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Empowering America’s Most Inequitable Educational Experience with Tech My School
Equal access to quality education is crucial for economic success, but unfortunately, not everyone has this privilege. Puerto Rico, a picturesque American Caribbean island known for its beautiful beaches and lush rainforests, faces challenges in providing an excellent education system. Unlike the mainland United States, Puerto Rican residents, who are legally American citizens, encounter significant barriers to receiving a modern education in the 21st century. They lack essential technology in their classrooms, deal with overcrowding, and have limited resources available to both students and staff.
Understanding the reasons behind this systemic issue requires examining the economic disparities in Puerto Rico. The poverty rate on the island is three times higher than the national average of the United States. In fact, when compared to the poorest state in the US, Puerto Rico has twice the number of impoverished individuals.
The economic struggles faced by Puerto Ricans greatly impact their ability to participate in the education system effectively. According to the US Census, only 28.3 percent of Puerto Ricans aged 25 or older hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. Additionally, low wages force many workers to migrate to other US states, resulting in a phenomenon known as ‘brain drain’, where Puerto Rico loses valuable talent. As a result, local communities are left impoverished with little opportunity for improvement.
Furthermore, Puerto Rico’s education system has been severely affected by natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic, hampering the educational development of countless children. The National Assessment of Educational Progress revealed that only 36% of fourth graders and 26% of eighth graders in Puerto Rico showcased proficiency in their educational knowledge. Compared to the global average, Puerto Rico’s educational achievement falls significantly behind, even when compared to the Mexican school system.
Numerous nonprofit organizations in Puerto Rico are working diligently to bridge the educational gaps. Leading the EdTech nonprofit sector is Tech My School, founded in 2021 by international educators. Tech My School has empowered thousands of students and staff across Puerto Rican schools.
The CEO and Co-Founder of Tech My School, Robert Cobbs, along with his wife, Irina, established the organization after settling in Puerto Rico. Having worked as educators in various countries, including both elite international schools and inner city schools in the US, Robert and Irina were confronted with the challenges of the local school system in Puerto Rico. Taking action, they began volunteering at their children’s school.
Tech My School is a 501c3 nonprofit that aims to enhance educational experiences and create sustainable impacts on local communities through the effective use of technology.
The organization focuses on educating both teachers and students about the power of technology in the classroom. When partnering with a school, Tech My School concentrates on three main areas: modernizing educational systems, building staff capacity, and empowering students.
Recognizing that each school has unique needs, Tech My School has developed an Individualized Tech Plan (ITP) to create a personalized roadmap for success. This plan includes a 140-point checklist, three comprehensive rubrics, and detailed instructions for school improvement. By working closely with each school it supports, Tech My School ensures a long-term vision for success.
Since its inception, Tech My School has made significant strides in eliminating educational barriers. The organization currently serves 13 local schools, positively impacting over 3,000 students, and provides monthly training to over 250 teachers.
Tech My School goes beyond simply donating technological equipment. Their success stories involve providing computers to students and staff, introducing and covering the expenses of educational software, conducting monthly staff training, implementing digital libraries, and creating after-school coding clubs. All these services are provided free of charge to the schools. Additionally, Tech My School has initiated a teacher leadership training program called Flock Leaders, which offers instructors at local schools a monthly stipend for additional training and leadership opportunities.
The vision of Tech My School is to equip Puerto Rico’s next generation with the skills necessary for success in the 21st century. By doing so, they aim to alleviate the ‘brain drain’ and inspire future students to invest in their local community, creating an economic incentive to stay. Achieving this vision requires leveraging the collective power of the larger community, combining expertise, forging internal and external partnerships, and encouraging donations and investments.
Robert Cobbs, the CEO and Co-Founder of Tech My School, emphasizes the importance of providing Puerto Ricans with a world-class educational experience. He believes this has a long-lasting impact on the quality of life and economic success of the island. Cobbs states, “As someone who cares deeply about empowering others through education, I knew there had to be a solution to this problem. I wanted to create something that could ensure positive sustainable change in schools. Our nonprofit maximizes the best in educational technology, giving opportunities for students to achieve higher educational outcomes, fulfilling their dreams, and eventually paying it forward by investing in their local communities.”
Moving forward, Tech My School aims to secure additional funding for organizational expansion and hiring more staff. Their model has proven that it is possible to serve local schools without financial burdening the institutions. In 2023, Tech My School signed a contract with the Department of Education, positioning themselves to serve hundreds of public schools throughout Puerto Rico. This expansion will allow them to reach more students and teachers, making an immediate impact on the Puerto Rican education system. However, all this can only be achieved if kind-hearted individuals take action and advocate for equitable education for all American children.