The study took place in 40 public elementary schools in Miami-Dade county. Schools were eligible if they were Title I schools with pre-kindergarten classes, at least 4 teachers interested in the graduate program, and had no previous experience with Florida Master Teacher Initiative (FMTI) professional development. The schools were spread across regions and voting districts within the county.
Although student race and free/reduced price lunch status were collected and used in the models presented, this information was not reported in the study.
The Florida Master Teacher Initiative is a four part program: 1) the Early Childhood Teacher Leadership for School Improvement (ECTLSI) program, 2) a teacher fellows program, 3) a principal fellows program, and 4) summer leadership institutes. In this study, the school-wide program that included all of these elements was examined with a cluster randomized trial. The study also examined the effects of the ECTLSI program for a subset of teachers in the larger project with a quasi-experimental design.
The ECTLSI was a job-embedded graduate degree program with an early childhood specialization. It was a hybrid program (i.e., both online and face-to-face) that was offered through the University of Florida. The program focuses on training to facilitate professional learning communities, teacher inquiry, and using formal protocols to guide meetings. This training encourages ECTLSI graduates to become teacher leaders and share their newfound expertise. The program meets NAEYC guidelines and is a 2.5 year, 39-credit hour program. Participants are expected to take one course per term during the school year with two courses during the summer term. Cohort 1 started in summer 2011 while Cohort 2 started the summer of the following year.
In addition to the graduate program, the school-wide program examined in the cluster RCT included the following components:
The teacher fellows program allows teachers to engage in inquiry projects to investigate new types of instruction with their peers. Teachers choose aspects of student learning that they think they can improve and they research and implement strategies to improve student learning. The teachers then collect and analyze data on the strategy's effectiveness.
The program also includes a district-wide Learning Showcase where teachers present what they've learned during these yearlong projects. Teacher Fellow facilitators earn a $5500 stipend, and are trained in facilitating and supporting their fellow teachers. Teacher Fellows receive a $400 stipend and professional development credit hours.
The principal fellows program facilitates the learning of leadership skills and supporting change in principals' schools. Principals met four times a year for professional development meetings on leadership skills and were encouraged to collaborate with other principals at an annual statewide institute. The principals also participated in inquiry projects where they studied the effectiveness of new leadership and instructional practices, and presented their findings at the Learning Showcase.
The summer leadership institute supports shared leadership and data-driven decision making. Over the multiday institute, school surveys and student assessment data are analyzed to develop school action plans. In 2012-2013, an Assistant Principal Professional Learning Community was added. It was similar to the principal fellows program but targeted assistant principals. A four-course, non-degree bearing graduate program was added in 2013-2014 and Transition to Kindergarten Professional Learning communities were also added.
For the cluster RCT, the schools not assigned to the intervention were referred to as the "status-quo condition" so presumably they received no FMTI intervention and proceeded with educating students in a business-as-usual fashion. For the QED, researchers used propensity score matching to choose comparison teachers from comparison group schools. These teachers were chosen to be similar to intervention teachers on interest to participate in the program, special education teacher status, years of teaching experience, academic degrees earned, national board certification status, areas of certification, ethnicity, and classroom teaching practices they reported using.
Support for implementation
Implementation support was provided through planned programs for the teachers and the principals. In addition, the authors collected measures of implementation fidelity throughout the program. SRI conducted formative evaluations (using semi-structured interview of key informants and a review of program documents) in years 1 and 2 of the program. The partnering university (University of Florida) provided materials during the various types of meetings and institutes as well as professors-in-residence for those teachers participating in the ECTLSI program.