February 2015 • Issue 18 View & Print
Sue Swenson PEAK

February has been a big month for promoting the message of All Means All! SWIFT Center activities were featured in local newspapers, televised news, press releases, and national conferences.

For example, SWIFT Center leaders, Wayne Sailor and Amy McCart, shared with the national media their view that "the stars are coming into alignment" for inclusive education (#starsinalignment). By refocusing the current educational approaches of general and special education, and expanding inclusiveness for students covered by Title I (i.e., from low-income backgrounds and English language learners), integrated educational systems can improve academic, behavioral, and social outcomes. Sailor said, “If you put the SWIFT framework in place, all students show improvement.” See more HERE.

Also, during the recent PEAK Conference in Denver, Colorado, keynote speaker Sue Swenson, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services at the U.S. Department of Education, ended her opening remarks with the SWIFT mini-film All Means All. Said Swenson, "It's not about 'how do I include my kid?' but 'how do we include everybody – including the people who are working against our ideas?' It’s a process and it isn’t always easy – but it's the right thing to do."

Finally, thanks to all of you who participated in our Quick Poll last month. The majority of you let us know you are interested in learning more about four strategies to address discipline challenges in your schools:

-social emotional learning


-social agility

-responsible decision making

We take your feedback seriously and will continue to find and provide helpful resources! Be sure to complete this month's Quick Poll to provide your input to SWIFT Center future direction.


Did you know that many SWIFT partner schools are using ideas from Flamboyan Foundation, Washington, DC? Flamboyan's mission is to improve educational outcomes for children by helping families and schools work together and share in the responsibility of education. They define family engagement as "collaboration between families and schools that drives student achievement." To learn more, visit the Flamboyan Foundation website HERE.

TASH Connections this month is all about inclusion. Read brief articles about what SWIFT learned in its knowledge development site study and our current technical assistance work with SWIFT partner schools around the nation.

Loui Lord Nelson, SWIFT's UDL Specialist, will be presenting "SWIFT through the Eyes of UDL" at the Universal Design for Learning Implementation and Research Network (UDL-IRN) Summit in Gulfport, Mississippi, March 12-13, 2015. Register for the summit HERE.

Consider attending other conferences where SWIFT's message of All Means All is on the agenda:

-AERA (American Educational Research Association); Chicago, April

-CEC (Council for Exceptional Children); San Diego, April

-Illinois Includes; Rosemont, IL, May

-TASH New England; Marlborough, MA, May

-Midwest Summer Institute: "Inclusion and Communication for All"; Cedar Falls, June

Leadership Team

Are family members included as valued participants on your school's leadership team?

Cecil County Elementary School State Spotlight:

Maryland Loves Linking Families, Communities, and Schools as Partners

During School Transformation Team meetings in Maryland's SWIFT partner schools, one might hear questions like:

-What happens when schools begin to think differently about developing trusting partnerships with those outside of the school building?

-How can schools creatively engage families in school governance?

-What are best practices for family partnerships and where can schools find resources to implement them?

Asking and answering such questions is part of using the SWIFT domains and features as a framework for achieving each school's vision. For several Maryland schools, the Family and Community Engagement domain is a high priority. As a result, the schools are showing a lot of creative excitement and enthusiasm for engaging family and community in new ways. Keep reading to learn how business is not as usual in three schools.

Welcome to West Side Elementary, Allegany County, MD Public Schools

The West Side Staff quickly learned the “my pleasure” motto used by the Chick-fil-A restaurant in their community when school administrators served breakfast on the staff’s first day back to school in August 2013. This experience helped to create a philosophical shift to view families like valued customers, and set the stage for them to become essential members of the school team. These relationships became even more important as staff members began to reach out to all families to form a common bond around educating their children – together.

On the staff’s first day back to school in August 2014, they gathered at Western Maryland Health Systems to learn the rhythm that medical teams rely on during emergencies. This rhythm involves each emergency team member contributing his or her expertise to a well coordinated, rhythmic response that saves lives. West Side staff invited families to join them in creating a similar collaborative rhythm for providing quality education to all their children. As a result:

-Family voices are heard through meaningful surveys and personal connections.

-Home-school communication is two way, with one-third of families responding and taking action based on the survey.

-Parents sit on the Leadership Team and have an active role in decision-making.

-The staff looks at families differently than before; now, families are viewed as essential teammates.

-Staff takes an interest in and recognizes community businesses for what they do.

-Staff, families, and community partners collectively formed the school’s vision and mission.

-Families say that West Side Elementary “feels like a family.”

Welcome to Cecil Manor Elementary, Cecil County, MD Public Schools

On January 28, 2015, Cecil Manor Elementary (CME) turned itself into Cecil Manor University by offering families a chance to learn together through an evening of classes, dinner, and fun. Families selected their classes based on need or interest. Students received a homework pass and a certificate of completion. The courses they offered included:

-Number Talk

-Literacy Instruction and Interventions

-Science Fundamentals

-Math Podcasts

-Chrome Books

-Performance Tasks

-Behavior Strategies

-PBIS 101

In addition to University night, CME provides multiple on-site and on-line opportunities for families to access support for their children’s learning.

Welcome to Gilpin Manor Elementary, Cecil County Public Schools

Gilpin Manor staff are diving into strategies to engage families in school governance. Three promising practices have emerged thus far:

-clearly define family engagement and school governance

-develop electronic surveys that families can complete while at the school for various fun activities that draw the largest number of families

-utilize family focus groups to address specific school activities, such as awards ceremonies

Principal Dingle reports survey and focus group findings already altered several existing school-based practices, as well as opened up conversations for more authentic family engagement around academics. Community groups also have an active presence in supporting Gilpin’s vision for family engagement and trusting partnerships.

Teamwork at its finest!

Maryland partner schools could tell many more stories like these from West Side, Cecil Manor, and Gilpin Manor. Trusting Family and Community Partnerships are recognized as a #1 priority among most SWIFT partner schools and districts in the state. We are redefining what it means for families and schools to partner that are meaningfully engaged in school-based decision making and working side-by-side toward achievement for all students. Teamwork at its finest!

Schoolyard Quotes
Willard Schoolyard

"Oh, one last thing from Maryland: the 5 ft. rule - something many of our schools are using. 'When someone is 5 feet away from you, greet them genuinely.'"

"We know that when we include students with disabilities, everybody does better."

Swift Talk
Community of Practice

This month’s Community of Practice is sure to appeal to both classroom teachers and school administrators. Bryan Dean's post on using technology tools in the inclusive classroom continues to expand our knowledge base of information related to Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

Thurma Deloach, from All Ed Missouri, tells us it IS possible to reinvent special education to provide supports and services to the general education classroom, rather than function as a place that separates children from opportunities for learning and making friends.

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. (2015). SWIFT News, Issue 18, February 2015. Lawrence, KS: SWIFT Center.

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