A Tennessee for-profit, online public school has come under fire this week after an internal email that appeared to be ordering teachers to delete their students' bad grades was leaked.
The vice principal of Tennessee Virtual Academy allegedly sent the message in question to middle school teachers in December. The email instructed teachers to delete grades from September and October, months that included many failing grades, according to NewsChannel 5.
Tennessee Virtual Academy was pushed through the Tennessee state legislature in the closing minutes of the session in May 2011, according to the Commerical Appeal. At the time, the school was criticized as a potential drain on taxpayer funds.
As NewsChannel 5 states, "Republican lawmakers touted [the school] as a way to improve education in Tennessee."
Democratic state senators called for a review of the school in August 2012 after politicians alleged only 16.4 percent of students were proficient in math and 39.3 percent were proficient in reading on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) tests, according to the Associated Press.
News of the email controversy elicited mixed reactions from parents with children at TVA, according to WATE. One parent, Hannah Hood, said that she was not surprised by the scandal and felt that on previous occasions the school had suggested she help her 6-year-old daughter during tests.
The academy defended its actions, however, saying it had merely done what most schools do.
"Our academic team simply modified our internal grading procedure to recognize middle school students' most recent progress and unit assessment scores rather than averaging a series of scores," TVA said in a statement.
Democratic State Rep. Gloria Johnson, a lifelong teacher, scoffed at the explanation.
"Public school teachers are accountable for every student test score every time, and we have multiple layers of accountability to honestly measure student success," Johnson told WATE. "This internal grade-fixing memo clearly shows that the Tennessee Virtual Academy's bottom line is protecting corporate profits instead of improving student learning. They lied to parents, they cheated kids and they stole from taxpayers."
On Tuesday, a state legislative committee refused to allow discussion of the leaked email. It subsequently killed a bill that would have closed TVA -- which currently has more than 3,000 students -- at the end of the school year, according to The Commercial Appeal.