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Fostering a New Dawn for Dominican Schools 

Innovators in education: Associate Professor Gilbert Valverde with Ancell Scheker Mendoza, Ph.D ’11, director general of evaluation of educational quality in the Dominican Republic.

Albany, NY (September 1, 2016) — The Dominican Republic exhibits the lowest levels of academic achievement in Latin America, but a UAlbany alumnus is working to change that, and a new partnership involving UAlbany will be a significant tool for improvements for decades to come.

The Department of Educational Administration and Policy Studies (EAPS) has joined with INICIA Educación, a premier educational foundation in the Dominican Republic, to build the republic educational capacity — to prepare educational leaders capable of evaluating or diagnosing educational challenges, evaluating alternative solution strategies, and leading positive change.

A core component of this new partnership is the establishment of a competitive scholarship for Dominican students to attend UAlbany to pursue advanced EAPS study in educational policy, policy analysis, and the evaluation of Dominican Republic educational programs and projects.

Students, who are scheduled to arrive this fall, will be jointly supervised by Ancell Scheker Mendoza, Ph.D ’11, director general of evaluation of educational quality in the Dominican Ministry of Education, and her friend and former mentor Gilbert Valverde, EAPS associate professor, who is respected globally for his scholarship and applied research in the broad areas of international assessment, curriculum policy and development assistance for education.

This scholarship is considered extremely relevant by INICIA Educación, particularly in light of recent developments in Dominican educational policy, including the recently established “Pacto Educativo” (National Education Pact). As director general of evaluation for education, Scheker Mendoza played a key role in this important national agreement on policy priorities for education which includes all political parties and key civil society organizations in the country.

“The establishment of this special competitive scholarship for Dominicans to pursue their advanced study with EAPS is an important component of enhancing the educational policy environment in the Dominican Republic,” said Valverde, who said that students attending UAlbany come with a variety of backgrounds, many with some prior work in educational settings. The common thread, he said, will be their excellence.

“They will be required to be highly motivated, with superb academic records, committed to serve the Dominican Republic in policy leadership for educational reform,” he said. “They will be almost exclusively young people with, at best, short careers since finishing undergraduate studies.”

The commitment to educational change in the Dominican Republic has been embodied by Scheker Mendoza. She coordinated the Strategic Plan for the Development of the Dominican Education 2003-2012 to be harmonious with the efforts of the global movement Education for All. She also served as a critical advisor and consultant to a U.S. Presidential Initiative to improve teacher training in the republic. She did this while serving as an EAPS research assistant – and working on a doctoral dissertation that eventually won both School of Education and university-wide Presidential Distinguished Dissertation awards.

After becoming National Director in 2010, Scheker Mendoza led the process of radical redesign and reform that has brought testing in the Dominican Republic into the 21st Century for educational standards and assessment. Speaking about Scheker Mendoza a year ago, Valverde said, “she has made, and continues to make, contributions of the first order to government, education and human welfare in one of the most challenged countries of the world. Her preparation in Educational Administration and Policy Studies at UAlbany accelerated an extraordinary career of leadership and service.”

Jason Lane, chair of EAPS, noted the broader political context for the new partnership. “New York hosts the largest population of Dominicans in the United States, making this an important cultural and educational partnership for both the Dominican Republic and the University,” he said. “It builds on the strong ties that the State University of New York has with the entire Caribbean region, [providing] opportunities for educational as well as research collaboration.”

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