Lastinger Center featured in booklet on UF’s impact in Miami-Dade

UF’s Lastinger Center for Learning, the College of Education’s statewide teaching- and school-improvement program, is featured in the South Florida edition of “UF in Your Neighborhood,” a new booklet produced by the University of Florida Foundation.

The foundation recently published several different regional versions of the booklet to highlight how UF’s teaching, research and service impact the lives of UF alumni and all residents in major markets throughout Florida and the Southeast.

The South Florida edition, covering Miami-Dade County, leads off with “Promise of a Brighter Future,” a full-page overview describing how “improving teacher practice and student achievement is at the heart  of (the Lastinger Center’s) newly expanded program in Miami-Dade County.”

Following the Lastinger Center piece, under a headline of “Education Champion,” the booklet offers a mini-profile of UF alum David Lawrence Jr., former publisher of The Miami Herald and a leading advocate of early childhood education at UF, in Miami-Dade and across the nation.

Here are brief summaries of how the college’s  Lastinger Center for Learning and UF early-learning advocate Lawrence are impacting the Miami-Dade County communities . . .

— Ready Schools Florida program
The Lastinger Center has partnered with Miami-Dade Schools and The Early Child Initiative Foundation since 2006 on an ambitious effort to give young children the best chance to succeed in school and beyond. It’s called Ready Schools Florida. Supported by a $10 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the program promotes early learning and child well-being from birth through elementary school. It’s an all-out effort to prepare all pre-schoolers for success by the time they enter the classroom.

Master Teacher Initiative
Improving teacher practice and student achievement is at the heart of another innovative Gator program. UF’s Lastinger Center last year was awarded a $6-million federal innovation grant to expand its award-winning Master Teacher Initiative to some of Miami-Dade’s most vulnerable schools. The initiative allows early-learning teachers at 20 schools to pursue a new graduate degree track in early childhood education and teacher leadership while remaining on-the-job and at virtually no cost to them. UF campus-based professors provide the online instruction while professors-in-residence based at the district provide on-site instruction and first-hand observation. More than 1,200 teachers and 30,000 of Miami-Dade’s youngest school children are the beneficiaries of the three-year effort.


EDUCATION CHAMPION: David Lawrence Jr., UF alum and early-learning supporter
UF alumnus David Lawrence Jr. needs little introduction to Miami-Dade citizens and education supporters. The 1963 College of Journalism graduate is the former publisher of The Miami Herald and he left the newspaper in 1999 to become an advocate for early childhood education. Lawrence is president of the Early Childhood Initiative Foundation in Miami, and the David Lawrence Jr. K-8 Center public school in Miami is named in his honor. UF’s College of Education also has a $1.5 million endowed professorship in early childhood studies named in his honor. Lawrence joined the UF faculty in 2001 as the University Scholar for Early Childhood Development and Readiness and he is a Lastinger Center visiting scholar and board member. Lawrence was instrumental in forging the UF-Miami/Dade partnerships in the Ready Schools and Master Teacher initiatives.


SOURCE: Don Pemberton, director, UF Lastinger Center for Learning, dpemberton@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4103

WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news & communications, UF College of Education, llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137