Last week several children at an elementary school in Mississippi playfully dubbed me “Miss Any Bag of Chips” for reasons I am not sure I can explain. These creative and energetic children attend school in a state that ranks at the bottom of the Nation’s Report Card for reading and math proficiency (U.S. Department of Education, 2013). As a member of the SWIFT Center, I have the privilege of partnering with these students’ teachers, school and district administrators, parents, and community leaders as they transform the school into an excellent, equitable, and unified teaching and learning environment that includes all students in general education. The promise of inclusive education is improved academic and social outcomes for ALL students, including students with disabilities and those with the most extensive needs.
This Mississippi school and its district are in an exploratory stage of adoption of the Schoolwide Integrated Framework for Transformation (SWIFT). In this stage, schools and districts must assess the fit between SWIFT and the needs of the students they serve. The SWIFT Center, headquartered at the University of Kansas, is a federally funded national technical assistance program that works with this and similar schools and districts throughout the country to develop both the will and capacity for bringing about inclusive education (see swiftschools.org).
Because my colleagues and I are researchers, you may not be surprised to find that we developed the SWIFT framework based on empirical evidence within five key domain areas. These areas are: 1) administrative leadership, 2) a multi-tiered system of support for inclusive academic and behavioral instruction (e.g., SWPBIS), 3) an integrated educational framework that includes general and specialized education and a strong positive school culture, 4) trusting partnerships and engagement with family and community, and 5) district and state policy frameworks that fully support inclusion. In all these domain areas, SWIFT calls for the whole educational system to change in support of a simple unifying theme: All means ALL.
All students deserve access to the general education curriculum for which the state assessments will judge their abilities. All students benefit from the opportunity to have friendships and meaningful social relationships. All staff take ownership for the educational and social outcomes for all students, whether a general or specialized educator, a member of the custodial staff, a receptionist, and so on. All families and members of the community can help create authentic learning opportunities for all students. All school resources can be used flexibly and made available for the education of all students. All state and local education policies can promote and facilitate inclusive educational practices.
If you have experience in public schools, you know that such transformation is a tall order. However, we at the SWIFT Center believe in the capability of students, educators, administrators, families, and community members to be resilient, resourceful, and capable of learning new and inclusive ways of teaching and learning as we move together in the direction of our shared vision. So, as Miss Any Bag of Chips, I am honored to partner with Mississippi students, educators, families, and community members to achieve the shared vision of All means ALL!
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). (2013). Mathematics and Reading Assessments. Retrieved from the Nation’s Report Card.
Editor’s note: Amy McCart will be a Keynote Speaker at the 12th Annual NorthWest PBIS Conference in Portland, Oregon, February 26-28, 2014.