Poor Performance Could End Tennessee’s Test Of First Online Public School

(Memphis) Second-grader Casey Ubiarco iis one of the 300 West Tennessee students enrolled in Tennessee Virtual Academy, also known as TNVA.

Casey logs into classes daily from home using a laptop, and the teachers go over lessons just like they would in a classroom.

“I’ve watched TNVA and I love this school and I would recommend it to anybody but it is not for everybody,” said his mother, Katherine Ubiarco.

Ubiarco’s family is part of the state’s first and only online public school.

She enrolled her daughter to keep her from being bullied.

Her son, Casey, has special needs.

“They’ve got good teachers. I’ve got back up. If I’m not getting what I’m trying to teach across, I can go to a teacher and say I need some help,” said Ubiarco.

However, there are some strong critics in the legislature.

As a group, TNVA students made less progress in reading, math, and other basic subjects compared to students in traditional Tennessee schools.

It ranks in the bottom 11 percent of public schools in the state.

Some say they need to see change immediately.

“While I am willing to be innovative. I am willing to think outside the box. I’m willing to do all of this but when we see is something is not performing. I am not willing to continue to throw money at losing projects,” said TN Rep. John Deberry.

Deberry says TNVA was born out of the desire to improve education because so many Tennessee schools are failing.

When asked how long it had to improve, Deberry responded immediately.

He added, “I think they need to have it immediately right. we can’t lose. If a child is involved in a particular program for 2 years, that’s two years of that child’s life.”

Ubiarco wants the online school to have more time.

She said, “Most schools in Tennessee didn’t do well and you’re taking a school that’s been around basically as of last year, one complete school year and you’re expecting them to out perform schools that have been around for years. That seems a little ridiculous to me.”

The company that owns Tennessee Virtual Academy is K12.

It’s under fire in other states for students not showing enough progress.

Its executives argue often students come to them behind and they need time to prove online public schools can work.

This East Memphis mom has faith in them.

“Evidently brick and mortar is not working or overall world wide scores would be a lot higher. So, are we going to make brick and mortars go away because it’s not working,” questioned Ubiarco.

The legislature is likely to take up TNVA again and decide its fate before this legislative session ends this spring.