June 2015 • Issue 22 View & Print

Spreading SWIFT to the Nation

Our state, district, and school partners’ hard work and growth continue to inspire us to work harder to spread schoolwide transformation nationally. For this reason, SWIFT is forming two national task forces to explore and develop strategies for reaching two traditionally marginalized student groups:

  • students with the most extensive support needs
  • boys and young men of color

Our “Better Together” task force will explore how to support families, schools, districts, and states to ensure that all students have access to the general education curriculum, as well as college and career ready standards in their own neighborhood schools. We envision that this work will bring an end to institutionalized segregation and out-of-district placements of students with the most extensive support needs.

Our “My Brother’s Keeper” task force will focus on how to promote academic and social success of boys and young men of color in the context of schoolwide transformation. This group will examine SWIFT’s intersection with the White House’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative to break down barriers to success and promote opportunity for all students. We envision this work will bring an end to racial discrimination in schools and build a deeper appreciation of boys and young men of color, including an end to their disproportionate identification for special education and out-of-school or alternative school placements.

Each task force will meet regularly to review current literature, generate new ideas, and strategize ways to improve academic and life outcomes for these traditionally marginalized students. We are eager to engage a wide range of stakeholders in this work to ensure that all truly means all. Watch this newsletter for more information about how you can become involved.

Parents at School Meeting

Policies Supporting Trusting Family Partnerships

Family-school partnership activities can run the gamut from improving home-to-school communication strategies, to hiring a district team focused on families, to formally adopting policies that encourage families to serve on schoolwide decision making teams. Our latest Issue Brief, Policies that Support SWIFT Trusting Family Partnerships, highlights federal policies for family engagement and describes how these policies can be implemented in local schools.

"There is a difference between ‘random acts of family engagement’ and seeing that family engagement is a strategy toward whole-school improvement."

- Karen L. Mapp, Director, Education Policy and Management, Harvard School of Education


Quick Poll Re-Do

During last month's newsletter, we asked about your use of social media to stay connected. Unfortunately, technological difficulties prevented your responses from being recorded (can you believe it?). Therefore, we are respectfully asking you to again respond so that we may learn how to keep the SWIFT community well-informed about upcoming activities and innovative strategies, and continue to expand the All Means All conversation.

Do you engage with social media outlets? If so, which forum do you use most regularly use to stay connected to the global community of inclusive education? Check one.


  News Cont'd

SWIFT States Host OSEP Leaders

Four SWIFT partner states had the honor of hosting U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Program's Dr. Larry Wexler, Division Director; Dr. Grace Zamora Durán, Associate Division Director; and Dr. Tina Diamond, Project Officer.

In Oregon, Wexler spent three days visiting SWIFT partner schools in Portland and Pendleton School Districts. He observed students hard at work and engaged in important conversations with teachers, administrators, and parents. Wexler met with district leadership teams and with Oregon Department of Education Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton, as well as with Assistant Superintendent Sarah Drinkwater. He attended the monthly SWIFT State Implementation Team meeting in Pendleton, where he met virtually with district leaders from Sisters and Redmond School Districts. He traveled with state coordinators and spent several hours learning about work in Oregon to increase inclusive educational practices while enjoying the breathtaking Oregon landscape between Portland and Pendleton.

In Mississippi, Diamond received a warm welcome from the Mississippi Department of Education Leadership Team. The team shared the State Capacity Assessment priority goal setting process and the work accomplished through the implementation of SWIFT to improve outcomes for their districts and schools. She had the opportunity to attend a school district leadership team quarterly meeting where team members were actively engaged in discussing SWIFT and planning for next year. She observed SWIFT implementation at the state, district, and school levels. At each level she was treated as a valuable team member. Everyone appreciated the time she took out of her busy schedule to visit with them as teams shared how much it meant to them that the U.S. Department of Education was interested in Mississippi's day to day work of state, district, and school transformation.

Durán took a whirlwind tour of New Hampshire and Vermont, meeting with SWIFT SEA, LEA, and School team members in both states. Principals made it possible for her to visit classrooms in 11 SWIFT partner schools. Among the many highlights of her trip, Durán was able to observe a SWIFT LEA team meeting where a SWIFT-Fidelity Integrity Assessment (also known as SWIFT-FIA) was underway, and an LEA Leadership Team as they welcomed two parents as new team members.

Across the system, New Hampshire and Vermont partners reported on their own growth and development from using the SWIFT Framework to support and build capacity locally and at the SEA level for sustainable change to equity-based inclusion. They acknowledged that much work is yet to be done, but presented an optimism that the partnership with SWIFT Center will continue to help them accomplish their goals as they exercise ownership of the process. They see the Framework as an organizing vehicle for implementing state and local priorities and not just as an initiative or one more thing—all around great news!

Ruth Jones, Hispanic Family Advocate

Above, from left: Karen Schroeder, Principal of Freedom Elementary School; Linda Beitz, NH SEA Facilitator; Grace Zamora Durán, SWIFT OSEP Project Officer; Raina Chick, SAU 13 Director of Student Services; Karen Schackford, Title I Coordinator; SWIFT School Coach; and Reading Specialist.

Summer in NH State Spotlight:
New Hampshire

Spotlight on New Hampshire

Summer has finally arrived in New Hampshire and with it continued and focused work in all eight New Hampshire school partner sites!

Take SAU 64, Milton Elementary School, and Wakefield Paul Elementary School, for example, whose work was recognized earlier this month through an invitation for Superintendent Michael Tursi and Principal Jerry Gregoire of Wakefield Paul Elementary School to present at the University of Kansas’ Technology in Education Conference. Together they told a story exemplifying intentional and creative work to simultaneously build up “Strong LEA School Relationships,” “Inclusive Academic Instruction,” and "Family and Community Engagement."

First, Superintendent Tursi chose to begin the SWIFT Visioning process by gathering input from families and the community. To do this, he held a listening tour in the community to hear what they wanted for their children upon graduation from high school. He created a video of himself introducing the Visioning process to the faculties of Wakefield Paul and Milton Elementary Schools, while at the same time he used his video to model a “flipped classroom" practice to increase student engagement and outcomes. He asked the faculty at both schools to watch his video prior to their respective faculty meetings; then he led an engaging, dynamic conversation as each school developed their own vision statements. Tursi then encouraged his administrators to also create a flipped classroom for a follow up faculty meeting and encouraged teachers to do the same in their classes. As a result of this work, many teachers in both buildings are experimenting with flipped classrooms and both schools now have fully accepted vision statements.

Also in SAU 64, Wakefield Paul School welcomed three new parents to its Leadership Team! This move was the result using the SWIFT Data Snapshot and Priority and Practice Planning tools to identify areas to prioritize—Family and Community Engagement—and to develop action plans—inviting parents to share in the leadership of the school.

On the other side of the state in Charlestown, SAU 60's three SWIFT schools are working together to create and align a comprehensive Inclusive Behavior System across elementary and middle school. The system will enable data-based decision making to support students in each elementary schools—North Charlestown Community School and the Charlestown Primary School—and continue as the students feed into the Charlestown Middle School. Using the Data Snapshot and Priority and Practice Planning tools, SAU 60 zeroed in on actions to create a research-based Multi-Tiered System of Support for Inclusive Behavior Practices.

Below, left: Some of the members of the Wakefield Paul Elementary School Team, including Mary Wilson, SAU 64 Curriculum Coordinator

Below, right: Some of the members of the Charlestown Leadership Team, including Chris Young, Principal (left), on a retreat to develop action steps for a fully inclusive behavior system

Schoolyard Quotes


"We reserve the right to provide service to everyone." - Sign in Lawrence, KS

"Inclusive education has been a priority for our school for a long time. SWIFT is helping us put all the pieces together so we don't feel like we are reinventing the wheel year after year. When everyone is on the same page with the transformation process, it goes a whole lot more smoothly." - Principal

"This school year has been challenging; but in a really good way. I have seen teacher's passion be reignited to see all kids as learners, and not just a number on a test score." - Teacher

"Our district and school culture had become really punitive—even toxic. And then came SWIFT, like a breath of fresh air. Everything is different now." - Superintendent

Swift Talk
Community of Practice

If you haven't visited SWIFT Talk lately, June is a good month to catch up on all things SWIFT. This month features end-of-the-year perspectives on saying goodbye to teachers who have made a real difference, and saying hello to summer time fun through participation in inclusive summer camp experiences. Blogger, Nelia Nunns, illustrates how her daughter's teacher helped her expand her own vision of what is possible and Torrie Dunlap of Kids Included Together offers engaging and practical strategies on how to involve all kids in inclusive summer camp experiences.

And, for those of you seeking more ways to engage families as contributing members of your school teams, look no further than the recent blog by Beth Dixon introducing our latest Issue Brief, Policies that Support SWIFT Trusting Family Partnerships.

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 22, June 2015. Lawrence, KS: SWIFT Center.

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SWIFT Center
1315 Wakarusa Drive, Lawrence, KS 66049