MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Virtual learning this year may not be what some parents expect and almost two months into the school year, some parents like Candice Davis said her experience with Memphis Virtual School isn't a walk in the park.
"The student is also their own teacher, and it's just a lot more difficult than what I planned it to be," Davis said.
Davis enrolled her son into the 6th grade at MVS. She works from home, and unexpectedly became a full-time teacher for her son.
"I can't imagine me waking him up and turning this computer on and telling him to teach himself sixth grade and I'll be back at the end of the day," Davis said. "There are words and assignments like everything is new. He is learning sixth grade for the first time."
Parents across the country have been scrambling to put their kids in virtual school as a safer option during the pandemic. Memphis Virtual School has seen less than 200 students enrolled before the pandemic and at least 900 students are enrolled this year. The maximum number of students who can be accepted into the program is 1,500. But, MVS operates differently than what parents are used to.
"I have to be his language arts teacher, his math teacher, his science teacher," Candice said.
The school offers independent study, meaning students complete the work at their own pace within a certain time frame. homework isn't due the next day. This is different than what Shelby County School students experienced last year. Students had a teacher real time explaining their lessons through video sharing. When Davis enrolled her son, she said she wasn't told during orientation what she would need to do to help her son succeed. She said the orientation was about teaching parents how to use the student portal.
"I thought it meant that independent studying was going to be at home away from other students, out of the traditional school setting," She said. "And that's because he was technically sitting by himself it was going to be independent in a way because he can't raise his hand and interact with other students."
A flyer about the school tells parents that coursework is independent study, but it doesn't give additional details. It also states that all courses are facilitated by experienced and highly qualified instructors. But Davis said her son has yet to meet his teacher and the student portal doesn't show any prerecorded video lectures or audio files of teachers explaining any lessons.
"My heart goes out to students and parents who are in a situation where the parent has to work outside the home."
Shelby County Schools however said in a statement, "...Understanding that this model is much different than what students and parents have experienced previously during last year's virtual learning, the District proactively shared facts about the asynchronous model with parents through various platforms."
This is there full statement:
Memphis Virtual School is an online school that supports grades 4-12 and currently has approximately 900 active students. It operates as an asynchronous school model, meaning that students work independently through course work with lots of autonomy regarding their schedule and pace. Understanding that this model is much different than what students and parents have experienced previously during last year's virtual learning, the District proactively shared facts about the asynchronous model with parents through various platforms (See flyer attached). MVS also put the following supports in place to promote student success:
- MVS has eligibility criteria in place that includes academic performance criteria. Ensuring that our learners have already demonstrated sound reading comprehension skills and academic performance helps us to promote a positive learning experience and fitness for an independent, virtual education environment.
- MVS has highly qualified, certified part-time teachers assigned to each class. These teachers monitor student progress and have established virtual office hours where they avail themselves to help students who may need instructional support.
- MVS has academic tutors available to for help during daytime and evening hours to provide students with immediate help. Our tutors are also available for in-person tutoring when necessary.