Excellence. Equity. And All Means All.
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Issue 9, April 2014

SWIFT in Mississippi

"Feels Like Coming Home"


When asked what they consider to be the greatest assets in their schools, Mississippi district and school leaders almost always respond that it is the dedicated teachers and staff who are instrumental to student success. Their welcoming attitudes and smiling faces are evident in classrooms, hallways, and other school spaces. These schools and teachers are making great strides to increase student achievement and develop school cultures that use innovative practices to support all students. They have adopted the philosophy that ”All Means All” and are beginning to put an end to separate programs for students with IEPs. Several of the Mississippi SWIFT schools support students with various disabilities within general education classrooms for most of the day. 

Lockard Elementary School in Indianola, MS is working hard to eliminate self-contained programming. After attending the summer Professional Learning Institute, Lockard (500+ students, Pre-K-2nd) decided they would include virtually all of their students with IEPs in general education classrooms. Lockard has already eliminated self-contained and pullout services for 24 students with IEPs. All of these students are now in general education classrooms for the majority of their day with the support of a general education and special education teacher in each classroom. These teachers enhanced their use of co-teaching to support students who were previously supported in a separate classroom, and report greater success for students with and without disabilities within these classrooms. As a result of their continuing efforts to support student success, Lockard Elementary School was awarded the Mississippi Governor’s 2014 Partnership Excellence Award.

In the Sunflower District, Ruleville Central Elementary has a mission to provide “rigorous and relevant educational experiences daily that will enable students to develop positive social, emotional, and intellectual relationships and compete with students at premier institutions locally, nationally, and globally.”  This SWIFT school established an effective leadership team that consistently works to develop practices that will lead to student success. Through participation in SWIFT, Ruleville Elementary reviewed their academic data and saw an opportunity to concentrate their efforts on developing reading skills.  

These new efforts include:

  • Creating protected time in the schedule so that literacy instruction occurs daily from 7:45 AM-9:15 AM
  • Involving all school staff so two adults are in every classroom to provide literacy instruction
  • Providing additional Tier 2 and Tier 3 instruction at the end of the day in smaller groups with highly qualified teachers for students currently performing in the lowest 25% of the school
  • Communicating with families about changes designed to enhance success in literacy and the importance of children arriving ready to learn by the start of the literacy block.

Already, this change increased reading scores on benchmark assessments from the beginning of the school year!  Data from spring benchmark assessments indicate that nearly 64% of all students showed growth in assessment scores and that over 55% of the students in the bottom 25% demonstrated growth. Mrs. Barber, the school principal, attributes this growth to the changes in the school’s literacy block. In addition to improved assessment scores, this shift in literacy contributes to a new culture in which all staff are responsible for the instruction of all students. It has also decreased the school’s tardy rate. With continued support from SWIFT, Mrs. Barber expects to see even more improvements in academic instruction and growth in achievement. 

SWIFT Spotlight on Dr. Alvin Taylor,

Meridian Public School District, Mississippi

In 2010, when Dr. Alvin Taylor was hired as the Superintendent for the Meridian Public School District in Mississippi, his goals were to improve student achievement, ensure safe and orderly schools, increase the graduation rate, and enhance overall accountability in the school district. Becoming involved with the SWIFT Center seemed a logical way to achieve these goals. Dr. Taylor was interviewed during the SWIFT Professional Learning Institute and had this to say:  

“We are excited about initiating SWIFT into our district for a number of reasons. One is the cutting edge innovation that SWIFT brings, especially when you talk about the integration of academic instruction and behavioral instruction. In the past, in education, academics and behavioral instruction were seen as two separate entities. With the SWIFT program, they are meshing academic and behavioral instruction, not as two separate initiatives, but as one entity. In addition to that, they’re doing the same thing with general education and special education. Again, in the past, they were completely segregated—general education and special education were separate. SWIFT is taking the approach that general education and special education should be seen as one—working together hand-in-hand for the success of all children, and we want to be a part of that."

News from SWIFT Headquarters

The SWIFT Center annual meetings for the Advisory Group and National Leadership Consortium take place on April 30, and May 1-2, respectively.  The Advisory Group has the opportunity to review such SWIFT Center accomplishments as the Knowledge Development Sites study results, and to offer guidance for the year ahead as SWIFT provides intensive technical assistance among partner schools, districts, and state education agencies, along with their family and community stakeholders. The National Leadership Consortium plans to not only celebrate the bright spots in each of the five partner states, but also to “roll up their sleeves” in work groups tasked with drawing together the ideas, resources, and energy of the Consortium member organizations for the benefit of SWIFT partners across the nation. 

SWIFT Talk -
Our Community of Practice

Wayne Sailor, Director of the SWIFT Center, and Lacy Redd, Principal at Newberry Elementary School in Gainesville Florida, share their insights about what it means (and doesn’t mean) to be an “inclusion school” in the most recent additions to SWIFT’s Community of Practice. For Dr. Sailor, inclusive education is not just an option on a continuum of services available for a select few in a school district; but rather, inclusion is a best practice to scale up and sustain district wide. In his post, Dr. Sailor introduces the SWIFT Center Technical Assistance Brief, which outlines the unique intensive technical assistance process available to schools through partnership with the SWIFT Center.

Lacy Redd believes inclusive education means “Engaging Every Person in Every Student's Life.” In her latest blog, you will learn Newberry Elementary School’s top 10 strategies for successful school/community partnerships. Newberry is a school where every child is included and every child is learning and succeeding; and because of this, the school is proud to be considered an "A" school in Florida. Likewise, SWIFT is proud to be partnering with Newberry. Read and share your insights on Ms. Redd’s blog at SWIFT Talk.
The SWIFT Center partner, TASH, is accepting proposals for the 2014 TASH Conference until May 10th. If you plan to submit a proposal, you are encouraged to submit it as soon as possible. This is a perfect stage for you to share your knowledge, research, project, or other relevant activity with the 1100+ expected attendees at the 2014 TASH Conference! To submit a proposal, click HERE!
In addition to filming in SWIFT Knowledge Development Sites and creating mini-films for  the upcoming SWIFT Field Guide 2.0 and the SWIFT You Tube Channel, Dan Habib, SWIFT filmmaker and writer and director of the films Including Samuel and Who Cares About Kelsey? recently performed a TEDx Talk entitled "Disabling Segregation." View it HERE for compelling reasons about why schools should include all students.

New Research and Resources
Available on the Website

Are you looking for the latest research guiding inclusive education practices? Implementation science drives the work of the SWIFT Center by promoting research-based approaches to achieve improved academic and social outcomes for all students. Downloadable SWIFT resources, including a bibliography of supporting research, are available to support schools across the country as they explore, prepare, launch, sustain, and test new approaches in the practice of including and welcoming all students in their schools. Check out the "Research" link at www.swiftschools.org.

The SWIFT Center produced this document under U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs Grant No. H325Y120005. OSEP Project Officers Grace Zamora Durán and Tina Diamond served as the project officers. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the Department of Education. No official endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education of any product, commodity, service or enterprise mentioned in this publication is intended or should be inferred. This product is public domain. Authorization to reproduce it in whole or in part is granted. While permission to reprint this publication is not necessary, the citation should be: SWIFT Center. (2014). SWIFT News, Issue 8, March 2014. Lawrence, KS: SWIFT Center.
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