Redefining inclusion across the nation

Redefining inclusion across the nation

Karen Henry

The aptly named SWIFT Education Center (Schoolwide Integrated Framework for Transformation), funded by one of the largest grants in KU history of $24 million, has rapidly hit its goals since it was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs in October 2012. Now the center is reaching beyond the initial five-year grant as a national technical assistance center that works with state education agencies, local districts, schools and other organizations to create educational systems that value, include, and support every student in a community. Their purpose is nothing less than to transform education for students across the nation.

Directed by Wayne Sailor, and Amy McCart, director of technical assistance, the center assists schools across the country to implement KU’s successful model for educating general and special education students together while improving academic outcomes for all students.

“Many educational researchers around the country have taken on the problem of inclusion, bringing special education and general education more closely together in a cohesive framework, but KU’s success has garnered the most national attention,” said Sailor. 

The SWIFT  model is based on more than ten years of successful implementation by Sailor, McCart and many other colleagues in several low-income urban schools in California, Kansas City, New Orleans and Washington, D.C.

SWIFT partnered with five states—Maryland, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oregon and Vermont—where the K-8 initiative was implemented in 64 schools in 16 districts in 17 districts. The center provides each district with a highly skilled technical assistance team to support their transformation to inclusive education systems and practices. More information about what these partners are doing is available on the SWIFT website partner pages.

SWIFT videos and films are some of the most widely accessed products of the center. The 10 one-minute videos—SWIFT in 60— are a quick reference to the core features of the SWIFT framework filmed on location at inclusive schools. The videos are part of the SWIFT Guide, a website designed to introduce school leadership teams, family and community members, and others to the SWIFT framework, as well as provide resources for practicing inclusion in their communities.

Two mini-films focus on MTSS (multi-tiered systems of support) and integrated educational frameworks in partner schools in Oregon, Mississippi and Maryland. Together shows how students with diverse support needs learn together in their local schools.  Whatever it Takes provides an in-depth look at MTSS academic instruction in these schools. Coming in 2017 will be a set of three videos about the Universal, Additional and Intensified tiers of MTSS that includes all students, even those with the most extensive needs.

The short videos and films are accessible from a state-of-art website, another project milestone.  The website includes SWIFT Talk, a blog series, and SWIFT Unscripted, a podcast series, which both tell stories of inclusive education from around the nation.

A growing library of downloadable resources can be accessed from the site's SWIFT Shelf. Among the library are issue briefs and webinars on topics important to inclusive education and a bibliography of academic papers, including those from SWIFT's knowledge development site study.  Family and community resources in both English and Spanish are available as well.

Another product available on the website is the SWIFT Playbook, a collection of free, downloadable guides and tools to learn about, facilitate and coach others as they facilitate transformation of whole educational systems.

SWIFT also regularly convenes National Leadership Consortium meetings that bring together its national partners including the University of Oregon, the University of New Hampshire, the University of North Carolina, the University of South Florida, Arizona State University, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, TASH, the Institute for Educational Leadership and the Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education. 

You can follow SWIFT’s progress at swiftschools.org. Learn about SWIFT Education Center's other work at swifteducationcenter.org