Talking Educación with Puerto Rican Teachers

Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams

The challenges and opportunities in education were the topics of conversation last Friday, when teacher leaders and administrators from Puerto Rico visited ED to discuss the teaching profession and to meet with ED officials. The educators are in Washington as part of the Pilar Barbosa Education Internship, a month-long program that brings Puerto Rican teachers and administrators to Washington for professional development, workshops and lectures.

Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams

Last week’s stop at ED provided the educators a unique opportunity to engage in a series of conversations with department staff, including José Rico, deputy director of the White House Initiative on Education Excellence for Hispanics and Eric Waldo, deputy chief of staff to Secretary Duncan.

The group went through several rounds of brainstorming sessions to explore and share concerns with Puerto Rico’s education system and to create efforts on what they can do back home with ED programs such as School Improvement Grants (SIG) – which help to turnaround low-performing schools and improve student outcomes. Puerto Rico is about to receive its first SIG funds.

Like many states, the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico is faced with a number of economic challenges, which have had significant impacts on education funding. The teachers discussed budget shortfalls as well as the need to fix No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Several of the teachers expressed concern that under NCLB, too many Puerto Rico schools are being labeled failures because of the steep requirements to make adequate yearly progress (AYP). Juan Valentin, an English facilitator explained how being labeled as a failing school under AYP makes the students and staff feel “dumb and stupid, because we can’t pass these tests.”

The teachers also described to ED officials some of the great things about Puerto Rico’s education system, including their hope for the future of Puerto Rico schools and their enthusiasm to be a part of that future. “I am very proud of Puerto Rican teachers,” said one educator. “I think, many times, we are the Superman that we are waiting for.”

Read about the administration’s plan to improve Latino educational development, and learn more about ED’s plan to fix NCLB as well as the President’s task force on Puerto Rico.

Sam Barnett is an intern in the office of Communications and Outreach at the Department of Education


  1. Though I would like to focus the priority on individual schools and their goals, I understand that DEPR did not give the necessary seriousness to the implementation of the NCLB law. It is now that we question our curriculum to align it, analyze our tests scores to identify weaknesses and really intent to evaluate our teachers and principals. I am sad to say that the reality is that there is minimal participation in the schools as to the improvement plans. Very little is known of committees and the plans of actions to be implemented. Superficial meetings are held without defined objectives. Students are not required to take summer classes to improve. To add to that there is no cohesive strategies involved in the supplement educational services, too many companies to establish a continuous dialogue.

  2. Out of curiosity ??
    Why aren’t there night classes versus morning classes. Its obviously hotter in Puerto Rico in the morning and cooler at night. Which makes students more active and aware of what they are learning in class.


    Why isn’t there schools that separate girls from boys. Boys tend to be less distracted when girls are around and visa verse for the girls. Why don’t you make one school just for girls and one school just for boys. you will see a significant improvement in grade score level.

  3. I will like to know if the Physical Education teachers and the Program will be include in the first SIG funds. For professional development as a teacher in school,workshops and lectures. Right now we don’t have the opportunity to application for pay to study in the University in Puerto Rico.

    I will like to have more information for application in my school The Carol White Physical Education Program in the Department of Education in Puerto Rico, where should l go as a physical education teacher. Because I have the information by Internet but l will like more information.

    I will like to Know why in Puerto Rico by district school is only one physical education facilitator and other district school if they are a health teacher have to work the programs of Physical education teacher and in some case have to work like school administrator. And in others programs have the real specialist in the area of the assignment. Why in Physical education is different.

    Why in the school or in The Programs of Physical Education in Puerto Rico there are little or no money to bye material or equipment for the students, with the SIG funds 2011 will help Physical Educator in the education system in Puerto Rico.

    l am very happy to Know that Kicking off the 2011 Let’s Read!Let’s Move by the First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative. I will like to know who will help the our student in physical education class in our education system in Puerto Rico.

    Please, if you could answer any of my question access to my email
    I work in :Estándares de Excelencia Programa de Educación Física (2000 ). Expectativas de Aprendizaje por Grado (2006) y Estándares de Excelencia y Expectativas de aprendizaje por grado en Educación Física (2007). Marco Curricular de Educación Física (2003). Primer Prontuario de Organización y Eventos Deportivo Nivel Secundario (2002).

  4. It is my observation and experience that the public school system in Puerto Rico is not taken seriously by the government, teachers, parents and students. Most people that have the means to pay opt for a private school education for their children then a public one. Confidence in the public school system is low, and the deplorable conditions of these schools, the attitudes of the teachers and administrators, the moral and character deficiency that many students bring with them from their home environment and the criminal element that abound in these schools do not help in boosting confidence among parents who are genuinely concerned about their children’s education.

    I believe that the political status and the relationship that Puerto Rico has with the United States has a lot to do with the failures of the Puerto Rican classrooms and is deeply reflected in the overall school system; just as its reflected in Puerto Rican society as a whole. Puerto Rico is a Latin America nation with a colonial relationship to the United States. The contradictions that this relationship brings, and the identity crisis that it creates among the Puerto Rican people, and the effects of a population that is deeply dependent on the Federal government, both physically and psychologically, manifests itself in the Puerto Rican classrooms. One criteria that is necessary for a solid and healthy schools system in any country is a population with a goal, is assured of itself and have a sense of national history, identity and self-respect that serves as a motivator to achieve. As long as the Puerto Rican political quagmire remains in limbo, Puerto Rican schools will continue in disarray.

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