Advancing early learning

The University of Florida Lastinger Center is an emerging national leader in advancing early learning. We have joined forces with an eclectic array of community, state and national organizations to make a difference for young children.

Research shows that the first five years are the most crucial for a child’s long-term prospects: 90 percent of human brain development occurs during that period. Yet only a fifth of Florida’s voluntary prekindergarten (VPK) teachers have earned a bachelor’s degree. Many early education teachers have only six weeks of training.

Working with strategic partners throughout the state and country, we are creating new systems that improve the practice of early childhood teachers. Our efforts include:

  • Early Learning Florida. We have joined forces with Florida’s Agency for Workforce Innovation, Department of Education and Palm Beach State College to build Leaf, a state-of-the-art online professional development system for early childhood educators. Through it, we aim to bolster teacher practice and help improve student learning. Explore Early Learning Florida.
  • Ready Schools Miami. As part of this multifaceted program, we are working with The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation, the Children’s Trust, Miami-Dade Public School District and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to improve the quality of the district’s early learning system through accreditation, professional development, quality rating and curriculum development. SRI International recently described this program as one of the most radical systems-reform efforts in the country. Read about Ready Schools Miami as a system of change.
  • The Children’s Trust. As part of a coalition, we championed a successful Miami-Dade ballot initiative that will bring in more than $1 billion over 10 years for learning, social, emotional and health support for children. Learn more about the Children’s Trust.
  • Early childhood professional development in Miami-Dade County. Through a $6.4 million grant – which includes $5 million from the U.S. Department of Education, $1 million from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and more than $400,000 from The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation – we are offering a free, on-the-job graduate program to 100 early-childhood teachers in 25 high-need schools and other professional development programs for about 1,125 teachers over the next three years. The program is expected to impact 30,000 children. Explore our latest effort.