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21st Century Schools
Saturn School of Tomorrow


in cooperation with







The need to know in our society grows at a continually accelerated pace. Eighty percent of occupations in this country already are information-based. We live in a world in which information and knowledge are increasingly important commodities. Yet, levels of education within the general public already are inadequate. By the 21st century, we will face a knowledge crisis of epidemic proportion. Simply put, more people will need to know more than ever before.

Public education, for all its remarkable achievements in this country, still is largely unable to accommodate individual student learning needs and to achieve acceptable levels of individual student mastery, proficiency and expertise. We have provided educational opportunities for all students but have failed yet to adequately secure the education of each.

New learning technologies have proven to be educationally effective. Recent learning research suggests there are more effective ways for students to learn, to become empowered learners: those who have learned how to learn. Yet neither technology nor research plays a major role in today's group-based, lecture-oriented classrooms. Researcher John Goodlad found that, currently, 88% of classroom time is spent on teacher lecture and assigned seat work. The tragic irony is that we know how to make learning more effective for more students, we have powerful, new learning tools to assist us, we have ample research paradigms that suggest effective new learning techniques. Yet, to a large degree, we continue to teach as our grandparents were taught.

Major change in education require a sense of "ownership" from its participant "shareholders": students, parents, teachers, administrators, community, the private sector. Ownership is a lesson learned late by our auto industry as we scramble to compete with Japanese manufacturers. Since learning is our business, there is all the more reason that educators must learn that same, hard lesson sooner than later. If we do not, the private sector will do it for us and the sacred, altruisitic trust of "the passing on of our culture" will give way to the bottom line and competitive advertising. The health profession today, is an example of a competitive struggle to provide affordable, effective service and where the best interests of the consumer come into question.

What is imperative, then, is an innovative proposal for change, a significant departure from current practice, a re-direction of education for the 21st century. As the Saturn Project was the auto industry's response to needed change, we have chosen to call this new learning proposal the Saturn School of Tomorrow.

The St. Paul Public Schools, in collaboration with the St. Paul Federation of Teachers, the Graduate Education Department of the College of St. Thomas and the Minnesota Educational Computing Corporation (MECC), propose to develop a Saturn School of Tomorrow. Other agencies, institutions and representatives from the private sector also must be involved if this project is to succeed.

The Saturn School will be characterized by its focus on a Personal Learning Plan for each child-- a plan designed and implemented by each student with assistance from the parent and educational professional. Learning technology will play a major role in student learning. Microcomputers and video-based instruction will replace certain lecture and group activities, particularly in basic skills learning. Teachers and other professionals will concentrate their efforts to work with individual students and small groups. A Personal Learning Plan will map each student's progress toward mastery. Sufficient time and resources will be able available to allow each student every opportunity to succeed. Areas of study will not necessarily conclude at the end of quarters, semesters or the year.

Students will progress to new topics as they reach acceptable, agreed-upon levels of proficiency in such areas as reading, writing, computational and problem solving skills. They will demonstrate knowledge and mastery in other areas such as world languages, science, health and fitness, the fine and practical arts, computers and technology. Naturally, some students will complete some areas of study more rapidly than others. Time is an acceptable variable in the Saturn School. Student proficiency must be a constant.

Faculty in the Saturn School will participate in intensive, ongoing staff development. New, more complex teacher skills will require 20-30 days of staff inservice, three times more than normal allotments. The school schedule will be reorganized to promote a learning program based upon student mastery. Each of the named participants in the Saturn School project will contribute their respective expertise toward these goals.

Some of the essential differences between the Saturn School and other, more conventional school settings are described below:

We envision the Saturn School appropriately situated in the downtown St. Paul area, close to the state Capitol, near the World Trade Center site. Location in urban St. Paul recognizes the international importance of innovative education, as well as Minnesota's preeminence as a high-tech, brainpower state. Initially, the Saturn program will operate as a K-6 school with later extension to other groups and ages.

  1. All students may not start or end their instructional day at precisely the same time.
  2. Students who need additional help or who have special interests may spend a longer time at school with various educational staff assisting them.
  3. School will be open for parent conferences and student-parent activities on a frequent basis, one or more evenings per week.
  4. The Saturn School will schedule early morning and late afternoon programs to accommodate the needs of modern family life styles.

  1. Students and parents meet with staff to check progress and to devise each student's Personal Learning Plan and activities. Students make greater use of learning tools such as computers and interactive video to introduce new concepts and reinforce skills--with greater staff assistance and involvement.
  2. Teachers and other members of the educational team meet with various sized groups of students to teach, motivate, discuss, share, test student ideas and understandings. Some groups are larger for teacher or speaker presentation; others are smaller for discussion or one-to-one for individual student help. Students also work independently for a period of time.
  3. Students are assessed frequently to determine progress in reaching their learning goals and to plan new learning activities to assure success. Failure to achieve competency or mastery results in further work and retesting until mastery is achieved. Students rarely are compared with their peers on tests; they strive to reach their own goals, cooperatively arrived at with their parents, their teachers and themselves.

  1. Some learning goals and objectives are required of all children. Reading, composition, presentation, arithmetic problem solving, health and fitness are among the skills that each child must demonstrate at a minimal level or beyond.
  2. Other goals will be established by the student and parent to address the unique set of special interests or talents each student has. In some instances, a very high level of mastery may be desirable; in other situations, students may want to attain goals established by district, regional or national performance standards.
  3. Learning activities will be chosen to most effectively accomplish student goals. Learning will occur in large group presentations, small group discussions, conferences, and independent study work. The school will draw on a wide range of learning resources from both the school and the community to assist the student in reaching these planned goals.
  4. The Saturn School recognizes the unique and vital role of parents if the learning process is to be efffective. James Coleman and other researchers found that over eighty percent of a student's learning effectiveness is accounted for by parents and the home environment. Parents must help design the Personal Learning Plan and, more importantly, help their child realize the goals that comprise it.

  1. This cooperative, mastery learning strategy is based on the work of learning psychologist Benjamin Bloom and others who found that given sufficient time and resources, nearly all students can learn nearly any topic or skill. The Saturn School is based on this premise.
  2. Students of similar academic level or interests are kept together for many different learning activities. With mastery learning techniques, the slower students (meaning only that it takes them a little longer to reach their goals) will, on the average, take only about one and one-half times longer to complete a unit of study than the quicker students. So the time difference and difference in ages isn't as great as one might think.

  1. Every student in the Saturn school has a Personal Learning Plan which identifies that student's needs, strengths, goals, progress, learning styles, preferred learning tools and resources--a unique plan in which the student, parent, teacher and other educational professionals all have a vested interest: the individual success of that student.
  2. Teachers need "more" too: more planning time, more conferences with students, parents, staff, more effective learning and teaching tools, more control over the learning process and resources for their students. Some of this time is gained by the greater use of powerful learning tools, such as the microcomputer and the interactive videodisc. Assistance is contributed by other educational professionals (interns, teacher assistants, aides) who work with the student when the teacher is occupied with other necessary planning and evaluation activities.
  3. The lead or master teacher is a highly skilled educational professional, one who has both specialist and generalist graduate level training. A professional teacher likely would have the proposed, new national certification for teaching professionals. Such competence is necessary since this teacher has overall and continuing educational responsibility for a group of students, for the Teaching Team of educational staff who work with them and the procurement of appropriate and needed resources.
  4. The Teaching Team at the Saturn School consists of many different educational staff: the certified professional teacher, other assisting teachers, interns, educational assistants, teacher aides and various other community and private sector volunteers. The Teaching Team brings a diversity of talent, a continuity of service and commitment to each student and the parents. Normally, this Team would follow a given group of students through their entire learning career at the Saturn School.

Below is a matrix of needed participants and activities to make the Saturn project successful. An empty cell (dash) indicates an area where additional assistance is needed and an invitation to participate is extended by The Prospectus.

             ST. PAUL PUBLIC SCHOOLS       FEDERATION              CST     MECC    OTHERS                       

1.  PLANNING STAFF              X               X               X       X       -

2.  TEACHING STAFF              X               X               X       X       -

3.  INTERNS                     -               X               X       -       -

4.  TRAINING                    X               X               X       X       -

5.  TECHNOLOGY                  X               -               -       X       -

6.  SOFTWARE                    X               -               -       X       -

7.  CURRICULUM                  X               X               X       X       -

8.  RESEARCH                    X               -               X       -       -
9.  DEVELOPMENT                 X               X               X       X       -

10. IMPLEMENTATION              X               X               X       X       -

11. DISSEMINATION               X               X               X       X       -
12. FUNDING                     X               X               X       X       -

Several cooperative projects beween the district and the St. Paul  Federation of Teachers already are in effect which relate to various aspects of the Saturn Project:

        1.   CLASSROOM  MANAGEMENT TRAINING:  St. Paul teachers trained in  the AFT 
        Classroom Management Program are conducting six days of workshops for up to 40  elementary teachers.

        2.   TEACHER RECRUITMENT AND INTERNSHIP PLANNING:  a planning grant in  collaboration with the University of Minnesota is enabling the  design a mentorship project     for prospective teachers.

        3.   DIAL-A-TEACHER:   The AFT and the district are collaborating on a teacher phone    bank to assist  public school students late afternoon and evenings with homework.

Both MECC and the College of St. Thomas also have participated in collaborative activities with the  St. Paul Schools in the past. 

It should be noted that areas 5,6,7,8,11 and 12, in the matrix above, require additional partners.The complete  success of this project, in fact, depends on more extensive collaboration.  This Prospectus solicits inquiries from other colleges, universities, agencies, corporations, developers, vendors, the private sector-at-large, any group with an interest in innovative educational reform.

ACTIVITIES AND ESTIMATED BUDGET (NOTE: the major costs of this project, once established, are the usual per pupil expenditures allocated to each school. Additional startup costs are listed below).
        ACTIVITY                        COST                    TIMELINE                        
                Initial Planning                assumed         To February 1, 1988

                Staff Development               $150,000 est.           Ongoing
                (25-30 days per year)

                Intern Selection and Training     $10,000 est.          Three months, ongoing

                Mastery-based Curriculum
                and Learning Activities          $100,000 est.          Six months, ongoing

                Hardware Purchase (includes
                microcomputers, video systems
                and other technologies)          $400,000 est.          Summer

                Software Procurement             $25,000 est.           Six months, ongoing

                Capital expenditures             $500,000 est.          Summer
                (including furniture, wiring,etc)

                Project Coordinator budget       $150,000 est.          Ongoing
                (including Consultant assistance)

                Research                         $100,000 est.          Ongoing
                BUDGET TOTAL:                   $1,435,000 est.

The Saturn School of Tomorrow is a bold and innovative blueprint for for the future. We propose developing a new schooling process for the 21st century. We envision continuous learning to promote student mastery and competence, more effective involvement of professional staff, new and participatory staff roles, student and parent involvement, employment of new learning tools and technologies, flexible school calendars, and community and private sector participation.

Our focus is the total, academic success of each student. Of equal concern is the affective growth and physical wellness of every student we serve. The Saturn School of Tomorrow will capitalize on the best of what we know about learning and on the many ways to bring about a new excellence in learning. The future demands no less from each person than becoming all that he or she can be. The problems we face now are demanding ones; our solutions for the future must be enabling and empowering.

Success in what we do here will require our best, collective efforts. Those who wish to assist with this innovative, educational endeavor for the future are invited to contact us.

* Originally posted at the Penn State College of Education's former special website section on the Saturn School of Tomorrow at