The Tennessee Virtual Academy is one of those online for-profit charter schools that are supposed to “save” American education. Bad news for its champions: The scores at the school were in the state’s bottom 11 percent. The sponsors say forget the scores and wait until next year. Right.
Jeb Bush promotes virtual schools from one end of the country to the other. His Foundation for Excellence in Education is funded by numerous tech corporations. He and Bob Wise of the Alliance for Excellent Education published guidelines called the “Ten Elements of Digital Education” urging states to take the plunge and authorize online schools with little or no regulation. Preferably no regulation at all, since regulations are seen as a hindrance to innovation. Teachers need not be certified, and the corporation need not even have an office in the state where it does business. Just hoops and hurdles that hobble true reform.
The push for virtual education takes two forms, both promoted heavily by the corporations that stand to profit: one, virtual charter schools; two, requiring that every high school student take at least one course online.
So far, there is not a scintilla of evidence that virtual instruction is good education, at least not in the way it is being sold by its advocates. Test scores are low; graduation rates are low; attrition is high. And why in the world should children in grades K-8 be isolated from any peer interactions during their formative years?
More and more evidence is emerging about the importance of non-cognitive skills, such as the ability to communicate with others and work with others. Can that be learned in isolation?