Transforming Puerto Rico’s Public Education System Through Professional Growth

Professional growth is a powerful motivator. Public school districts that provide robust professional development opportunities, including both formal training and experiential learning, can develop strong leaders within their systems. 

In Puerto Rico, equipping education professionals with new skills and experiences is crucial for the transformation of the public education system to support better student outcomes.

That is why the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico (FOMB) and the Puerto Rico Department of Education (PRDE) together launched the Education Leadership Development Program (ELDP) to support mid-career education professionals. Over three months, nine participants from across PRDE’s regional and central offices engaged with high-impact topics in education and leadership through workshops, readings and discussion sessions. 

The program also gave participants experiential learning opportunities via a trip to Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) to learn from District leaders and peers. Participants shared best practices, discussed strategic priorities and visited the District’s exemplar schools.

M-DCPS serves some 240,000 students at around 360 schools and are working on resolving the same issues as PRDE: 

  • How do districts engage families as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic? 
  • How can systems strategically and responsibly invest stimulus funds to support student outcomes? 
  • How can educators support students who lost learning opportunities?

Throughout the visit, participants saw how ELDP topics translated into action. For example, participants had studied the importance of data as a lever for change. At M-DCPS, they saw how Chief Academic Officer Lourdes Diaz uses student data to guide decisions about instruction, operations, funding and support.

“Data helps us understand the greatest needs throughout the District and how to allocate support accordingly,” Ms. Diaz said. Based on its data, the Office of Academics and Transformation can identify under-performing schools, provide solutions such as additional tutoring, teacher coaching and measure the impact of interventions.  

 M-DCPS has seen success in transforming its system: it is among 14 school districts out of 67 in Florida with an “A” rating.

The trip to M-DCPS helped participants grow as professionals and gain inspiration from seeing what is possible. “We rapidly noticed the sense of belonging that everybody in the school district transmits,” said Carlos Yancy-Crespo, Interim Sub-Secretary of Academic Affairs at PRDE. “Seeing such a dynamic at all levels makes you want to put the extra effort. I think we could achieve this in Puerto Rico.” 

FOMB and PRDE plan to continue to invest in education leaders through a second Leadership Development Program group. 

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