The SWIFT Center (www.swiftschools.org) is a national technical assistance center supporting the academic and behavioral outcomes of all students. Its model focuses on transforming education to benefit each and every student, their family and, ultimately, the communities in which they reside. The SWIFT Center is committed to eliminating silos in education, and to bridging general and special education to create powerful learning opportunities for students and teachers, and to promote active, engaged partnerships among all stakeholders in education.
The SWIFT Center approaches its work through the lens of equity. All students must be afforded an opportunity to flourish in our education system. This includes students living in poverty, English-language learners, students who excel academically, and students with disabilities, including those with the most extensive support needs.
TASH is a proud partner of the SWIFT Center, and serves as the basis of its education policy team. We work to align policy that supports the implementation of new and innovative practices, so that school-wide inclusion can become standard operating procedure and all students, regardless of perceived abilities, can achieve optimal academic and behavioral outcomes. The SWIFT Center model makes use of the talents, passion and resources within each school to ensure every child is a valued member of their school, and given the supports they need to be successful.
Funded through the U.S. Department of Education, the SWIFT Center is a five-year project that includes strategic partnerships with five states – including 16 school districts and 67 total schools – to implement a new model for educating all students.
Achieving Equity through Evidence-Based Practices
The intent of public education is to provide students with a foundation of learning that will help them tackle challenges and create opportunities later in life. More than 30 years of research shows us that, when all students are learning together – including those with extensive support needs – and are given the appropriate instruction and supports, all students can excel academically and socially. Students who are properly supported are able to participate, learn and grow within grade-level general education curriculum; build meaningful and lasting social relationships; achieve positive behavioral outcomes; and go on to graduate from high school and college and become fully participating members of their communities.
But how do we transform education in order to reach these goals? Research points to the coordination of administrative leadership, multi-tiered systems of support, family and community partnerships, inclusive educational framework that includes both organizational structure and school culture, and policies and practices that provide the backbone to these features.
Aligning Policy to Support Systems Change
Policy alignment is essential in supporting and sustaining large-scale systems-change initiatives such as the SWIFT Center. The failure to properly support new models in this way creates barriers in implementation, leads to change that becomes overly dependent upon existing leadership, and leaves important work vulnerable in the years ahead.
TASH brings nearly 40 years of expertise and leadership to the SWIFT Center. Over that time we have amassed invaluable experience and built strong relationships at the federal level, provided guidance on research and best practice, and leveraged a vibrant TASH membership that includes advocates, leading experts and researchers, and a direct connection to what is happening in the field.
The mission of the SWIFT Center is directly aligned with the commitment of TASH to create a world in which people with disabilities are included and fully participating members of their communities. For additional information about the SWIFT Center visit www.swiftschools.org.