The Institute for Instructional Research and Practice (IIRP) was created in statute by the Florida Legislature in 1984 with the mandate of establishing an examination program to award merit pay for Florida teachers through the Meritorious Teacher Pay Program. The Institute, initially housed at both USF and the University of Florida, was given the mission of researching, developing, and validating instruments for measuring teachers’ subject-area knowledge and effectiveness. USF was responsible for the development of four teacher merit pay examinations, and the University of Florida was responsible for administering and scoring the examinations. The programs also included the Florida Performance Measurement System used in the Beginning Teachers Program. The initial sole-source contract to USF was for $850,000, which is the equivalent of nearly twice that amount today.
When the Meritorious Teacher Pay Program was repealed by the Florida Legislature in 1987, the Florida Department of Education awarded the IIRP a sole-source contract to develop the Florida Teacher Certification Examinations and the Florida Educational Leadership Examination. The state of Florida continued to award sole-source development contracts to the IIRP until the year 2000, when it issued a competitive request for proposals for the full scope of activities in the examination programs. The IIRP bid successfully and was awarded the initial contract, followed by subsequent contracts and expansions effective through January 31, 2008 which total to approximately $40 million. In 2007, the IIRP began an overlapping project to continue a massive scope of work on these programs for years to come.
Through time, the IIRP’s services expanded significantly to credentialing programs in other fields. The Florida Department of Insurance awarded the IIRP contracts to develop examinations for insurance industry professionals, which led to contracts for a number of state licensing examinations with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, condominium associations, food handlers, assisted living facilities, clinical laboratory personnel, and foreign medical professionals.
Dr. Carolyn Lavely was appointed by the Florida Legislature as the initial director of the IIRP in 1984, and she continued in that role until her retirement in 2004. Dr. Neal Berger was hired to serve as a deputy director in 1985, and Dr. Joe Blackman was also hired as a deputy director in 1988. Dr. Blackman retired in 1997, and Dr. Berger passed away in 2005. Dr. Lavely returned to served briefly until Mr. Walter Chason was appointed as the acting director early in 2006. In October 2006, Dr. JoEllen Carlson became the director of IIRP. Interestingly, Dr. Carlson is a three-time USF graduate who left Florida for 20 years to work in industry and education around the country, then returned to help lead the IIRP team develop a new vision and move forward to the next level of service to education.