What is the SWIFT Center and how is it helping to transform education to support all students including those with disabilities?

Question: What is the SWIFT Center and how is it helping to transform education to support all students including those with disabilities?  

Answer: Hi, I’m here to talk about the SWIFT Center. The SWIFT Center is a national center focused on total school reform to support the inclusion of all students in general education curriculum, experiences, the culture and the whole school community. And when talking about all students, the SWIFT Center is designed to support students who are English Language Leaners, students who are gifted, students with labels of disabilities, students with extensive needs. All students who we think of within our school community, The SWIFT Center is committed to supporting in the general education classroom. And I’d like to tell you why. We have 30 years plus of research in the field of education that tells us — when all students learn together, with support —students learn more, students learn faster, student outcomes are far better, they are more likely to graduate and go on to college and careers. Additionally, students are kinder. So we have 30 years of research that tells us that outcomes for all students are better when they are educated in the general education curriculum and supported.  So the SWIFT Center is committed to making that a reality in all schools across the country. SWIFT stands for School Wide Integrated Framework for Transformation. And the first thing the SWIFT Center did was explore the country and identify schools where inclusive education was happening. Schools where all students are being supported in general education. And the SWIFT Center at this point and time, is a Center devoted to elementary schools, K-8. So during the first year of this, the activities of the Center, we traveled the country and visited schools that were nominated for their quality inclusive practices and we took the opportunity to learn from those schools — what are the characteristics that make inclusive education real and sustainable? So within that first year, we spent our time learning and we learned from five knowledge development sites. And what I’d like to talk to you about is the lessons that we learned from those knowledge development sites, the characteristics that make for a truly inclusive educational experience for all students. So the characteristics that we learned about from our sites, from the knowledge development sites, there are five of them. Five domains with a set of features within them. And those domain areas include administrative support, number one. These are not in a priority area. I’m going to talk about them, just kind of list them out. Administrative support is a key domain area, key feature of fully inclusive schools. Administrators who use distributive leadership. Administrators who are truly committed to the vision and the value of all meaning all. So administrative leadership support is one important characteristic of inclusive school. Another characteristic of inclusive education is multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS). So looking at using a MTSS model to support behavior and academic successful outcomes. So what we’ve found in our knowledge development sites were schools who had fully adapted a model of multi-tiered systems of support. A third characteristic of an inclusive schools is an inclusive education framework. So what does that mean? That really means looking at the structure of the school, the school community, and making sure that all students are embedded in the typical framework of that educational experience. So, are all students assigned to homerooms? Is co-teaching, collaborative teaching, happening where general and special educators are working together to meet the needs of all students in a classroom? So, those kinds of various, I guess, concrete supports when you look into a classroom or a school community that [shows] there is no delineation between special education and regular education — that the supports are merged together and provided within the general education classroom, so related services are provided and para-professional supports are being used, not as one-on-one assistance but as classroom systems for the whole. So that integrated framework, looking at the concrete, what can we observe and what do we recognize that the supports that exist in the school are going to the general education classroom and truly supporting all students. A fourth characteristic that we’ve found in our knowledge development sites, and in all of our learning, is the importance of the family and community involvement. And this is really beyond the bake sale. This is beyond having a PTO, parent teacher organization. This is true involvement in the structure of the school. So parents serving on policy committees and curriculum committees; parents being recognized, not just because they are a parent, but also because whatever talents and expertise they bring to the school as individuals. So you might have a parent who is an expert in accounting and they may come in and lead small group math classes; you may have parents who are experts in gardening and they may come in and develop a community garden; you may have parents who have expertise in law and they may come in serve on your school board and review your mission statements and your bylaws. So really not just looking at parents as parents, but parents in terms of what kind of expertise they bring to the school. And that goes the same for community members; schools being open to valuing the role of community members within the schools community itself. So, and then the last characteristic that we have found is the importance of aligning policy to an inclusive education framework. So these schools that we’ve been studying, it’s not just about how do we make sure students are supported in general education classroom, but it’s about how we do we make sure our policies support that placement. Whether it’s policies around how funding is structured, so funding is no longer supporting special education system and a general education system but funding is merged and siloes are eliminated so that resources are going directly to support students. So really examining what are the policies that drive our school philosophy and our practices and how do those need to be revised, do they need to revised, in order to reflect a message of all means all. So thank you for listening, and if you have any questions, the SWIFT Center, we have a terrific website at www.swiftschools.org, and we would love to have you visit the SWIFT Center site and sign up for our monthly newsletter, connect with us via social media, and if SWIFT is in your state, get involved. Thank you!

Developed By: 
National Center on Intensive Intervention