SWIFT Implementation Begins with Teams

A group of people sit around a conference table.

In 2013, SWIFT entered intensive partnerships with 64 schools from 16 districts in 5 states.  Implementation science and our collective past experiences told us that we needed to engage the whole system—school, district, and state education agency (SEA)—to achieve sustainable results, and told us that we need to begin with establishing collaborative teams at each level.  We also knew that the people in each local educational system had valuable knowledge and strengths upon which to build.  Our job was to prepare them to implement a transformation they envisioned for themselves—and so we began our technical assistance with TEAMS.

What makes an effective and efficient team where all members want to be there, contribute ideas, respect differences, and work together to accomplish a common goal? Structures for participation! How many of our SWIFT partner teams: school transformation, district implementation, and state leadership practice these:

  • Shared and rotating roles for team meeting participation including the meeting facilitator, note-taker, snack provider, jargon-buster, and other valued contributions?
  • An agenda that is sent out by the assigned facilitator in advance of the meeting?
  • An agenda that always begins with celebrations and ends with a summary of the agreed-upon actions and plans for the next meeting (time, date, roles)?
  • Note-taking in a way that documents key items, decisions, and follow up actions, and is not simply a list of bullet points of everything said in the meeting?
  • Minutes that are distributed within a day or two of the meeting?
  • Follow up, including materials preparation, research, and other communications by members per their assignments?
  • Discussion that respects differences, engages quiet members, and values the input of all?

The teams engaged with SWIFT implementation are focused on planning and overseeing the use of the 6 SWIFT TA practices that help schools, districts, and states, develop action plans and evaluate their impact. We ask our teams to VISION: generate a collective agreement about their vision for schools that are fully implementing the SWIFT Domains and Features, and successfully including all students. Our teams use a DATA SNAPSHOT process to look at their data on student performance and progress, implementation of SWIFT, and organizational structures that support student success through school-wide structures for all learners. Teams then PLAN PRIORITIES AND PRACTICES for development at the school, district, and state levels: as schools implement evidence-based practices, districts and states build their capacity to support equity in educational practices and outcomes for all students. As teams begin to plan forward, they identify the breadth of all possible available by MAPPING AND MATCHING RESOURCES across local, state, regional, and national arenas that will help with implementing new practices or improving upon current ones. Teams identify the personnel strengths to be developed, and the organizational structures that will support implementation of transformed practices – all with the goal of including all learners, and achieving successful student outcomes.

SWIFT technical assistance staff and their state/local partners follow protocol for facilitating this work and COACHING our local partners for fidelity to the technical assistance process. The key, however, are the TEAMS, and the ways in which they work. They are key to implementation of SWIFT and the practices that lead to improved capacity and transformation of education for all learners.

Carol Quirk, Ed.D.

I am… a wife, mother, sister, gardener, reader. I work in the field of disability and education, mostly in Maryland, and occasionally traveling for work. I love my family and friends.