LAWRENCE — Researchers at the University of Kansas have been awarded a five-year, $24.5 million grant to develop a national center to assist schools across the country to implement KU's successful model for educating general and special education students together and improve schoolwide academic outcomes.
The award from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs will establish the SWIFT Center (School-wide Integrated Framework for Transformation) to be directed by Wayne Sailor, associate director of the KU Life Span Institute's Beach Center on Disability. It is the largest award in KU history.
"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, who is also a professor of special education.
The School-wide Applications Model (SAM), developed and refined over 10 years by Sailor and KU colleagues, including Amy McCart, associate research professor, and Nikki Wolf, assistant research professor from the Beach Center on Disability, significantly improved academic and behavior outcomes in 23 low-income urban schools in Wyandotte County, Kan.; East Palo Alto, Calif., and Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan has cited Anne Beers Elementary School in Washington, D.C., for the school's "extraordinary job of inclusion."
SWIFT, an expanded version of SAM, brings together special and general education in a comprehensive continuum of supports and services for all students.
For example, the model uses a multitiered system of support of increasing intensity of instruction for all students that includes addressing behavior issues that impede the learning progress, said Sailor.
Other features of the SWIFT model include:
• Schools are structured to avoid "silos" and facilitate collaborative teaching between support and grade level teachers
• All school staff, including security guards, paraprofessionals, support staff, etc., participate in the teaching and learning process
• Schools will use the SWIFT Center Dashboard to make data-driven decisions and monitor interventions
"I truly believe this award will change the face of education in America," said McCart, who will serve as the new center's second-in-command role as director of technical assistance.
The SWIFT Center has multiple partners from KU, including five professors from the highly ranked Department of Special Education: Ann Turnbull; H.R. "Rud" Turnbull; Don Deshler; Kathleen Lane and Elizabeth Kozleski, chairwoman.
"This critical mass at KU enabled us to attract one of the largest grants in U.S. Department of Education history to translate our findings into school and school district practices across the country," said Sailor.
The SWIFT center will provide intensive, on-site technical assistance in new ways to schools and districts in an effort to sustain the model and implement it in additional schools. Further, the project 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.
Partners with KU in the SWIFT Center include the University of Oregon, the University of New Hampshire, the University of North Carolina, the University of South Florida, Arizona State University, Louisiana Technical University, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, TASH, the Institute for Educational Leadership, Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education and Clickfarm Interactive for website design and management.