Reflecting on research during times of uncertainty: A recap from Puerto Rico’s EDUGESPRO graduation

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Four individuals in graduation robes stand on stage
Photo: Daniela Gómez Treviño

Since 2017, J-PAL North America has partnered closely with the Puerto Rico Department of Education to develop and evaluate high-impact professional development programs. This spring, J-PAL North America staff and researchers attended a ceremony for graduates of the Professional Development Academy for Leadership Management in Education (EDUGESPRO, for its Spanish initials). 

Building a partnership to support education policy

A growing body of evidence shows that school principals can be a crucial lever to boost student outcomes. The Puerto Rico Department of Education’s policy priorities include strengthening school leadership to improve academic outcomes. A large-scale school principal training program, EDUGESPRO aims to promote student achievement by improving management practices. 

EDUGESPRO is one of J-PAL North America’s first research partnerships with the Puerto Rico Department of Education. The evaluation of EDUGESPRO grew out of a collaboration with the Institute for Professional Development and the Relationship with the University. Led by J-PAL affiliated professor Gustavo Bobonis (University of Toronto), J-PAL North America supported the Puerto Rico Department of Education to determine the impact of EDUGESPRO on student achievement and school quality. 

Beginning in June 2019, EDUGESPRO was offered to all school principals in the public education system, forming three cohorts over a period of three years. Despite unexpected challenges and pivots, initial results showed increases in many leadership and management outcomes among the first cohort of school principals. The second cohort began the year-long training in March 2021 and celebrated their graduation this spring. 

Celebrating the culmination of research efforts

This year’s graduation marked the final stage for EDUGESPRO’s second cohort, from addressing challenges to discovering solutions. After experiencing multiple challenges—including hurricanes, earthquakes, and the Covid-19 pandemic—EDUGESPRO organizers and participants were thrilled to celebrate their successes. 

Much was said about the widespread dedication to the program, including considerable work by the training provider Braxton Puerto Rico to adapt EDUGESPRO for online delivery after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The potential setback serves as an example of effective research collaboration, as the convenience of online programming led to an increase in principal participation. During the ceremony, J-PAL North America Co-Executive Director Laura Feeney and Research Manager Daniela Gómez Treviño spoke about the value of research-practice partnerships to inform policy. “Thanks to the joint effort, today we are contributing to the use of evidence as a basis for public policy decisions in Puerto Rico.”  

The event highlighted the importance of supporting students in Puerto Rico by applying best management practices and generating evidence to inform policy decisions. School principals shared about lessons learned and their experience working together to improve the school management system in Puerto Rico. “The use of data is key for the decision-making process in each community,” noted Principal Zulma Ortíz.  

Former Secretaries of Education also attended in support of improving education policies in Puerto Rico. Additional ceremony speakers included Dr. Jesús Santiago, vice president of Braxton Puerto Rico; Michael Fullan, creator of the program model used by Braxton; Santiago Rincón Gallardo, who worked to implement Fullan’s models in Latin America; Professor Gustavo Bobonis; and Dr. Damarys Varela, head of the Institute of Professional Development. 

“The partnership with researchers is vital to obtain scientific data and make policy decisions based on [that] data,” Dr. Damarys Varela observed. “It is my hope to continue to have more impact evaluation projects for the benefit of the system and the kids of Puerto Rico.” 

Harnessing results to map the way forward

The graduation ceremony represents a turning point in the EDUGESPRO evaluation. Moving forward, results will support the Puerto Rico Department of Education’s efforts to strengthen academic leadership practices and address educational priorities. These upcoming results will help to refine the EDUGESPRO model and determine whether to scale up the program.

The end of the EDUGESPRO evaluation also offers a critical opportunity to expand our understanding of the program’s impact. J-PAL North America is proud to continue partnering with the Puerto Rico Department of Education to inform policy decisions that will benefit students. 

To learn more about J-PAL North America’s research and evaluation capacity in Puerto Rico and education, reach out to Daniela Gómez Treviño, research manager of J-PAL North America’s education work. You can also subscribe to the Improving Education Outcomes in North America newsletter.

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