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Special Coverage Education - Sapientis-

Special Coverage Education - Sapientis-

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THURSDAY, JANUARY 26, 2012 (52-53)
"We have to break this cycle"
THURSDAY, JANUARY 26, 2012 (52-53)
"We have to break this cycle"

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Published by: José Bayoán Santiago Calderón on Feb 01, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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s Sapientis celebrates its
10th anniversary this year,
the nonprofit—dedicated to
improving the quality of public edu-cation in Puerto Rico—is spearhead-ing a drive to have all three political
parties support a call for a 10-yeareducation plan.Working in conjunction with sev-
eral other groups, the idea is to have
all three parties commit to approv-ing the proposal so a sustained ef-fort to reform Puerto Rico’s public
schools can occur. A number of offi-cials from the academic communityand the larger society are supporting
the effort.
“We can’t continue to plan edu-
cation for four-year periods. We
have to break this cycle,” Sapientis
Executive Director Laura Lópeztold CARIBBEAN BUSINESS.
“We want the plan to have the pow-er of law so that no matter who isin power, it will have to be carriedout.”
The politicization of the local
school system has been called one of 
its biggest challenges by everyone
from U.S. Education Secretary ArneDuncan to local labor leaders to cur-rent and former Education top brass.The 10-year plan is being promoted
as the best way to begin curing this
ill and bring about meaningful re-
form of the public schools.“If you keep interrupting the ed-
ucation plan every four years and
reinstituting a new one, there is no
way you can have results,” Lópezadded. “It’s a very important step.
It will do a lot to combat the po-
liticization of the system, which isfatal.”
Since its founding in 2002, the
group has dedicated itself to spread-ing awareness about the importanceof public education to Puerto Rico’ssocial and economic future. With the
vast majority of public schools per-forming below federal standards, a
preponderance of students failing to
meet proficiency in English, Span-
ish and math, and a huge dropout
rate, the group argues that improv-
ing local public schools should be
everybody’s problem.“Until we have an informed citi-
zenry, demanding the kind of educa-
tion that is possible in this country,
we will continue to leave the system
to those who are running it for theirown benefit, and allow students to
graduate with enormous deficien-
cies,” López said.“The priority has to be economic
development. We are all in agree-
ment with that. Yet, are our publicschool students graduating ready to
face competition, and with the skills
today’s labor market demands?
We know that is not the case,” sheadded.
Currently, Sapientis is fleshing out
the 10-year education plan with in-
put from other organizations and theCitizen’s Agenda initiative, throughwhich community groups are devel-oping position statements on a num-
ber of significant issues to have animpact on public policy.The plan’s main thrust is to estab-lish the kind of curriculum that will
lead to producing students prepared
for today’s academic and economic
challenges. To do that, its drafters
are looking to Universidad del Sa-
grado Corazón’s Instituto de PolíticaEducativa para el Desarrollo Comu-nitario (Educational Policy Institute
for Community Development),
which last year established a portraitof the kind of student a broad cross-section of community and educationleaders believe should be graduating
from local public schools.
That profile includes students who
not only have reached the appropri-
ate academic skill levels, but also
know how to think critically, rea-
son quantitatively, master problem
solving and scientific reasoning pro-
cesses, and understand that learn-
ing and self-evaluation are lifelongprocesses.
The ideal graduate, according tothe profile, also includes being an
effective communicator, possessing
entrepreneurial skills, being a well-
rounded person with developedprinciples and values as well as
academic knowledge, and being anactive member of the community.“It’s essential to have a profile of the type of student we want gradu-
ating from public schools,” López
said. “It allows us to do backward
planning, to develop the curriculum
we need to teach for a student to at-tain these skills.
The push for the 10-year plan,
slated to be presented next month
to leaders of the local political par-
ties, is part of the latest focus of the organization, which has gone
through three phases in its decade-long existence.Founded by Harvard University’s
Kennedy School of Governmentgraduates Kristin Ehrgood andVadim Nikitine, the group started
life in 2002 with the idea of train-
ing teachers along the lines of the
Teach for America program, where
Ehrgood had held several impor-
tant positions. That program selects
the best graduating students fromuniversities, trains them and then
Continued on page 53
‘We have to
 this cycle
Sapientis pushes 10-year education plan immune from politics and drivenby vision of ‘the student we want’; nonprofit out to impact public policy
Sapientis Executive Director Laura López argues that improving public education should be a priority of all sectors in Puerto Rico, including the business community.

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