Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands Launch P–16W Collaboratives

For the past couple of years, REL Northeast & Islands has been hosting numerous workshops in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands to support the launch of two P–16W collaboratives. A P–16W collaborative is a comprehensive and integrated approach linking all educational levels—from early learning and K–12 through the first four years of college and the workforce—with the goal of preparing all students for postsecondary success.

The island collaboratives are supported by the REL’s Puerto Rico Research Alliance on Dropout Prevention (PR Alliance) and the US Virgin Islands College and Career Readiness Research Alliance (USVI Alliance), and they are bringing together education department leaders, faculty from institutes of higher education, and employers to improve alignment in areas such as standards and curriculum, data collection and budgeting, and training and preparation of teachers and school leaders.

The work began in March 2014 when the REL hosted a joint webinar for the Puerto Rico and USVI Departments of Education—PRDE and VIDE—to provide foundational knowledge about how P–16W collaboratives operate in other parts of the United States. Participants have since attended research-based workshops customized to the unique needs of their jurisdictions and the goals of their respective collaborations. Broadly speaking, the workshops have helped the participants create strategic plans and provided forums for discussing:

  • Research associated with P–16W collaboratives
  • Lessons learned from P–16W collaboratives in various states
  • Possible structures for P–16W collaboratives (e.g., membership, governance, communications, and meeting agendas)
  • Possible areas of focus for the work (early learning, standards and assessment alignment, dual enrollment, college placement, teacher quality, and data systems)
  • How P-16W collaboratives can play a key role in policies and programs that aim to improve in student achievement


The first workshop designed specifically for Puerto Rico provided research and tools to develop goals for improving student outcomes. We shared an organizing resource from the College and Career Readiness Success Center and helped participants identify ways to use it to clarify their work. We also shared resources from the Education Commission of the States summarizing P–16W collaborative work in individual states. During the all-day session, leaders from PRDE and the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) worked together in small groups to create specific objectives and activities that align with their vision for the P–16W collaborative.

Three subsequent workshops have built on the needs that PRDE and UPR leaders prioritized during the daylong workshop:

  • The first focused on tools and resources for linking PK–12 data with higher education data. Representatives from PRDE and several institutions of higher education attended, and several agreed to launch a pilot project linking those data systems.
  • The second workshop included high school counselors and provided an opportunity to share information on the development of PRDE’s data systems. We explored the role that counselors can play in reporting accurate data and accessing PRDE’s systems to better understand the longitudinal achievement patterns of students.
  • The third workshop featured a guest speaker with expertise in individual learning plans (ILPs) and examined how data can inform the discussions that college and career planning counselors have with students. As a result of this workshop, PRDE has developed and launched a pilot for ILP implementation.

Since the inception of Puerto Rico’s P–16W collaborative, participants have connected with researchers, policy experts, and leaders in other states to learn more about the possibilities for their longitudinal data, and they have begun the important process of reaching across the PK–12 and higher education systems in an effort to support more students in their pursuit of postsecondary degrees.

Commenting on the work, Puerto Rico Secretary of Education and REL Northeast & Islands Governing Board member Dr. Rafael Román Meléndez said:

The alliance work and the REL-NEI team have provided valuable resources to support the work of the department.

USVI Focus on Postsecondary Standards

The USVI workshops have been tailored to the unique needs of USVI educators and build on the work of a preexisting P–16 collaborative.

Since 2012, REL Northeast & Islands has been helping the USVI Alliance identify indicators of risk for student dropout as well as predictors of postsecondary success. Alliance members subsequently recognized the need to create systems and policies to align high school and postsecondary standards and expectations not only to prevent dropout but also to promote postsecondary success.

In 2015, following a leadership change at the USVI Department of Education, P–16W collaborative members asked for two more workshops to help clarify their vision and mission, review research associated with P‒16W collaboratives, and develop a clearer understanding of how the principles of implementation science may be applied to their collaborative’s work.

In the first of these workshops, the REL and leaders from the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) guided participants through strategic planning around six focus areas identified by the USVI Alliance:

  • Teacher and administrator preparation and professional development
  • Building a comprehensive data clearinghouse
  • Examination of and recommendations for P‒16W standards and curricular alignment
  • Creation of a framework for collaboration
  • Dual enrollment
  • Parental involvement

Participants created workgroups for each area, and leaders requested a second workshop to help four of the groups better define their work.

The second workshop drew on the Blueprint for College Readiness prepared by the Education Commission of the States, research and tools for implementation, and examples of how other jurisdictions are addressing the focus areas. We then facilitated strategic planning to design specific initiatives for each area. As a result of this planning, participants agreed to focus on the teacher preparation pipeline in the USVI.

With help from the REL, the collaborative has plans to address the issues surrounding the USVI’s teacher pipeline as it relates to the six focus areas. In preparation for a final workshop this summer to support a new USVI Teacher Pipeline Task Force, we will draw on work from several organizations on building high-quality teacher pipelines, with a focus on recruitment, preparation, and retention. The USVI Department of Education, Board of Education, and Department of Labor along with the legislature, UVI, and local affiliates of the American Federation of Teachers have all been invited to attend.

At a May REL Northeast & Islands research webinar about literacy, college and career readiness, and the new Teacher Pipeline Task Force, Denise Gomes, program manager for curriculum and instruction at VIDE said:

Thank you to the REL team for the work that you’re doing with us and the work that you’ll continue to do with us. It’s actually exciting work because it’s a long-term effort.

Alliance Support Team

Claire Morgan is an Alliance Researcher for the Puerto Rico Research Alliance for Dropout Prevention and the US Virgin Islands College and Career Readiness Research Alliance. With both alliances, Morgan consults with the Departments of Education of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands and other key education stakeholders and coordinates. She also provides research and technical assistance to address their education policy priorities.

Other Projects from the PR and USVI Alliances