Did you know that there was a flying Saint?  Saint Joseph of Cupertino was said to have levitated and even fly (on as many as 70 occasions) apparently creating quite the spectacle for the 17th century Franciscans.  So here is a silly question: Could St. Joseph of Cupertino be the Superman our nation’s urban students have been waiting for?  I think he might be.  Here’s why.

St. Joseph of Cupertino is the patron saint of astronauts, which is the closest I could find to Rocketships.  Rocketship is the name of a charter school network that is doing some really interesting things with technology, and could offer a great model for urban Catholic schools.  This is the idea of a thoughtful new group of Catholic education supporters called Seton Education Partners, and may be a solution for some of the urgent problems facing urban Catholic schools.

Rocketship is a California based model of charter schools with an innovative use of technology that both saves  operating costs and improves educational quality.  Here is a description from the Rocketship website explaining their “unique hybrid education model.”

Rocketship Education is reinventing the elementary school education model. Each student attends one block of Math/Science, one block of Learning Lab, and two blocks of Literacy/Social Studies each day. In Learning Lab, students work on computers to focus on individual learning needs. Learning Lab does not require certified teachers and allows Rocketship to reduce staffing by five teachers and five classrooms per school, saving $500,000 per year.

Rocketship reinvests these savings into building better schools.

This reinvestment goes to a variety of strategic areas from leadership formation to higher teacher salaries.

The basic idea of our friends at Seton Partners is this, maybe the Rocketship approach can be used to open or sustain urban Catholic schools and cut down on operating costs while still providing a high quality Catholic education for urban youth.  Who knows, some day soon we might see a flock of St. Joseph of Cupertino Catholic Schools in our urban neighborhoods?  Or maybe they will be Saint Isidore of Seville Catholic Schools, after the patron saint of technology, computers and the internet?  Either way, this is a strategy worth exploring.

It is worth adding that a lot of attention has recently been drawn to the emerging role of technology in education.  From Clayton Christensen’s book Disrupting Class, which predicts something of a revolution in the education industry due to computer based learning, to the considerable growth of virtual schools in states throughout the country, it is increasingly clear that technology will play a prominent role in the future of education. How will Catholic education respond to this disruptive innovation?  With a more adaptable education model, the lack of pressure from teacher’s unions to maintain the status quo, and maybe a little intercession from St. Joseph of Cupertino, urban Catholic schools could catch the wave of technological innovation and be better suited to continue their educational mission into the future.

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