March 2015 • Issue 19 View & Print
Todo significa todo

"SWIFT in 60s" are now available in Spanish! Many of you have already used this SWIFT video series in English to help explain SWIFT features to your school and community. This new addition can help to more fully include families whose first language is Spanish in the SWIFT vision and transformation in their schools. Both the English and Spanish versions of the video series are available on SWIFT's YouTube site. A special thanks goes out to our expert translators who very well understand the meaning of All means All—and to SWIFT Advisory Group member Dr. Alba Ortiz, University of Texas, Emeritus, who reviewed the translations for accuracy.

Thanks to all of you who answered last month's Quick Poll question "Are family members participating members on your school's leadership team?" We are happy to report that many of your family members ARE included as members of your school's leadership team and that family engagement continues to be an opportunity for growth. Stay tuned for new SWIFT family engagement resources.

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 the SWIFT Center's future direction.


Is your school using a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) model to promote inclusive academic instruction?

Student at Computer

This spring, over two dozen educators will travel across the country to conduct SWIFT-FIT assessments in more than 60 schools. SWIFT-FIT, or Fidelity Implementation Tool, is used to document the extent to which a school is implementing SWIFT features. This evidence, in turn, helps to guide SWIFT action planning. SWIFT-FIT is a strengths-based and positive tool that looks for systems-level structures that support inclusive teaching and learning.

Systems-level structures are found across all classrooms or are implemented by all educators. Each of the 51 items on the SWIFT-FIT represent uniform standards, practices, or ways of conducting school activities. For instance, a school that has recently implemented school supports for positive behavior may demonstrate their progress by sharing team or committee decisions, posters, or instructional activities that promote student behavior or share a recent professional development session.

A lot goes into SWIFT-FIT assessment day. The schools provide assessors with a thorough review of evidence and documentation, and school leadership teams, faculty and staff, family and community members, and district representatives devote a full day to being interviewed. In return, schools get strengths-based feedback and scores to help them understand their progress toward their transformation goals.

You may soon see a SWIFT-FIT assessor in your school conducting classroom observations or school walk-throughs. If you do, say "Hi" and tell them what you like about SWIFT in your school.

Upcoming SWIFT Conference Appearances

Guilford School State Spotlight:

The Vermont Agency of Education, together with the Franklin Northwest Supervisory Union (SU)—a SWIFT partner—are studying quality of "first instruction" as it relates to developing a multi-tiered system of support. Using the agency's guiding principles for MTSS as a corner stone for the study, the SU's building leaders are collaboratively reflecting on their current reality, using real-time data, and developing goals for growth. As they began their study, these leaders turned their eyes toward three things: (1) each school reports a much higher percentage of students currently receiving intervention services than research norms suggest; (2) the SU does not have an articulated vision and/or definition for the multiple tiers; and (3) intervention services are rarely tied to first instruction. As the study continues, they plan to create tangible goals for staff to work toward involving these three areas.

In addition to this study related to MTSS, these SU leaders took to heart a session from the fall SWIFT Professional Learning Institute. Dr. Dawn Miller, SWIFT Center staff, presented on a useable walk through tool for quality first instruction that is based on author Dr. John Hattie's work, Visible Learning, that reports first instruction practices that significantly increase student achievement. During the session, building leaders indicated they were unsure where their schools stood in relation to these practices. As a result of this conversation, leaders decided they would use the tool to gather data and look for patterns in instruction. They would use these findings to seek out professional learning opportunities for practices in which they wished to grow. They took this idea back to the local level distributive leadership team for review and feedback, and then shared with entire school staffs prior to doing walk throughs, or sweeps. While this is just the beginning of SU's work, patterns are emerging that enable them to target professional learning in a much more meaningful fashion.

At Grand Isle Elementary School in Vermont — the talk is about teaching!

After attending the SWIFT Professional Learning Institute last November, Principal Eric Arnzen, Grand Isle Elementary, Vermont, and his school's leadership team members led a faculty meeting to share with the full K-8 staff some of the practices and tools they were introduced to in the session on Best 1st Instruction, led by SWIFT Center staff member, Dr. Dawn Miller. Specific examples included: Determining needs with exit cards; Question creation chart; and Participation protocol focusing on the four "L's" of academic discourse (Look at partner, Lean towards your partner, Lower your voice, and Listen attentively). An invitation was delivered to staff members by those who have put these strategies into routine use to visit their classroom and observe the technique in practice.

Dr. Miller's specific focus on Direct and Explicit Instruction, Differentiating Instruction, Active Student Engagement, Effective Feedback, Varied and Flexible Groupings, and the Use of Data in Progress Monitoring resonated strongly with Grand Isle Elementary School's own priority for implementing effective core instruction and teaching strategies across all grades to improve academic and social outcomes for each and every student.

Principal Arnzen and faculty are taking a systems approach to bring about instructional changes aligned with that priority. Here's one example of how: Every 2-3 weeks, there is a faculty meeting devoted to collaboration for increasing the quality of teaching—and it's designed like a lesson in the classroom, including posted learning intentions. Here's an example: Staff will engage in collegial discussions around data cycle work, using one another as resources to gain further insight around individual questions about their data and/or differentiation.

In keeping with that intention and organized in vertical groupings, each staff member is asked to revisit a learning goal and share:

  • Pre-assessment data results
  • SMART goal
  • Differentiated learning plan (developed according to proficiency groupings in the class)
  • One question she/he has about the data and the teaching strategies employed for other group members to reflect on and share input

Principal Arnzen agrees with Dr. Hattie's quote: "Visible learning and teaching occurs when teachers see learning through the eyes of students and help them become their own teachers." He and the faculty view the work they are doing in these faculty meetings as an opportunity for critical reflection in a safe and supportive environment. They are cultivating a climate where talking freely and openly about teaching successes and challenges as a peer group makes a difference for teachers and students alike.

Well done, Grand Isle Elementary — keep up the great work!

South Hero is in the news!

In South Hero, Vermont, SWIFT efforts are well underway as evidenced by the recent edition on their local television station WCAX 3 highlighting individual student and schoolwide transformation success!

Guilford Central illustrates its vision strong

The Guilford School took a new approach in literally visualizing their vision for their school. As they are working on their vision, they put it into pictures.

As a beginning step in the process of reviewing the Guilford Central School's vision, teachers were requested to illustrate what their ideal school would look like. The illustrations contained many common components and it became obvious while doing a gallery walk looking at all the drawings, that Guilford Central School holds both the school and connecting students to the greater Guilford community as top in importance.

Schoolyard Quotes
Willard Schoolyard

"I've never seen anything like it, the way it is here. This school really just cares about the individual student and that is awesome."
"Through student teaching, I have seen how much better children learn when they are taught information in multiple, different ways."
"Everyone teaches. Everyone learns. Everyone cares."

Swift Talk
Community of Practice

If you haven't noticed, the SWIFT Talk Community of Practice has been well populated with blog posts on UDL from leaders in the field who know what it takes to support all learners in the classroom using inclusive academic instruction. How is UDL like a potluck? Special Education Consultant Bryan Dean explains in his latest post on SWIFT Talk: "Hosting Learning the UDL Way." Bon appétit! Loui Lord Nelson's recent post discussing the harmony between differentiated instruction and Universal Design for Learning provides educators with inspiration and ideas to engage every student in every activity. And Elizabeth Stein shares how to create expert learners in every classroom. Have you checked these out? Please share and tell us what you think.

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 19, March 2015. Lawrence, KS: SWIFT Center.

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