Viewpoint: School choice means progress by students
Sep 27, 2013 | 721 views | 0 0 comments | 50 50 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A new school year is upon us — with new teachers, new textbooks, and hopefully, many new educational opportunities, for more Tennessee families and students.

Going back to school is a big reminder to all parents of how quickly our children are growing, and also how the world itself is changing.

While all of the new technologies present some challenges, they also present many new opportunities and options for students, educators and parents alike.

Our families are particularly excited to begin another school year of online learning with the Tennessee Virtual Academy. We recognize that, like those in many other families, our children have very unique learning needs — and online learning is helping us meet the educational needs of our children in ways we never thought possible.

Our children are learning and thriving inside the Tennessee Virtual Academy, both in their studies and through the individualized instruction and flexibility that helps with special needs and extracurriculars.

We are pleased that we selected this option for our children — and pleased that the Tennessee Legislature gave us this option — because public education is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Parents need an array of options beyond the traditional brick-and-mortar school, including online education, to help their children succeed.

After all, different children have different needs when it comes to learning. Some are visual learners, some tactile; some learn better in small groups, while others excel with individualized instruction, like the virtual schooling option that allows students to progress at their own pace.

Online learning can often be life-changing as a second, and sometimes, last chance for many students who were falling behind or failing at their traditional school. Many students come to the Tennessee Virtual Academy several grades behind. Now, they are getting more tailored time and instruction designed to help catch them up.

So we are troubled when we hear people who don’t understand the needs and circumstances of families, like ours, that unnecessarily attack the school option we have chosen. Too often, such critics take a very narrow look at test scores only to discount the validity of online learning, without putting those scores in the context of how these students were doing at their previous schools.

Families, like ours, are choosing online schools for a good reason. No parent is being forced to choose the Tennessee Virtual Academy. We believe parents should be able to choose whatever works best for their children — because we think parents, and not bureaucrats, know their children best.

That’s why we hope state leaders will continue to work with parents, teachers and students to offer a variety of public school options to help our students succeed. Forcing all students to attend a traditional school, even if it is failing them, is not progress.

Only when parents have a broad array of options will Tennessee’s education system continue to improve in this modern age.

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(Editor’s Note: This guest “Viewpoint” was written and submitted by two Tennessee parents whose children are students of virtual learning. They are Cathy Berg of Cheatham County and Pamela Weston of Monroe County.)