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Virtual Academy email asked teachers to change grades

7:28 PM, Feb 12, 2013   |    comments
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 PDF Document: Email from the TNVA

The Tennessee Virtual Academy is taking heat once again after an internal letter leaked over possible grade changing.

The letter was sent to middle school teachers in the program on December 13, stating lower grades at the start of the school year will adversely affect final scores and does not reflect a student's learning record.

School leaders confirmed the email from school leaders. 10News obtained the email from Knoxville state Representative Gloria Johnson (D), a vocal critic of the program.

"Any Fs, delete those grades? I have never heard of such a thing," she said from Nashville Tuesday in response to the email.

TNVA is operated by Union County and for-profit company K-12.

The letter said, "Take out the October and September progress; delete it so that all is showing is November progress."

It also asked teachers "If you have given an assignment and most of your students failed that assignment, then you need to take that grade out."

Rep. Johnson said the letter is another sign the virtual academy is not properly serving the students.

"It failed the students, it lied to parents and they cheated the taxpayers," said Rep. Johnson. "This is not acceptable when you have corporate entities involved in education, their bottom line is profit."

This was the complete response of the email from head of the school, Josh Williams 10News received:

"I understand there can be some confusion around how we structured our grading system, especially when a single email is taken out of context. TNVA is an online school with a mastery-based approach to learning. We developed a grading system and modified it to be more consistent with our mastery-based approach. The important point is that TNVA students earned the grades they received.

Our academic team simply modified our internal grading procedures 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. TNVA students earn the grades they receive. Our decision did not impact the integrity of our grading system and had no relationship to any state tests.

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."

Two weeks ago, 10News reported on the TNVA's low TCAP scores. It prompted Governor Haslam to propose a cap on student enrollment, which is still in the legislature.

Another bill was proposed Tuesday from Jackson State Senator Lowe Finney and Nashville State Representative Mike Stewart that would remove the school altogether.

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