaps, and provide remediation, enrichment, and academic support to meet the individual needs of all students.

Josh Williams
Head of School, Tennessee Virtual Academy (a school program of Union County Public Schools)

Background

In December 2012, our school’s academic team modified our grading procedures for middle school. Our academic team believed this would align with TNVA’s mastery-based learning model, improve the measurement of individual student progress, and enable the school to better identify students most in need of intervention and remediation. The decision was approved by TNVA’s Head of School and communicated to teachers by the school’s academic administrator.

The modification involved two of the six features that compose students’ midyear grade: unit course assessment grades and progress in the curriculum.

Unit Course Assessment Grades: TNVA’s curriculum uses assessments as a tool to help students achieve mastery of the content. The curriculum is mastery-based and is designed to enable students to take the assessments more than once. Students that do not score well on an initial unit assessment are encouraged to review the material and retake the assessment before moving on to new content. If the student makes the effort and earns a higher score it cancels the lower score. This recognizes students’ effort, achievement and mastery of content. This is a common practice in traditional schools too (e.g. make-up tests, alternative assessments, extra credit opportunities). The learning management system allows teachers to track student engagement and see how well students are mastering the content as they move through the curriculum.

Progress Grades: Online schools allow students the flexibility to learn at their own pace in a highly individualized learning model. Some students start and end strong, showing high engagement and consistent achievement. Other students may struggle in the beginning but “catch up” over time and demonstrate progress. Some may struggle throughout and show a regular pattern of low engagement. By recording students’ most recent progress score, rather than averaging a series of scores over several weeks, we could more accurately recognize students’ current progress in their individualized learning program. This also helped differentiate students and identify those who needed more instructional intervention and remediation.

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Johnson Denounces ‘Apparent Grade Fixing’ at TN Virtual Academy

Press release from the Tennessee Democratic Party; February 12, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) denounced the K12, Inc. education corporation for apparent grade fixing at their in-state subsidiary, Tennessee Virtual Academy, a for-profit online school.

More than $15 million in public funding is flowing to the for-profit Tennessee Virtual Academy this year thanks to a law passed by Republicans. Despite the hefty price tag, the poorly performing virtual academy has recently come under fire after scores placed the corporate school among the state’s worst performing schools.

This week WTVF News Channel 5 uncovered a Virtual Academy internal memo directing teachers to delete student’s bad grades.

Rep. Johnson, a career schoolteacher, said deleting bad grades would never be acceptable at the Knox County public school where she teaches.

“Public school teachers are accountable for every student test score every time, and we have multiple layers of accountability to honestly measure student success,” Johnson said. “This internal grade-fixing memo clearly shows that the Tennessee Virtual Academy’s bottom line is protecting corporate profits instead of improving student learning.

“They lied to parents, they cheated kids and they stole from taxpayers,” Johnson said. “Tennesseans deserve better than a big, out-of-state corporation cheating our children and taxpayers to line its own pockets, and it’s time to fix this multi-million dollar mistake.”

Proposals that would alter the laws governing the Tennessee Virtual Academy are scheduled for discussion in the State House Subcommittee on Education at 3 p.m. today.

BACKGROUND

  • The Tennessee Virtual Academy, a subsidiary of the K12 corporation, now enrolls about 3,200 students across Tennessee. — WPLN.org
  • Only 16 percent of K12’s Tennessee students were proficient in math. — WPLN.org
  • Gov. Haslam’s own education chief has called K12’s performance “unacceptable” — The Tennessean
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Berke: Gov’t Funding Poor-performing TN For-profit School ‘Defies Common Sense’

Press release from the Tennessee Democratic Party; August 31, 2012: 

NASHVILLE — State Sen. Andy Berke is demanding answers on the dismal performance of a for-profit Tennessee school that draws students from all over the state.

“This is a case of government letting down our students and our taxpayers,” Sen. Berke said. “It defies common sense.”

The Tennessee Virtual Academy is owned and operated by K12 Inc., an out-of-state corporation, and its test scores are among the lowest in the state. School districts receive state funding based on enrollment. When a student transfers to the virtual academy, state funding for that student leaves the local district and goes to K12.

A letter was sent to legislative leaders Wednesday demanding accountability.

Sen. Berke has repeatedly voiced concerns over the past two years over a for-profit company siphoning taxpayer dollars to fund their venture in Tennessee public schools.

The most recent state accountability measures show how K12, Inc. is failing students:

  • The Tennessee Virtual Academy scored the lowest possible TVAAS score, which shows whether a student increased or decreased academic growth.
  • Only 11 percent of schools in Tennessee scored in that category, putting them “significantly below expectations,” according to the Department of Education.
  • A value-added index of -25.27, which ranks “near the bottom of the bottom.”
  • Only 16.4 percent of students scored proficient or advanced in math on state TCAP tests.

“I believe every child deserves an excellent education,” Berke said in the letter. “The poor scores on academic achievement show K12 does not fulfill our expectations. Our accountability as lawmakers is to students, parents, and taxpayers in Tennessee, and we must make sure dollars go to work in the classroom.”