High-quality instruction in early learning programs is fundamental for positive child outcomes. The Lastinger Center’s Florida Master Teacher Initiative, developed in conjunction with the UF College of Education’s School of Teaching and Learning, is emerging as a potential national model for innovative, high-quality, cost-effective professional development.

The Florida Master Teacher Initiative (FMTI), supported by a development grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation (i3) program, is specifically intended to improve academic outcomes for 30,250 high-need children in Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) by elevating teacher effectiveness and school culture

The FMTI enhances early learning instruction for high-need students through its three main components:

  • A job-embedded graduate degree program with an early childhood specialization—the Early Childhood Teacher Leadership for School Improvement Program—offered through UF. The graduate program combines online instruction, face-to-face pedagogy, and a professor-in-residence who works in schools with teachers and principals. The program also provides school-based leadership opportunities for graduate students to share program content and practices with colleagues.
  • A Teacher Fellows program, through which a subset of teachers throughout the school engage in yearlong inquiry projects to examine new instructional approaches together with peers. This program culminates in a district wide Learning Showcase in which teachers—as well as principals, assistant principals, and other school staff who also engaged in inquiry—present their projects.
  • A Principal Fellows program, which builds leadership skills and provides an opportunity to interact with principals from other Florida school districts to support teacher leadership and instructional improvements. The Principal Fellows program supports principals’ efforts to adopt a facilitative leadership approach and enhance their ability to effect change within their schools.

In addition, the FMTI provides leadership development for teacher leaders in facilitating professional learning communities, guiding teacher inquiry, and using formal protocols to guide meetings. It supports shared leadership at schools through facilitation of joint analysis of school surveys and student assessment data to support data-driven decision making and development of school action plans at summer institutes.

The main program components, together with additional program activities, are meant to produce teachers who excel as:

Master teachers who use effective teaching practices, including those focused on early childhood
Teacher leaders in their schools and communities who promote instructional improvement and high quality education from prekindergarten through 3rd grade
Teacher researchers who, through participation in a guided inquiry, research instructional topics that are relevant and important to improving practice.

The Association of Teacher Educators named the Master Teacher Initiative the country’s best teacher development program, and the U.S. Department of Education selected it as one of the most promising approaches to improve teacher quality.