WSESU to participate in University of Kansas educational initiative

BRATTLEBORO — The Windham Southeast Supervisory Union is one of four Vermont school districts selected to participate in a five-year, five-state $24.5 million K-8 national education initiative at the University of Kansas called SWIFT (School-wide Integrated Framework for Transformation).

The SWIFT Center is led by a team of researchers at the University of Kansas (KU), and is funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs.

The five states are Maryland, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oregon and Vermont. New Hampshire and Vermont will be regarded as one state education agency based on their existing education consortium.

According to the Kansas researchers, the states were selected based on criteria that included having a combination of rural, urban and high-need districts.

Rural is defined as a district that is eligible under the Small Rural School Achievement program or the Rural and Low-Income School (RLIS) program.

A high-need district serves not fewer than 10,000 children from families with incomes below the poverty line, or for which not less than 20 percent of the children served by the local education agencies are from families with incomes below the poverty line.

High-need districts are also defined as having a high percentage of teachers that are not teaching in the academic subjects or grade levels that they were trained to teach, or there is a high percentage of teachers with emergency, provisional or temporary certification or licensing.

Each of the four state education agencies has identified four local school districts and will select 16 schools (four per district) for a total of 64 schools. Joining WSESU in the SWIFT program from Vermont are Grand Isle Supervisory Union in Hero, Franklin Northwest Supervisory Union in Swanton, and Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union in Bennington.

The SWIFT model requires intensive technical assistance and training over the next five years for representatives from state, district and local administrators as well as classroom teachers, paraprofessionals and other school personnel.

Also, SWIFT will assist state education agencies to implement statewide school reform. A national communication system will include a new generation website, an interactive e–learning knowledge bank, a SWIFT community of practice and a SWIFT national family alliance.

“SWIFT goes beyond other schoolwide reform inclusion models,” said Wayne Sailor, professor of special education and director of the SWIFT Center at KU, said in a news release. “SWIFT reintegrates and reclaims the expertise that is now fragmented across educational specialties and focuses all of the resources to allow teaching and learning to flourish in a really new way.”

The KU SWIFT Center will provide each district with a technical assistance team with targeted expertise based on the schools' initial assessments.

Partners with KU in the SWIFT Center initiative include 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.

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