Partnership to Increase Inclusion, Achievement in Washington Schools

Individual sits in front of a laptop, watching a teacher in front of a chalkboard.

 A University of Kansas center dedicated to improving equity and inclusion for all students has entered a partnership with the State of Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to help school leaders boost outcomes for every student in their communities. SWIFT Education Center, a part of the Life Span Institute, will provide professional learning and support based on research that has consistently proven to boost educational achievement for all students.

SWIFT Education Center will deliver professional learning and coaching to principals and their school leadership teams from 80 schools in Washington. The partnership is part of a contract in which schools in the state are working to improve inclusionary practices. To accomplish this, Washington’s legislature approved $25 million in funding for two years to ensure students with disabilities and marginalized groups are included in all education efforts, and to reduce segregation in schools. SWIFT’s partnership will be funded by $1.3 million of the funds through June 2021.

The state’s goal of including every student in the community, regardless of disability, in school along with their age peers, aligns with SWIFT’s mission of helping schools transition to educational models in which all students learn together and students with disabilities are not segregated into separate classes or schools. The center has helped schools across the country to implement Multi-Tiered System of Support, or MTSS. Research consistently shows that these efforts improve English, language arts and math achievement among all students, not just those with disabilities. The model has proven to reduce in and out of school suspensions for all students as well.

SWIFT will focus efforts in Washington on the school leadership, providing specially designed professional learning for leadership to principals and their teams, job-embedded coaching and tools to support equity and inclusion. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the work will begin with intensive online sessions for the first group of schools. Two more cohorts of schools will participate in in-person sessions after public gathering and travel restrictions regarding the novel coronavirus are lifted. The center is taking applications from schools now for all three sessions.

“Given this particularly difficult time, we are beyond excited about the possibility of working with Washington educators on supporting students who most need it,” said Amy McCart, SWIFT Center co-director. “We know we will be building on the great work already occurring in Washington around equity, MTSS and positive school climates, and the state is poised to make dramatic gains.”

Together, they will build on the state’s capacity for inclusion and work to meet the legislature’s goal of including every student in the educational system, regardless of disability, socioeconomic background, race or other demographics that are often underserved in American education.

“Each and every student in the community should be invited, feel welcome and be supported in their learning,” McCart said. “We believe strongly, particularly in this challenging time that creating a strong sense of belonging for each and every student and family in the school community is foundational. Washington is clearly committed to this vision, and we are proud to be a part of their efforts to ensure that all students means all students.”

Article by Mike Krings, KU News

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