Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Chief Crowfoot, railways, and virtual schools

Born in what is now Alberta, Canada, Crowfoot was made chief of the Big Pipes band of Native Americans in 1865, and one of three head chiefs of the Blackfoot tribe in 1870.

Well-known for his bravery in battle it is his relationship with the Canadian government and their desire to extend the transcontinental railroad that is of primary interest to me. In 1877 Chief Crowfoot persuaded the Blackfoot tribe to sign Treaty Seven with the Canadian government to allow for the connecting of the railways system from British Columbia in the west to the rest of Canada through their lands.

For his part in helping bring the negotiations to pass, Chief Crowfoot received a lifetime pass to travel on the railway. But, he never used it. Instead, he placed it in a small satchel that he carried around his neck and it remained there until he passed away in 1890. While he was given the opportunity to take advantage of and utilize this new form of transportation, he declined.

This is of interest to me because I see an interesting correlation between Chief Crowfoot and virtual school students and parents. Stay with me on this because there is one.

Much is made of the performance of virtual schools -- academically, attrition rates, and retention rates with much of the blame being given to the schools themselves. In many cases and in many ways, it is a valid argument -- virtual schools can do much more to enroll better-fit students, retain more of them, and engage them at a deeper level throughout the year.

However, it cannot go unstated that at some point in this relationship, students and parents must show up. And, they must be willing to put forth the effort in order to succeed.

Virtual schools can and should build better railways for students and families, and provide them lifetime tickets to fulfill their potential. But, students and families must be willing to use that ticket. There must be effort on their part. Instead, there is a small yet significant percentage of families who take the ticket but never jump on board for the ride. In that instance, there is little the virtual school can do.

Enrolling in a virtual school and engaging with a virtual school are two different acts altogether. For the relationship to work, there must be two involved -- school (teacher, administration, staff) and family (student, parent).

By not using the ticket given to him, Chief Crowfoot never realized the true value of what was offered to him. In the same way, students and parents who do not engage with their virtual school fail to realize the value of what is offered to them by the virtual school.

See, there was a correlation after all.

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