Step by Step with SWIFT in Maryland

In the fall of 2013, Matapeake Elementary School (MES) in Stevensville, MD was asked to participate in a Schoolwide Integrated Framework for Transformation, otherwise known as becoming a “SWIFT school.”

Our transformation began by training a core team about ALL Means ALL.  Our team consisted of an administrator, teacher specialist, reading specialist, and a classroom teacher.  We were asked to develop a mission and vision statement for our school, and completed the Fidelity Integrity Assessment (FIA) where we self-assessed our school based on SWIFT’s Core Features.  In order to gather input from all stakeholders, we used our School Improvement Team (made up of grade level representatives, special educators, paraeducators, the Instructional Leadership team, and parent representatives) to analyze and come to a consensus on how to score MES using each of the Core Features.  In order to keep all staff informed about the process and make them aware of both our strengths and opportunities to improve, the results were reported back to all grade level educators.

We began to see how the SWIFT structure was valuable in guiding our discussions as a School Improvement Team (SIT).  We made the decision to rename our team SWIFT to merge our SIT with the SWIFT team.  During this process, we analyzed the resources in our school by looking at the building, personnel, and materials that we currently had.  We examined our Academic and Behavioral Interventions and looked at where they fell within the Tier I, II, or III systems outlined in Response to Intervention (RTI) and Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS).  We examined our parent and community involvement and evaluated whether we had quality programs for these stakeholders.  We recognized that, as we looked at improving our school, it was important to focus on all facets of the school and not just on our test scores and behavior data.

Our SWIFT Coach, Linda Rorabaugh, spent the day at our school observing and interviewing key stakeholders as she rated our strengths in each of the 10 Core Features by completing the Fidelity of Implementation Tool (FIT).  She talked to teachers; students; administrative, janitorial, and cafeteria staff; parents and community leaders; district officials; and our school’s leadership team. A report was sent to the school with results citing the strengths in each area and then graphing the results using a percentage score to show where the school was assessed in each area. Through our self-evaluation and the FIT data, our school team developed a data snapshot that helped us to identify our strengths and opportunities, and then set goals.

We received, shared, and discussed our scores indicating that we had strengths and opportunities in all areas; but most specifically, we had opportunities in the Domain area of Integrated Education. This Domain addresses opportunities for collaboration and co-teaching, and makes sure all students have full access to participate in all school and extracurricular activities.

In examining our Multi-Tiered Systems of Support, we discovered that we have opportunities to increase the type of math interventions that we offer, as well as increasing interventions at the Tier II and Tier III levels with behavior interventions.

Even though we had over 300 trained volunteers in our school, our Family and Community Engagement needed attention. We recognized that we had a lot of parent volunteers, but we were lacking representation from our families on many committees and decision-making teams within the school.  As we go forward, we have set a goal to increase parent involvement on these decision-making committees.

Administrative Leadership was one of our school’s strengths, but we discovered we were not using resources that were within our building to provide staff development and training.  We set a goal to increase opportunities for teacher leadership.

In looking at our Inclusive Academic and Behavior Instruction, we realized we have the opportunity to increase collaboration and co-teaching in inclusive classrooms and we set a goal to provide staff development in this area.  We also recognized that we had a lot of interventions for behavior in the Tier I area, but we were lacking in Tier II and III.

Through the SWIFT process, we realize that it is not enough to evaluate how our school is performing based on test scores, but that it is vital to focus on all facets of our school to get a clear picture of our strengths and opportunities.  Even though the focus of SWIFT is about sustaining new practices in schools for all students—including those with disabilities and extensive needs—understanding the school culture and how it functions was vital before we could set these goals for our school.

At the end of this school year, we had the staff vote on whether to continue to move forward with the SWIFT process.  In grade level team meetings, the FIT and FIA were discussed and examined, and questions were answered by members of our SWIFT team.  An outside online voting company was used and we were pleased that 97% of our staff felt that SWIFT would continue to be beneficial in helping our school improve and be the best it can be.  After seeing the opportunities that SWIFT could bring to our school, the staff were more willing to buy into SWIFT.  They did not view SWIFT as just another initiative that they were going to have to be involved in and an additional thing that they had to do.

Throughout this process, we met with our district team and SWIFT Coach and we brainstormed about how they could help us accomplish our goals and also how the SWIFT Center could support the school.  Three staff members at the school had an opportunity to attend a training on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) at Towson University.  In this time of budget constraints, it was exciting for the staff to have the opportunity to attend a conference and be paid for their time.

MES is a PBIS school and SWIFT can also provide many resources to help sustain this very important initiative that helps to create a positive school climate, as well as a focus on positive, rather than negative, behaviors.  We recently were able to train staff on Tier I, II, and III behavioral interventions and we analyzed what type of interventions we are currently using and where we need to make revisions.

We look forward to utilizing SWIFT Domains and Features in writing our action plan and outlining the steps we need to take to enhance the features in which we already see success at MES and undertake new opportunities to reflect the philosophy of All Means All!

– Carol Kamp

Carol Kamp is currently the Principal at Matapeake Elementary School in Stevensville, Maryland, which is in Queen Anne’s County.