Excellence. Equity. And All Means All.
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Issue 12, July 2014

Spotlight on New Hampshire

The Journey to Transform Practice Begins with the School's Culture
By: Keith D. Bowen, Principal, Hudson Memorial School

As the Leadership Team from Hudson, New Hampshire participated in the week-long inaugural SWIFT Center Summer Professional Learning Institute (PLI) in Washington, D.C, we continuously pondered the question: With so much to do, where do we begin? Already committed to the idea of transforming district and school practice in an effort to provide academic equity and access to all, and recognizing the significant achievement gap our district had between students with and without IEPs, our leadership team was eager to get started.  Our team engaged in the reflective process and held many conversations, and the answer to our question became crystal clear:  If we were going to transform practice and move Hudson Memorial School forward, it was imperative that we begin with the school’s climate and culture.  

Recognizing that the foundation for sustained school-wide change at Hudson Memorial would have to begin with a shift in the school’s climate and culture, our district and school Leadership Teams made the strategic decision to begin our SWIFT journey by building a strong foundation for our future work through the creation and development of a schoolwide positive behavior intervention system.  Seeking buy-in from the start, we recognized the need to focus on the things that we were already doing well, and at the same time, put a system in place that we could call our own.  We decided to create a Hudson Memorial School Merit System.
Our merit system was designed to acknowledge the positive contributions students and staff make to the school on a daily basis by living out a set of core values that support middle school-aged students’ social, emotional, and academic growth.  By beginning with what we do well, we identified Responsibility, Respect, and Work Ethic as the three core values of emphasis in our merit system.  These values are widely recognized by the staff as skills we have successfully instilled in students as they progress through our school, and thus are also values that the whole school could immediately buy-in to.  

Everyone who is a part of the Hudson Memorial School community is held accountable to these three values. In order to validate the focus on the positive and provide a tangible take-away for a job well done, the school Leadership Team created a “Golden Horseshoe” ticket, to be presented to any student or staff member who exemplifies our core values. Once earned, a “Golden Horseshoe” cannot be taken away—a policy that emphasizes the importance of focusing on the positives. 

Once a month, students can exchange their “Golden Horseshoes” at the school store for Hudson Memorial School spirit related items, schools supplies, snacks, attendance at a quarterly breakfast or end of the year ice cream social hosted by the school’s staff, and more.  The school store is organized and operated one day per month by a committee comprised of two parents, three students, five teachers, and one administrator.  

Staff are encouraged to recognize colleagues who do something positive for the school community—anonymously if they choose. Staff who earn “Golden Horseshoes” are recognized in the principal’s bi-weekly staff newsletter.  

Just one year into our partnership with SWIFT and implementation of our merit system, we have data that show a tremendous shift in our school’s culture and climate, and that students are missing less instructional time for behavior related issues and spending more time in class receiving direct instruction from their teachers. Nowhere is that more evident than in the significant decrease in detentions issued by office administration.  The table below represents the number of students receiving administrative level consequences the year before the merit system and the first year of the merit system implementation.

Other changes in our school community include a cooperatively developed school vision statement, a plan to reorganize teachers into eight core academic teams as opposed to the previous individual silos structure, replacing study halls with a daily academic intervention block to focus on the individual needs of each student, and changes to the school schedule that increase flexibility of students and staff to meet individual needs within the scheduled school day. 

The Hudson Memorial School Merit System has allowed us to develop working relationships that promote, sustain, and reward students and staff for their respectful and responsible behaviors, as well as their hard work and dedication.  It challenges our students and staff to reach their personal best in both academic and non-academic settings on a daily basis. 

UDL Academy Coming to NH: Applying Theory to Practice

Over the past six months, SWIFT’s New Hampshire State Education Agency (SEA) Team has been conducting an internal and external review of the projects and programs, professional development offerings, and existing policies in New Hampshire that align and support the SWIFT framework.  The SWIFT SEA Team considers this scan of existing resources to be an important step to establishing sustainability of SWIFT within our state and to ultimately transform how New Hampshire students are supported in inclusive environments.  Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is one of the identified resource gaps—as well as a need identified by the SWIFT schools—in the state.  

UDL is an instructional-design framework that helps educators create classroom goals, methods, materials, and assessments that are flexible and customizable to meet individual needs. With UDL, students who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized in classroom settings (such as those with disabilities or those with language barriers) are given the supports and opportunities they need to learn and make progress in the general curriculum. 

In order to be responsive to the needs of schools, the New Hampshire Bureau of Special Education is filling the UDL resource gap with the help of a professional learning team from the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), an internationally recognized, nonprofit research and development organization with a mission to improve instruction for a range of learners through the innovative uses of multimedia technology and research in cognitive neuroscience.  This new professional learning resource, known as the UDL Academy, will help districts bring theory to practice and build capacity to implement UDL as a framework for addressing the varied needs of all learners in literacy instruction.  

The UDL Academy is a hybrid approach to professional learning that combines face-to-face workshops, online course work, onsite coaching and the development of professional learning communities.  The New Hampshire Department of Education Bureau of Special Education is excited to be able to bring national expertise to the state in order support schools and educators in adapting the way they approach student learning and support all students in inclusive classrooms.

News from SWIFT Headquarters

Have you noticed the recent changes to the SWIFT Center homepage?  You can now easily check out some of the hot topics from the SWIFT Center Research and Resources Library with one click.  Check out the new SWIFT Issue Brief that explains how an ALL Means ALL approach to transforming public education puts into action many of the White House’s “My Brother’s Keeper” recommendations.  Look into “Lessons from the Field” to learn about three important factors for schools moving toward fully integrated teaching and learning.  Or pull off the shelf that old favorite, “Research Supporting SWIFT.”  If you don’t see what you want on this shelf, the Research link will take you to the complete list of SWIFT research and resources.

Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities (Vol. 39, No. 1) recently published an article that features the SWIFT Center.  Drs. Wayne Sailor and Amy McCart explain how, after decades of effort to bring about integrated education, the time may be at hand for comprehensive, nationwide change.  They reframe the discourse by defining inclusion through structures and interventions, not student characteristics. They challenge special education to become a service—rather than a place— that supports teaching and learning for all students.  If you don’t subscribe to this journal, ask your local library to get a copy for you.

SWIFT Filmmaker Appointed to Obama's Disability Committee

President Barack Obama announced his intent to appoint SWIFT Filmmaker Dan Habib, project director and filmmaker at the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability (IOD), to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

Habib, the project director of the Inclusive Communities Project at the IOD, directed the award-winning film Including Samuel, a documentary about his family’s efforts to include his son Samuel in all facets of their lives.  Habib’s latest film, Who Cares About Kelsey?, documents the life of a student with emotional and behavioral challenges and the innovative educational approaches that help her succeed. Habib is currently working on 10 short films documenting SWIFT core features that will be released later this summer.

The President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities (PCPID) aims to ensure the right of a “decent, dignified place in society” for people with intellectual disabilities and promotes policies and initiatives that support independence and lifelong inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities. The committee advises the President and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“I am confident that these outstanding men and women will serve the American people well in their new roles and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come,” said President Obama of Habib and the 19 other committee appointees he announced.
Samuel Habib (left) with his mother, Betsy McNamara (center) meets Sen. Barack Obama as Obama campaigns for the New Hampshire Presidencial Primary at a house party in Concord, NH, in August of 2007.
MANDATORY PHOTO CREDIT: Copyright Dan Habib. www.includingsamuel.com

SWIFT Talk Community of Practice

Educators and family members alike will be particularly interested in this month’s Community of Practice additions.  Delve into another great post by Susan Shapiro, "Differentiation: The Learning Needs of All Children as Part of the Original Instructional Design," and consider how differentiating curriculum happens BEFORE a lesson is taught—not AFTER students are unsuccessful in planned activities of the class.

Inclusion: We Got It!” features our newest blogger, TheSassySouthernGal, who writes about her experiences with her daughter Rachel (a sassy girl in training), and ensuring that she is a welcomed and participating member of all things important to teens focused on living full and socially just lives. This post, in honor of the month of July, focuses on a summer camp experience.

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: National Center for Schoolwide Inclusive School Reform: The SWIFT Center. (2014). SWIFT News, Issue 12, July 2014. Lawrence, KS: SWIFT Center.
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