A virtual disappointment

The Texas Connections Academy, a hightech replacement for the traditional classroom, may fancy itself the wave of the future, but its lessthenimpressive performance for the Houston Independent School District has left about 800 students high and dry.

The academy is a forprofit company that contracts with HISD to run a virtual campus for 1,000 students in grades three through eight. And, according to a story in the Houston Chronicle, it also may be something of a small (probably very small) profit center for HISD. The district receives $7,826 a year from the state for each student enrolled in the academy provided the child completes required courses and passes the TAKS. HISD pays Connections only $6,500 per student and deposits the difference in the district’s general fund.

HISD wanted to expand the program, but the Texas Education Agency nixed the idea because students in the academy had a TAKS passing rate that was 20 percent below the state average. HISD lost its third appeal to TEA this week, meaning about 800 extra students who had signed up for the program are looking for an alternative.

Through the academy, which HISD began in December 2008, the district attempted to attract parents who had been homeschooling their kids but wanted more structure. The tuitionfree cyber school lets students take courses online while working with a certified teacher over the phone or via computer.

“What Connections Academy found was, they had a high proportion of students that were coming from home school environments that did not have a structured curriculum. They had big deficits in math,” Nancy Manley, HISD’s school compliance officer, told the newspaper.

“When you have up to a threeyear deficit in math, you’re not going to catch up students in one year,” she added.

Math deficits in homeschooling? Why am I not surprised?

Here is a link to the Chronicle story:



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