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Tennessee Virtual Academy Facing Tough Questions about Student Achievement And Costs

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Nashville, Tenn--There are big questions about your money being spent on the Tennessee Virtual Academy. Students have scored below average the last two years on standardized testing. But millions of taxpayer dollars are still funding the program.

K-12 Incorporated founded the Virtual Academy in 1999 and has operated the Tennessee school through Union County for three years. It provides students with educational materials delivered to their homes, allowing them to complete their work over the computer.

K-12 says in the state's first year, funding reached $7.5 million from the basic education program alone. The per-pupil expenditure is about $7,000, with about 3000 currently enrolled. According to K12, the BEP funding only covers about $4,700 of expenses. Therefore, K12 covers the rest to avoid cutting services, programs and teachers. The school does not receive Title 1(low-income) or Title 4 (special education) funding, despite enrolling students in both categories.  K12 says TNVA is one of the lowest funded schools in the state.

The Department of Education's 2013 report card states that Tennessee Virtual Academy students scored below average on the same standardized tests taken by traditional students.

State Lawmaker Mike Stewart backed legislation last year, giving the education commission power to close the school after three years of insufficient progress.

Stewart says , "This is a creature of the current administration,  wasting millions of taxpayer dollars. It would be a bad program, what's sad is that it's wasting the education of a number of young people."

But K-12 southern region deputy vice president, Megan Henry, says the group is working to improve test scores through data, administrative support and instruction with more mandatory live sessions.

Megan Henry says, " Students who we are getting at these schools, many of them are coming in academically behind. It's going to take a little bit of time to get them back to grade level. This year in Tennessee with some targeted effort we will show growth.This is a new model of education and we need to allow some time to let this work."

According to the adequate yearly progress reports in 2011, nationwide K-12 only met standard at a little more than 27 percent of their schools. More than 50 percent of all public schools in the US met that standard.