February 2016, Issue 29
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SWIFT Task Forces Update

SWIFT national task forces were created to identify three to five recommendations to our partner sites to help improve outcomes for students. The Better Together Task Force is focused on minimizing the need for separate educational environments for students with extensive support needs. The My Brother’s Keeper Task Force centers on ending disproportionate identification for special education students and exclusion by out-of-school or alternative school placements for boys and young men of color.

As described in the November SWIFT Newsletter, task forces gathered last fall to examine national research, review data from SWIFT partner sites, and discuss the most pertinent issues for supporting each population. Each task force identified five big ideas that could lead to improved outcomes for students in our partner sites.

In January, they continued their conversations around these questions:

  • What is the next thing on the path to make this happen?
  • What can we or our partners do in the next 3, 6, even 12 months to move in this direction?
Stay tuned for the release of task force reports and recommendations!

Milken Educator Award

Math teacher and dept. chair, Rhonda Burrage (center), receives 2015-16 Milken Educator Award

Math teacher and department chair, Rhonda Burrage, from SWIFT partner Magnolia Middle School won the 2015-16 Milken Educator Award for Mississippi.  Rhonda hasn't missed a day of teaching in seven years, serves as a mentor for first-year teachers, is on the school leadership team, and chairs the BETA club, where she coordinates community service projects.  The Milken Educator Awards program rewards and inspires education excellence by honoring top educators around the country with $25,000 unrestricted awards. Congratulations, Rhonda!


SWIFT Center Technical Assistance

SWIFT Center recently released a white paper that explains our theory of action and six differentiated technical assistance (TA) practices. You can download this paper and many more resources from SWIFT Shelf, which also offers school and district resources, issue briefs, technical papers, multi media resources, bibliographies, and a list of journal articles by SWIFT authors.

Connect with SWIFT in St. Louis during the Council for Exceptional Children's Annual Conference! Join SWIFT April 13-16, 2016 at the CEC Annual Conference to learn more about the tools for creating equity-based education systems.


Moving Forward in Vermont with Professional Development

Vermont spent this year engaged in joint professional learning opportunities. Two Supervisory Unions (SUs), Franklin Northwest and Grand Isle, identified delivery of high-quality universal instruction as a priority for the 2015-2016 school year. This common focus enabled their Agency of Education (AOE) to support comprehensive Professional Learning that furthered both of the SUs' goals. Two Professional Learning series were sponsored by the AOE:

First, in September, the AOE launched a data literacy series in which a local data guru, Kerry Sewell, led participants through activities designed to help them understand how they can use the results from the Smarter Balanced Assessments to ask questions about the efficacy of their programming, and how they can use this data source as a launching point for further data dives and action research. This series continued in November when teams learned about the different purposes of assessments and engaged in data analysis of a case study school. In the coming months, the SU staff will work with Ms. Sewell, their SWIFT LEA facilitators, and SEA coordinators to apply the knowledge and increase the capacity of the SU to analyze data to inform instruction.

Second, in October, Tammy Heflebower from Marzano Research gave a one-day presentation to SWIFT partner schools and Curriculum Directors throughout the state on the topic of proficiency scales and prioritizing standards. This work is to be followed by embedded professional development from Marzano's Tina Boogren. Ms. Boogren currently is working with Grand Isle to guide the development of a long term professional learning plan and launch the prioritization of standards and proficiency scale work. She is also working with Franklin Northwest coaches around the instructional framework and meeting with Leadership Teams to help support a common language around instruction, as well as explore how evaluation can directly tie to the instructional framework. In addition, Boogren supported both SUs with webinars around specific teaching strategies related to identified priorities.

Joe Resteghini, North Hero School Principal, says, "There really is no such thing as a bad kid."

Also in October, North Hero teachers, staff, and administrators had the opportunity to spend a day with Mr. Charlie Applestein, a passionate speaker, author, and holder of the flame that is understanding and responding to challenging behavior. In a time where challenging behavior, family support, and mental health concerns are on the front burner in all schools, North Hero staff learned to build a strengths-based approach in supporting students and families. Charlie’s philosophy, founded in the belief that teachers need to build genuine relationships with their students, offered insight and reflection for everyone. A strengths-based approach is solution-focused and involves behavior reshaping techniques, meant to inspire self-esteem and support a positive climate and culture in classrooms and schools. In making a difference in one student’s life through acknowledging their needs as an individual, educators were reminded of the reasons why they got into education in the first place.

“It is the adult behaviors and how we react that make or break experiences. If you take the time to build a true and trusting relationship with a child, by letting them win and by having them believe that they are number one in your worldthe behaviors you wish to see will manifest themselves as you desire.”  

- Rebecca Ashline, SLPA, Grand Isle Supervisory Union

(Below) Vermont school teams engaged in creative discussions around a vision for their school!


In last month's newsletter, we asked the question: "In your school system, do students who do not use their voice to express themselves have assistive technology or other supports to participate fully in general education classes and routines?" Less than half of respondents indicated "yes." While our "non-scientific" poll is not a completely accurate reflection of the activities happening in schools, we still value your input and try to incorporate your feedback in our product and professional development work.


Is your school community actively involved in action planning and implementation to support school wide transformation to achieve equity-based inclusive education?

Yes No

Be sure to review the SWIFT Fidelity Integrity Assessment (SWIFT-FIA) for guidance and support in creating meaningful action plans for your school wide transformation efforts!

SWIFT staff member Loui Lord Nelson, author of the bestselling universal design for learning (UDL) primer Design and Delivershares strategies for understanding and implementing an approach for creating variability within the learning environment to engage all students. Remember to subscribe and listen to SWIFT Unscripted podcasts on iTunes or from our website
SWIFT Community of Practice and Ruby Slippers

In the second of her two-part series, Dr. Jennifer Kurth asks us "How can we radically rethink and re-imagine our education to support all schools in effective equity-based inclusive education?" In posing this question, Dr. Kurth reminds us that just like Dorothy in the "Wizard of Oz," we are all wearing "ruby slippers" and so have the ability to create a new future. Dr. Mary Schuh continues this theme by reminding us that teams ultimately do have the skills, creativity, and commitment to create equity-based inclusive education for all. Put on your ruby slippers, read, and enjoy both blogs as you think about your role on the team to transform education to ensure that all students are included with support in general education in their neighborhood schools!
The SWIFT Center produced this document under U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs Grant No. H326Y120005. 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 29, February 2016. Lawrence, KS: SWIFT Center.
SWIFT Center
1315 Wakarusa Drive,
Lawrence, KS 66049

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