SRI examined the initiative’s impact on improving academic outcomes for more than 10,000 high-need children.
SRI conducted an independent evaluation of the Florida Master Teacher Initiative, which supported the development of master teachers through a job-embedded master’s degree program with an early-childhood education specialization. Supported by a U.S. Department of Education Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund development grant, the initiative’s partners included Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the University of Florida, and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. The initiative also created community and shared leadership through the Teacher Fellows program, and encouraged the use of effective administration and leadership strategies through the Principal Fellows program. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of the Florida Master Teacher Initiative (FMTI)—an i3-funded early learning program aimed at improving the quality of teaching and student outcomes in grades preK through third grade in high need schools.
The impact evaluation had two primary goals: (1) to assess the school-level impact of FMTI on teachers and students; and (2) to assess the impact of FMTI on teachers enrolled in the job-embedded early childhood graduate degree program and their students. To achieve the first goal, the evaluation used a cluster random assignment design, in which 40 Miami-Dade County Title I public elementary schools were randomly assigned to the FMTI program or a status-quo control condition. To achieve the second goal, the evaluation used an embedded quasi-experimental design using propensity score matching and difference-in-differences approaches. SRI administered schoolwide surveys in both intervention and control schools; conducted classroom observations of job-embedded graduate program teachers and a matched comparison group using the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS); and gathered student reading and math achievement data on children in kindergarten through fifth grade who were at the 40 study schools at the time of random assignment for a total of more than 10,000 students in the FMTI schools and a similar number of students in the control schools.
The study did not find school-level impacts on student achievement or on the majority of outcomes measured through the teacher survey. Analysis of the impact of the job-embedded graduate degree program found a positive difference of 1.7 points for participating teachers in the instructional quality domain of the CLASS compared to matched comparison teachers. The evaluation also found positive and statistically significant results for the graduate program teachers compared to comparison teachers on the teacher survey in the areas of engagement in leadership activities, engagement in governance activities, engagement in outreach activities, self-reported early childhood knowledge, and self-reported general instructional knowledge. No significant differences in math or reading achievement were found for students of the graduate program teachers compared to students of a matched sample of teachers in control schools. FMTI treatment schools that achieved medium or high fidelity of implementation across the three years experienced more positive outcomes.
In addition to providing information about program impact, the evaluation illuminated lessons about how to effectively provide job-embedded professional development to support teacher quality improvement.