The Impact of SWIFT Technical Assistance

Recently, we had an opportunity to look back at the outcomes of this technical assistance, publishing our findings in a special issue of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disability (AAIDD) journal ‘Inclusion.’  To complete this special issue, researchers culled through SWIFT data in each domain (i.e., policy, administrative leadership, family and community engagement, integrated education, and multi-tiered systems of support).

SWIFT Education Center began providing technical assistance to schools, districts, and states in providing equitable, inclusive supports to all students in 2012.  The initial funding for SWIFT, provided by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) occurred at about the same time the U.S. was celebrating the 40th anniversary of the landmark education law, P.L. 94-142, now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA).  The law was groundbreaking in that it prioritized educating students with disabilities in inclusive, general education settings, with the supplementary aids and services they need to succeed in these settings.  Since then, research overwhelming supported the effectiveness of inclusive education for students with and without disabilities (see SWIFT Shelf for a bibliography of supporting research).

Yet progress in transforming schools, which traditionally separate and segregate learners with disabilities from general education settings, to deliver inclusive support and education has been slow.  As a consequence, millions of students are taught outside of general education settings for at least part of their school day on a regular basis.  In light of these trends, SWIFT Education Center works to provide sustainable, systemic change across state, local, and school levels towards inclusive education for all students.

Recently, we had an opportunity to look back at the outcomes of this technical assistance, publishing our findings in a special issue of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disability (AAIDD) journal ‘Inclusion.’  To complete this special issue, researchers culled through SWIFT data in each domain (i.e., policy, administrative leadership, family and community engagement, integrated education, and multi-tiered systems of support).

Findings across these domains showed a positive impact of SWIFT technical assistance on all measured outcomes.  In the policy domain, Mary Schuh, Kimberly Knackstedt, Jake Cornett, Jeong Hoon Choi, Dan Pollitt, and Allyson Satter found participating states, districts, and schools made progress in implementing inclusive policy that aligns across federal, state, and local levels.  In the administrative leadership domain, Elizabeth Kozleski and Jeong Hoon Choi examined how implementation of the administrative leadership domain of SWIFT impacts leadership performance and educator support systems implementing within schools.  The family and community engagement domain was equally promising, with Judith Gross, Jeong Hoon Choi, and Grace Francis finding positive family perceptions of engagement and partnership with schools following implementation of SWIFT.

Wayne Sailor, Amy McCart, and Jeong Hoon Choi, studied the impact of a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS), and found preliminary evidence of the effectiveness of this model on student academic and behavioral outcomes, as well as the impact of SWIFT implementation on rates of inclusive education.  Similarly, I found, along with colleagues Mary Morningstar, Tyler Hicks, and Jonathan Templin, that rates of school inclusion increased over the years of implementation of the SWIFT model.

Together, the research findings present a detailed account of the many positive impacts of SWIFT implementation on students and families, and provide directions for further areas of research and support for promoting equitable inclusive school services for all students.

Photo of blog author.Jennifer Kurth is an Assistant Professor in the Special Education Department at the University of Kansas. Her research focuses on inclusive education for learners with low-incidence disabilities who have extensive and complex support needs.

Cover of FIA

Where do you even begin? Begin with SWIFT-FIA

Recently, I was having a conversation with a local school district representative about the SWIFT Education Center and the services we provide to support equity-based inclusive education. As usual, I got a little caught up in my impassioned plea about why all students should participate in and make progress in the general education curriculum. I started rambling on about the research to support inclusive educational practices and the inherent inequity of segregation for students with disabilities. Suddenly, the representative stopped me and said, I understand “why”, but I don’t know “where” to start. She asked me, “what do you do to support districts who believe in inclusive education, but aren’t there yet? Where do you even begin?”

This conversation reminded me that just believing inclusive education is the right thing to do is not enough to make it happen. State, district, and school leaders may want to, and even believe they should, implement inclusive practices but knowing where to start can seem daunting.

Implementing equity-based inclusive education is not as easy as just moving students from one placement to another. Moving students from a segregated classroom to a general education setting does not ensure students are meaningfully participating in and making progress in the general education curriculum with their peers. Too often I see students with disabilities moved from a segregated classroom just to be segregated again within a general education classroom. When a student is sitting in the back corner of a classroom with a paraeducator working on something totally unrelated to the work his or her peers are doing, then the student is not really experiencing the full benefits of inclusion. But, if moving students out of segregated settings isn’t enough, then how do school leaders know what supports need to be in place to ensure true equity-based inclusion is achieved?

The SWIFT framework helps answer this question with ten research-based features that compose the building blocks of inclusive education. SWIFT provides technical assistance and resources to guide implementation of each of the features—but even the most efficient school teams would be hard pressed to tackle all of the features at once. Therefore, schools need guidance on which components of each feature to prioritize during the transformation process.  Luckily, SWIFT has a tool for that.

The SWIFT Fidelity Integrity Assessment (SWIFT-FIA) is a self-assessment used by school leadership teams to examine their implementation of SWIFT framework features. SWIFT-FIA helps school-based teams engage in conversations about what components of each feature they currently have in place. These conversations help teams pinpoint where they are in the stages of implementation for each item. SWIFT-FIA is scored on a 0-3 scale representing these stages: 0 = laying the foundation, 1 = installing, 2 = implementing, and 3 = sustaining schoolwide implementation. To score a SWIFT-FIA, a school leadership team reviews the components of each item and reaches consensus about which elements of the item are currently in place. If the school has not started installing any components of the item, they can begin laying the foundation by discussing the degree to which the item meets the needs of their school and exploring options for implementation. If the school has action plans in place and is implementing some components of the item, they are in the installing stage of actively putting the item in place. Installing may include action items such as identifying key personnel responsible for carrying out the task. If a school has all of the item components in place and is actively working to refine and improve them, the school is in the implementing stage. When a school has all of the item components in place and is actively monitoring implementation to continuously improve practices, they are in the stage of sustaining schoolwide implementation.

By self-assessing stage of implementation across SWIFT features, school leadership teams gather valuable data to guide implementation of inclusive practices. SWIFT-FIA provides a roadmap to teams that feel overwhelmed with where to begin. The results of SWIFT-FIA can be used to identify and prioritize practices for transformation or continuous improvement, develop action plans needed to install and implement practices, and to reflect on the effects of action plans on practices. Teams may choose to use the data to identify strengths in items they are currently installing. They can then leverage their strengths to refine and improve their current practices. On the other hand, teams may choose to use the data to identify the next steps needed to install items that are priorities but not yet in place. SWIFT-FIA gives teams the information they need to guide these implementation decisions.

Even though school transformation can be complicated, my answer to the question of “where you even begin?” is simple: You begin with SWIFT-FIA.

SWIFT-FIA is available at swiftschools.org/shelf. A SWIFT-FIA tracking tool may be used to capture results and graph changes over time and is also available at swiftschools.org/shelf.

If you are interested in learning more about how SWIFT-FIA can be used by your school or district to guide implementation of equity-based MTSS, contact SWIFT at swift@ku.edu.

Photo of blog author.Allyson Satter currently works as a Project Coordinator for SWIFT. Previously, she worked as a special educator, which is where she first learned the value of equity-based inclusion.

How a SWIFT-FIT assessment benefits your school

Hi, I am Dan Pollitt and I work at SWIFT Education Center. I’d like to introduce you to a tool that can help your school and district leadership teams make well informed decisions about how they implement equity-based Multi-Tiered System of Support, or MTSS, for inclusive education.

SWIFT-FIT—which is short for SWIFT Fidelity Implementation Tool—is an assessment organized by SWIFT domains and features and composed of 58 items that are each scored as 0-1-2-3. To date, more than 100 trained assessors have conducted more than 350 of these assessments to help teams measure the degree to which they implement practices that promote equity and excellence for all students.

I am excited to announce that we are launching SWIFT-FIT Version 2.0, updated to reflect the most current research and practices in the field and applicable to PK-12 settings.

A SWIFT-FIT assessment is conducted by a trained, external assessor who visits your school during typical school hours. Throughout the day, this assessor interviews administrators, classroom teachers, school staff, district leaders, students, and family and community members. The assessor asks a range of questions about such topics as how you use Universal Design for Learning (UDL), ways teams collect and use student data, how students are included with peers, and whether family and community members are involved in school governance decisions. To award a high score on each the assessor looks for evidence of the practice implemented across the whole system, without “siloes” that limit access to general education curriculum and activities for any student subgroup.

Because SWIFT-FIT is a system-levelassessment, it measures the degree to which practices are structured, formalized, and in place throughout the school system, rather than haphazard, unstructured, or ad-hoc. Let’s use an example: Take the practice of using universal screeners to collect student data. What is a universal screener? Even if you are not an educator, you are probably familiar with universal screeners! For instance, when you visit the eye doctor, you are asked to read a chart to briefly test for poor eye sight or areas of need. Schools use universal screeners in a very similar fashion: All students are asked to complete them multiple times per year, they are relatively short and unobtrusive, and teams use academic and behavioral screening data to make more-informed instructional decisions. When conducting a SWIFT-FIT assessment, the assessor is looking for evidence that the school has the system-level practice of using universal screeners to collect student data and make decisions about which students may need additional or intensified support. Thanks to this system-level approach, the tool is not measuring one individual classroom teacher or one individual administrator, but instead measuring the whole system.

How can assessments help your school and district leadership teams? A baseline assessment can provide a sense of your “current reality” from an independent perspective. This perspective can be used in important conversations about what steps your school and district might take be more equitable and support all students. As your teams make decisions about the advances they plan to make, subsequent assessments are helpful for tracking progress at an item-by-item level. This objective measure can be used in communicating with school boards or other governance bodies, family and community members, and with school educators and staff.

If your team is considering adopting the SWIFT framework for equitable and excellent teaching and learning for all students, I recommend you consider scheduling a SWIFT-FIT assessment with one of our trained assessors as a way to measure your school’s current reality and progress toward your goal for equity and excellence for all your students. Contact us at swift@ku.edu.

 

Photo of blog author.Dan Pollitt is a research project manager at the SWIFT Education Center and oversees the training and implementation of SWIFT-FIT and SWIFT-FIA fidelity tools. He is a former elementary and middle school classroom teacher and as an adjunct graduate faculty in the Department of Special Education at the University of Kansas, teaches undergraduate and graduate students. He can be reached @danpollittphd on Twitter.

Harnessing Rural Strengths for Schoolwide Transformation

This self-proclaimed City Girl has always preferred to live and work in areas filled with people.  My first teaching job was on a team in an elementary school that had eight sections of first grade, each with 26 or more students. Yes, we were big.  And I liked it that way.

My first assignment with SWIFT was Local Education Agency (LEA) Facilitator in Oregon.  In this role, I had the opportunity to facilitate the implementation of SWIFT in one of the center’s largest urban districts (Portland) and three rural districts (Pendleton, Redmond, and Sisters).  I was thrilled with my new position, but was haunted by the thought of facilitating SWIFT in three RURAL districts.  This was new territory for me and I wondered what all city dwellers wonder: How do rural schools face the same complex challenges as urban schools and solve them with so few resources?

What I learned is that “small town charm” isn’t just a cute saying; it is the foundation of rural livelihood.  Small town folks do whatever they have to do to ensure the families in their community, some of whom they have known for generations, have what they need to succeed.  And they are extremely creative in the process. Principals sometime serve as bus drivers.  School buses sometimes double as community mobile hot spots.  Gymnasiums are sometimes the primary community gathering place.

The most important lesson I learned is that rural schools really aren’t too different from urban schools.  They want facilitators to spend time discovering the unique strengths of their context and then harness those strengths to help them improve their educational practice. The beauty of SWIFT implementation is that it is designed to honor the unique characteristics of every context – large or small.   I encourage you, schools and districts in even the most rural settings, to consider how the SWIFT transformation practices can be modified to honor the values, traditions, and charms of YOUR setting.  Here are some examples to get you started:

  • Transformation Teaming – It is likely you have a small staff.  Create a leadership team that reflects your staff, even if it only has a few members.  For example, a single-school district might choose to combine district and school leadership to create one cohesive leadership team.  SWIFT has a set of Transformation Teaming tools to help you define your team’s purpose, ensure strong communication structures, and record your efforts.
  • Visioning – This practice is just as critical in your smaller school setting.  Many rural school districts report the importance of involving the community at large in determining a future vision. Involving community members builds unity and can uncover untapped resources.
  • Data Snapshots – Data-based decision-making is important in every school, no matter the size.  SWIFT district and school Data Snapshots may need to be modified or combined to fit your smaller setting.  If you have a single-school district and only one leadership team, use the school Data Snapshot and consider how district level resources and personnel can support efforts at the school level.
  • Priority & Practice Planning – We recommend schools and districts focus their attention on two or three priority areas.  However, just one priority area at a time might be appropriate for your rural setting.  The goal is to commit to realistic priorities and set reasonable action steps to ensure progress.
  • Resource Mapping and Matching – Resources are often thin in rural settings.  However, rural communities have a unique way of pulling together and getting creative to ensure their kids have what they need.  SWIFT Resource Inventory Form will help you think about all of the current facility and personnel resources you have and how they can be reallocated to match your future vision.  Think outside the box.  Are there community members who can help fill a need?  Can older students support younger students?
  • Coaching & Facilitation – Small staffs can make forming an ongoing coaching plan especially challenging.  Ask yourself, are there other rural districts in your area that would be interested in partnering to allow your teachers to discuss their practice or create a professional book club?  If meeting in person is not possible, perhaps staff members can connect virtually, over the phone, or via social media.

-Jessica Meisenheimer

Headshot of blog author.Jessica Meisenheimer, Ph.D. has worn many hats in her years as an educator … teaching first grade students to graduate students … working in urban to suburban settings … instructing as a general and special educator. Jessica’s current work as a Research Project Coordinator for the Schoolwide Integrated Framework for Transformation (SWIFT) Center applies her knowledge and experience for the benefit of diverse students across the U.S. She is passionate about finding ways to better serve all students by implementing inclusive school reform, examining educational policy, and utilizing multi-tiered systems of support.

Maryland State Spotlight – Queen Anne’s County on the Cutting Edge of Cultural Competence

Queen Anne’s County Public Schools takes an active approach to equity through Cultural Competence. The county’s geographic landscape naturally creates three distinct communities that segregate populations, resulting in inequities. Some families in the school district felt their students’ needs were not being addressed and adequate supports were not in place.

To address the geographic barriers and family concerns, they created a Cultural Competence focus group with school, district, family, and community membership. In addition, the four SWIFT partner schools spread across the three communities identified cultural proficiency as a priority for action planning.  As a result, the district instituted several best practice initiatives as part of a countywide five-year plan focused on equity.

First, district leaders, in partnership with a consulting group, provided cultural proficiency training to top-level administrators. Training included identifying levels of cultural competence and the impact of bias on instruction and student behavior.

Next, each school administrator identified two staff members to serve as Equity Facilitators who would become members of a larger district cadre. The Equity Facilitators (teachers and guidance counselors) completed a series of trainings that set them up as Trainer of Trainers; this model was the most efficient for ensuring that every staff member and every team at every school received the cultural proficiency training.

The consultants, through positive, motivational, and highly engaging strategies, led the cadre through examinations of district-level, school-level, and personal explicit and implicit biases. Conversations were not always easy, but once trust within the group was established, everyone could open up to honesty, truths, and below-the-surface perceptions.

The State SWIFT Implementation Team provided a small grant to help fund the training.

The SWIFT SEA Coordinator and LEA Facilitator were invited to participate in several trainings. Brad Engel, the District’s Supervisor of Student Support Services, took the lead on the cultural competency work. “Much success has been noted as a result of the training,” he said. “The consultants have been able to impact the work in positive ways.”

He went on to share expectations for the upcoming school year:

Equity Facilitators will continue training all staff. They will ensure that Multicultural Education is in every piece of instruction, every day, and in every school. Implementation of Multicultural Education will be a component of teacher observations and evaluations. Supervisors and principals will take note of the dynamics, student grouping patterns, and climate within each class.

QACPS classrooms will have equitable learning for every child. The district will continue to look at subgroup graduation rates in order to use resources and supports that will increase the number of graduates, particularly African American males and students with IEPs. The district will also examine data for the students in Honors, Advanced Placement, and Gifted and Talented classes to ensure that all reflect the total student population. Professional development will be designed for instruction that provides rigor for all subgroups.

School leaders will identify and address suspension disproportionality.  Summer training will focus on implicit bias and school bias, training principals to make equity-based decisions. Leaders will assess district-wide discipline practices to eliminate bias when addressing all students.

Staffing needs to represent the students and community. The district actively recruits from historically black colleges however, the location of the district on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, seems to be a deterrent.  There is a true desire to create a more diverse district so relationships with universities and colleges continue.

“The biggest impact for me was learning about white privilege,” Engel said. “I’ve lived my whole life and never had an understanding that my skin color was an advantage.  Nobody bothers me no matter where I go and I can walk through most neighborhoods.  That understanding is important because there are many people who don’t have those same opportunities. Skin color could mean being followed. I have a friend who says he keeps his teacher badge in the rearview mirror in case he gets pulled over— the Eastern shore is a little behind. White privilege is a great place to start. Black teachers understood right away, but now I do. It’s personal transformation and many people that I‘ve talked to have experienced the same thing. When you understand white privilege, it gives the whole picture of why training is essential.”

Queen Anne’s County is indeed on the cutting edge of embracing cultural competency through training, focus groups, and hard conversations at every level. Equity Facilitators agree:

It was eye-opening and life-changing.

In today’s times, there needs to be more awareness of other cultures. We need to move from cultural blindness to cultural competency.

We hope we will serve as a resource on the journey to cultural proficiency and a safe person to discuss any concerns, questions, or issues related to culture in our school.

The Cultural Proficiency training has been one of the best professional development sessions I have participated in during my career. I have shared with many people that the sessions are not only greatprofessional development, but also personal development. The sessions have taught me to be reflective about my own biases and how to ask questions that stretch and open my mind (and hopefully stretch and open the minds of those around me!)

The expectation is that we will continue to stretch the minds of our staff by sharing concepts and strategies that we learned from the trainings we attended.

Expect to be pushed outside your comfort zone and allow yourself to be disturbed. You will grow as an educator, a co-worker, and a friend.

– Linda Rohrbaugh and Monique Green

 

Photo of blog post author.Monique Green earned her doctorate in special education from the Johns Hopkins University School of Education. Dr. Green is currently certified in Administration and Supervision, Special Education, and Early Childhood Regular and Special Education in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia. Over the course of 17 years she has assumed numerous roles in the education field such as: Special Education Chairperson/ Teacher, Instructional Coach, Teacher Mentor, Professional Development Trainer, Fellow Advisor/Curriculum Specialist, and most recently Specialized Instruction Specialist. Dr. Green has been highlighted as a feature teacher in Pearson’s foundational textbook, Special Education for Today’s Teachers. She has written a guest editorial for the NASET Special Education e-Journal and helped to develop relevant special education components for the Teaching for Student Achievement Training Curriculum, which was used by the DC Teaching Fellows program to develop novice special education teachers. Dr. Green has received numerous accolades and fellowships. Currently she is a member of Pi Lambda Theta International Honor Society and as an international travel scholarship recipient, Dr. Green, traveled to Ireland, Wales, and England where she observed the implementation of K-12 special education services and visited teacher preparation programs.

Blue and white bulletin board with "drop some kindness" message and a bucket.

New Hampshire State Spotlight

There’s a lot to be said for putting one foot in front of the other every day, unwavering in focus and commitment. Madison Elementary School has done just that throughout its partnership with SWIFT Center. In spite of its small size—fewer than 135 students, grades K–6—the school initiated, embraced, and mastered the use of Distributed Leadership to drive their continuous improvement cycle.

Madison Elementary School is part of School Administrative Unit 13, nestled in the White Mountain Region of New Hampshire and home to the largest free-standing boulder in NH (everyone is famous for something, aren’t they?). Madison faculty review and prioritize their Vision Statements every year. They stay true to a Distributed Leadership model by being flexible, embracing change as needed to support their processes, and working to ensure clear communication among all stakeholders.

This year, the leadership team restructured its membership in order to ensure clear and frequent communication within the building and common understanding of their Continuous Improvement Cycle. Each grade level sends a different faculty member every month to attend leadership team meetings with the Principal, Title I Coordinator, and special education teachers. Faculty members share information from these meetings with their grade level teams. This new process ensures that every faculty member has face-to-face time with the Principal and other school leaders, and that every voice in the school is heard.

It has been a pleasure to watch the process of continuous improvement at Madison Elementary School over the past few years. The leadership team keeps an eagle-eye focus on MTSS. This year they are evaluating data to inform their current PBIS practices and using stage- and driver-based action plans to implement appropriate supports. The team also prioritizes implementation of appropriate interventions for their students at the Tier Two level in reading and mathematics, and continues to develop knowledge and application of UDL practices schoolwide.

Madison Elementary School exemplifies a “can-do” attitude.  They maintain a clear focus, use data to inform and prioritize the implementation of evidence-informed practices, and ensure that all faculty are up-to-date and engaged in the day-to-day work of continuous improvement. Madison Elementary School is forging the way to positive outcomes for all students!

-Maura Hart

Photo of author blog.I began working in Education as a middle and high school English teacher, during which time I earned my Master’s of Education Degree with Antioch University New England and began adjunct teaching for them. While I LOVED teaching in the public schools and working with my students, my life path took me on a different course. During the time when I had two babies and stayed home with them, I went to UMass to get my Ph.D. (it seemed like a good idea at the time…) This work brought me to consulting with schools and districts as a team facilitator and teacher trainer and coach. My experience with a district in Vermont introduced me to the SWIFT Center where I now work with amazingly talented and passionate educators who are committed to including all children in all classrooms.

State Spotlight Vermont

The Leadership Team and Administration at Oak Grove Elementary School in Windham Southeast Supervisory Union in Brattleboro, Vermont uses SWIFT tools and processes to identify priority areas and evidence-based practices to meet the needs of all students in their building, helping each child reach his or her potential.

The Leadership Team collected and reviewed data about their students, school, district, and community to identify current strengths and prioritize areas where they wanted to focus their continuous improvement work. The team identified an abundance of strengths: an effective Universal Behavior Management System, a strong relationship with their LEA, strong ties with families and the community, an effective Instructional Coaching system, and a team and colleagues they call “collaborative and working to support all students with integrity.” They will be successful when they apply these strengths to the evidence-based practice they chose to prioritize as their next area for improvement: implementation of UDL in their school and classrooms!

After the team finished Data Snapshots, they moved on to using the Priority & Practice Planning tools. The Leadership Team learned about and employed stage- and driver-based action planning with enthusiasm and integrity.  They asked good questions and included all team members in planning for improving the implementation drivers of best practice: competency, organization, and leadership.  Using such embedded strengths as their Instructional Coaching supports and close work with their LEA, they will implement UDL with professional development, coaching, and effective internal and external communication practices. These strengths will support faculty and staff as they embrace all children in the general education curriculum and ensure that families and community members are informed and supported in their relationships with the school.

Oak Grove Elementary School exemplifies a community working smartly and diligently to serve all children—a true learning collaborative that embraces continuous improvement with integrity and honor!

-Maura Hart

Photo of author blog.I began working in Education as a middle and high school English teacher, during which time I earned my Master’s of Education Degree with Antioch University New England and began adjunct teaching for them. While I LOVED teaching in the public schools and working with my students, my life path took me on a different course. During the time when I had two babies and stayed home with them, I went to UMass to get my Ph.D. (it seemed like a good idea at the time…) This work brought me to consulting with schools and districts as a team facilitator and teacher trainer and coach. My experience with a district in Vermont introduced me to the SWIFT Center where I now work with amazingly talented and passionate educators who are committed to including all children in all classrooms.

Scaling Up in the Granite State: New Hampshire Focuses on Family and Community Engagement

From eight original SWIFT schools to more than 20 working to implement SWIFT Domains and Features, New Hampshire is proudly promoting and implementing All Means All.

Sue Swenson, the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation (OSERS) at the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) recently visited the Granite State.  Swenson met with parent leaders; University of New Hampshire students and LEND (Leaders in Education and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities) trainees; the Commissioner of Education, Virginia Barry, and NHDOE staff; leaders of parent organizations; and Dr. Wayne Sailor and SWIFT partner school educators.  She also toured SWIFT partner Pittsfield School District and recorded a podcast for SWIFT, which you can listen to here.

Sue was generous with her wisdom and her time as she shared stories of her personal journey from a mother promoting inclusion for her son, Charlie, to her current role guiding special education policy for the USDOE.

A major theme of her visit was the importance of parent and community engagement.

“One of the things I love about the SWIFT process is having an evidence-based structure of Domains and Features and a real thoughtful way to help parents gently learn that they need to speak up,” she said.  “Engagement is the key to everything. “

Consistent with SWIFT, the USDOE reports that states are increasingly employing family engagement strategies as a tool to promote educational equity and support growing populations of diverse students.  Backed up by research, SWIFT teaches that trusting family partnerships contribute to positive student outcomes when family members and school staff have respectful, mutually beneficial relationships with shared responsibility for student learning; family members have options for meaningful involvement in their children’s education and in the life of the school; and the school responds to family interests and involvement in a culturally responsive manner.

SWIFT partner schools in New Hampshire are striving to increase and promote family engagement. During the recent forum sponsored by the NHDOE on the topic of family and community engagement, Assistant Secretary Swenson and school and district leaders listed examples and set goals for next steps for increasing the role of parents and community members in all aspects of their schoolwide transformation efforts.  Some examples are described below:

  • A school hired a community member to be a liaison between the school, families, and the community.
  • A school building houses the town recreation department, granting all students easier access to community recreation activities.
  • Parents serve on SWIFT school and districtwide leadership teams and school boards, and contribute to educational policy, such as by providing guidance on NH’s adoption of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
  • A school shifted the role of the PTO box top fundraising to a parent advisory group to engage parents in decision making and advising on school policy and related topics.
  • Schools are surveying families to learn their skills and interests and how those strengths can support school communities.

As you share your own experiences creating trusting family partnerships and engaging families and community members in the schoolwide transformation effort, keep Assistant Secretary Swenson’s words in mind:

“SWIFT is a beacon of hope for schools.  SWIFT is helping schools and families realize that our schools are better for all kids when all kids are included.  It’s just better for everybody.  We are going to turn a corner and reach a tipping point, and all of a sudden schools are going to realize that the secret to improving performance is inclusion.”

-Maura Hart

Photo of author blog.I began working in Education as a middle and high school English teacher, during which time I earned my Master’s of Education Degree with Antioch University New England and began adjunct teaching for them. While I LOVED teaching in the public schools and working with my students, my life path took me on a different course. During the time when I had two babies and stayed home with them, I went to UMass to get my Ph.D. (it seemed like a good idea at the time…) This work brought me to consulting with schools and districts as a team facilitator and teacher trainer and coach. My experience with a district in Vermont introduced me to the SWIFT Center where I now work with amazingly talented and passionate educators who are committed to including all children in all classrooms.

SWIFT Implementation Gains: Supporting Teachers First

As SWIFT Center’s New Hampshire and Vermont LEA Facilitator, I am often asked, by non-educators and educators alike, what I do.  I reply with some version of the following: “I help create systems, structures, and frameworks that support the work of the classroom teacher so that he/she can help every child learn to his/her greatest capability.”

Recently, at the SWIFT National Leadership Collaborative meeting in Kansas City, I learned that two of the SWIFT Framework domains—Administrative Leadership and Inclusive Policy Structure & Practice—had the most implementation gains during our three years of partnership with 64 schools.  In SWIFT schools, strong and actively engaged administrative leaders are committed to improving teaching and learning within a system that empowers educators and school personnel.  Inclusive policy structure and practice includes a supportive, reciprocal partnership between the school and its district or local educational agency.  As I interpret these gains in equity-based inclusive education, our partner schools are increasingly supporting their teachers “from the outside in” and “from the inside out!”

In order for teachers to consistently use evidence-based classroom practices with fidelity in ways that allow all students to learn and enjoy learning in their community classrooms and schools, administrative leaders at the school, district, and state levels must show teachers that their work is valued and supported.

Administrative Leadership gives teachers the opportunity to share their expertise and contribute to meaningful decisions through distributive leadership structures placed in the school and district.  Inclusive policies and practices empower teachers to talk about the barriers to their work in the classroom with certain knowledge that they will not only be heard, but that their concerns will be addressed in a timely manner.  Teachers can also be confident that when they share what has worked for them, their experiences will be used in ways that expand evidence-based practice in their schools, districts, and states.

SWIFT partners have worked diligently to foster school cultures that honor the strength, commitment, and knowledge base of teachers.  SWIFT implementation teams bring these problem-solvers and “can-doers” into the action and provide a role and a voice for their invaluable perspective.  Through an initial focus on Administrative Leadership and Inclusive Policy Structure & Practice, SWIFT schools support teachers, which set up the conditions for all students to learn and grow in their community classrooms and schools through a Multi-Tiered System of Support with an Integrated Educational Framework in Partnership with Families & Communities.

-Maura Hart

Photo of author blog.I began working in Education as a middle and high school English teacher, during which time I earned my Master’s of Education Degree with Antioch University New England and began adjunct teaching for them. While I LOVED teaching in the public schools and working with my students, my life path took me on a different course. During the time when I had two babies and stayed home with them, I went to UMass to get my Ph.D. (it seemed like a good idea at the time…) This work brought me to consulting with schools and districts as a team facilitator and teacher trainer and coach. My experience with a district in Vermont introduced me to the SWIFT Center where I now work with amazingly talented and passionate educators who are committed to including all children in all classrooms.

SWIFT Implementation Gains: Supporting Teachers First

As SWIFT Center’s New Hampshire and Vermont LEA Facilitator, I am often asked, by non-educators and educators alike, what I do.  I reply with some version of the following: “I help create systems, structures, and frameworks that support the work of the classroom teacher so that he/she can help every child learn to his/her greatest capability.”

Recently, at the SWIFT National Leadership Collaborative meeting in Kansas City, I learned that two of the SWIFT Framework domains—Administrative Leadership and Inclusive Policy Structure & Practice—had the most implementation gains during our three years of partnership with 64 schools.  In SWIFT schools, strong and actively engaged administrative leaders are committed to improving teaching and learning within a system that empowers educators and school personnel.  Inclusive policy structure and practice includes a supportive, reciprocal partnership between the school and its district or local educational agency.  As I interpret these gains in equity-based inclusive education, our partner schools are increasingly supporting their teachers “from the outside in” and “from the inside out!”

In order for teachers to consistently use evidence-based classroom practices with fidelity in ways that allow all students to learn and enjoy learning in their community classrooms and schools, administrative leaders at the school, district, and state levels must show teachers that their work is valued and supported.

Administrative Leadership gives teachers the opportunity to share their expertise and contribute to meaningful decisions through distributive leadership structures placed in the school and district.  Inclusive policies and practices empower teachers to talk about the barriers to their work in the classroom with certain knowledge that they will not only be heard, but that their concerns will be addressed in a timely manner.  Teachers can also be confident that when they share what has worked for them, their experiences will be used in ways that expand evidence-based practice in their schools, districts, and states.

SWIFT partners have worked diligently to foster school cultures that honor the strength, commitment, and knowledge base of teachers.  SWIFT implementation teams bring these problem-solvers and “can-doers” into the action and provide a role and a voice for their invaluable perspective.  Through an initial focus on Administrative Leadership and Inclusive Policy Structure & Practice, SWIFT schools support teachers, which set up the conditions for all students to learn and grow in their community classrooms and schools through a Multi-Tiered System of Support with an Integrated Educational Framework in Partnership with Families & Communities.

-Maura Hart

Photo of author blog.I began working in Education as a middle and high school English teacher, during which time I earned my Master’s of Education Degree with Antioch University New England and began adjunct teaching for them. While I LOVED teaching in the public schools and working with my students, my life path took me on a different course. During the time when I had two babies and stayed home with them, I went to UMass to get my Ph.D. (it seemed like a good idea at the time…) This work brought me to consulting with schools and districts as a team facilitator and teacher trainer and coach. My experience with a district in Vermont introduced me to the SWIFT Center where I now work with amazingly talented and passionate educators who are committed to including all children in all classrooms.