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May 18, 2014 by


“Texas Virtual Academy: Another Failed Education Experiment”

by Donna Garner



As I have repeatedly stated, I support Greg Abbott to be our next Texas Governor. As the Texas Attorney General, Greg Abbott has upheld the laws of Texas time after time and has fought valiantly with great expertise against the heavy hand of the Obama administration. For that I will always be grateful to Greg Abbott and to his TAG team of expert lawyers.


However, I have to take exception with Greg Abbott’s Phase 3 education plan because I believe (1) he is leaning on bad counsel from people who have vested interests, (2) he is listening to vendors/lobbyists who will make financial gains from the huge push into technology, (3) or he is being misled by people who actually want to dumb down American children to increase the number of low-information voters. 


I, on the other hand, have no vested interests except in the young people who make up our schools and who are the future of our state and nation.

Our nation is one generation away from losing the greatness of America. If we adults make the wrong decisions, then our children and grandchildren will pay the price.  

I expressed my disappointment with Greg Abbott’s Phase 3 education plan on 5.9.14 when I wrote and published “Disappointed with Greg Abbott’s Phase 3 on Education” —


In this article, I posted links to the most recent, credible research on digitized learning.  All I ask is that those who are setting or recommending education policy (e.g., Greg Abbott) must take the time to read objectively independent, peer-reviewed, replicated research before jumping onto the “technology train.”

Where is the evidence that proves students who participate in online learning will grow academically at least at the same rate and at the same level as those who are taught face-to-face by a real live teacher?  

So far as I know, no authentic, independent research exists which proves the superiority of digitized learning; yet our nation is running hell-bent toward implementing technology even at the very earliest grade levels. [Please go to the bottom of this page where I have posted numerous links to current research.]

Several months before Greg Abbott released his Phase 3 education plan, I had written and published the following article on 1.20.14 which lays out the concerns of Darcy Bedortha, a K12, Inc., high-school English teacher — “K12, Inc. and Texas Virtual Academy Exposed’ —


Unfortunately, the Texas Virtual Academy uses K12, Inc. as its curriculum; and Greg Abbott in his Phase 3 education plan is vigorously promoting the Texas Virtual Academy.  Both William Bennett and Jeb Bush have close ties to K12, Inc.


I sent Darcy Bedortha’s article to hundreds of Texas legislators, state officials, Greg Abbott’s office, Gov. Perry’s office, the Texas Education Agency, to Texas State Board of Education members, to other policy makers, and to thousands of people on my numerous e-mail lists/Facebook/websites. My purpose was to try to alert both policymakers and parents to the shortcomings of K12, Inc. by giving them real-life examples.  


Immediately after I published my 1.10.14 article, a concerned parent who has a son enrolled in the Texas Virtual Academy wrote to me.  I promised that I would remove all identifiers, but the substance of her concerns verified the same concerns that Darcy Bedortha, the K12, Inc. English teacher, had voiced:


1.27.14 – Sent to Donna Garner from a Concerned Parent:


Ms. Garner,

My son has been enrolled in TXVA [Texas Virtual Academy] for the past year and a half; we can attest to exactly what I read in your article [i.e., the article in Education Week by Deborah Bedortha].


Teachers so often don’t show up for ‘class connects’ (teachers have hundreds of kids in ‘tutoring’ connects).  


My son has waited for the entirety of the sessions and not had his questions answered. 


My son has also had low grades disappearing, assignments he failed being mysteriously turned into extra credit at the end of the grading period, teachers/administrators who pass me on and on to different people with my concerns that NEVER get addressed, unanswered emails & calls, and just general confusion and disorganization.

My son fails tests- STAAR tests, semester test, yet he has an A in the TXVA course??

Often there is little or no content for the day, but if I don’t log attendance for EVERY day I get an attendance warning. Administrators tell me just log the automatic 60 minutes a day for each course. Even if he does nothing?
It feels like a rip off. And I worry my son is going to be completely unprepared for college when he graduates from this school.

Please help me find anyone who will help me change this system






Below is an article written on 5.17.14 by Merrill Hope of Breitbart Texas entitled “Learning Without Limits: Abbott’s Education Plan” —


In Merrill Hope’s article, we can see that Greg Abbott has arrived at the mistaken idea that technology is the answer to our education woes.  Not so.


The answer for authentic education reform involves two all-important requirements:  (1) consistent discipline (2) quality curriculum. Everything else is secondary in importance. Unfortunately, Greg Abbott has chosen the technology path.


Excerpts from this article:


“Creating opportunities for unlimited learning will require new tools, new mindsets and new ways of thinking,” said Greg Abbott, the GOP gubernatorial candidate and current Texas Attorney General, who has been traveling the state with the third phase of his Educating TexansHigh-Quality Digital Learning.


…The article also highlighted  the creation of other grants that would encourage school districts to … expand access to the Texas Virtual School Network


…Phase 3 also proposed improving enrollment in the Texas Virtual School Network.  Although created in 2007 by the Legislature to provide semester-long online courses that counted for course credit in public schools,  the Texas Tribune reported current enrollment as dismal.  Only 2,400 students out of more than 1 million in the state enrolled during the spring 2013 semester, according to Abbott.


However, Abbott suggested that enrollment has been bogged down for several reasons including the fact that a district can deny a student’s enrollment if it offers a “substantially similar course,” and districts will only pay for three online courses for each student per year.


In Tyler, Abbott proposed changing state law so that a student could take any course that aligned with the state’s curriculum standards, TEKS, and fit into the student’s graduation plan.


…Although some Texas public school districts have already developed partnerships with tech companies and the private sector to expand student access to the technology and tools required for students to succeed in the future, not everyone is a technocrat.  Concerns over excessive screen time, the ability to write cursive, the lack of traditional face-to-face time, and Common Core seeping into the educational content have all surfaced. 




In summary, I believe (and the research proves) that the superiority of digitized learning is not supported by independent research; the Texas Virtual Academy is a faulty education product; and Greg Abbott is on the wrong track when he so vigorously promotes the Texas Virtual Academy and digitized learning.






5.7.14 – “Digital Reading Poses Learning Challenges for Students” — By Benjamin Herold — Education Week



4.15.14 – “Infants Unable To Use Toy Building Blocks Due to iPad Addiction” – by Graeme Paton, Education Editor, The Telegraph




3.6.14 – “10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12” – by Cris Rowan, pediatric occupational therapist — Huffington Post



8.9.13 – “Confusing Technology with Teaching” —  by Galen Bruman – InfoWorld




7.6.13 – “Research Done on Online Learning vs. Face-to-Face Classroom Learning” — Community College Research Center (CCRC), Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times —


12.27.12 (Republished) – “Research: Laptops Do Not Increase Academic Achievement in Reading and Writing” – by Donna Garner —


Donna Garner

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