Lastinger and partners
win innovation grant

The UF Lastinger Center’s Florida Master Teacher Initiative recently beat out nearly 1,700 other applicants nationwide for a share of the U.S. Department of Education’s $650 million Investing in Innovation (i3) grant.

Joining Lastinger in earning the $6 million grant, which includes a $1 million match from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, are the Miami-Dade Public Schools and The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation. The group was one of 49 winning applicants.

Lastinger and its partners are using this stimulus money to expand the Master Teacher program in Miami-Dade County.

During the four-year project, UF College of Education early childhood specialists will develop and teach a free, on-the-job master’s and specialist degree program in early childhood education for 100 early childhood teachers in 25 high-need elementary schools.

Participating teachers will create professional learning communities and organize special training opportunities for their colleagues. Over the course of the grant, the free training in early childhood learning is expected to benefit about 1,125 area teachers and impact 30,000 of Miami-Dade’s youngest schoolchildren.

“The school district recognizes the importance of developing educational building blocks for our youngest learners,” said Superintendent of Schools Alberto Carvalho. “This grant and the partnership with the University of Florida will greatly benefit our students, parents and educators.”

Don Pemberton, director of the Lastinger Center, notes the Miami-Dade project will be “rigorously evaluated” to assess its impact on the school communities and culture, and on teaching effectiveness and student achievement.

“This entire effort builds on cutting-edge research, the best practices in professional development for teaching and school leadership, and the front-line experience of the partnering groups in Miami-Dade, the nation’s most diverse community,” Pemberton said.

The Lastinger Center, Miami-Dade Schools and The Early Child Initiative Foundation have been working together since 2006 on an ambitious school-readiness effort called Ready Schools Florida, supported by a $10 million grant from the Kellogg Foundation.

The model for this latest effort, combined with rigorous assessment and the diverse make-up of the Miami-Dade school district, makes the Florida Master Teacher Initiative prime for a national rollout, Pemberton noted.

“We truly believe this work is transformational for teachers and schools,” he said, “and we’re demonstrating it can scale up to thousands and thousands of teachers.”