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The Impact of SWIFT Technical Assistance

SWIFT Education Center began providing technical assistance to schools, districts, and states in providing equitable, inclusive supports to all students in 2012.  The initial funding for SWIFT, provided by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) occurred at about the same time the U.S. was celebrating the 40th anniversary of the landmark education law, P.L. 94-142, now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA).  The law was groundbreaking in that it prioritized educating students with disabilities in inclusive, general education settings, with the supplementary aids and services they need to succeed in these settings.  Since then, research overwhelming supported the effectiveness of inclusive education for students with and without disabilities (see SWIFT Shelf for a bibliography of supporting research). 

Yet progress in transforming schools, which traditionally separate and segregate learners with disabilities from general education settings, to deliver inclusive support and education has been slow.  As a consequence, millions of students are taught outside of general education settings for at least part of their school day on a regular basis.  In light of these trends, SWIFT Education Center works to provide sustainable, systemic change across state, local, and school levels towards inclusive education for all students. 

Recently, we had an opportunity to look back at the outcomes of this technical assistance, publishing our findings in a special issue of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disability (AAIDD) journal ‘Inclusion.’  To complete this special issue, researchers culled through SWIFT data in each domain (i.e., policy, administrative leadership, family and community engagement, integrated education, and multi-tiered systems of support).

Findings across these domains showed a positive impact of SWIFT technical assistance on all measured outcomes.  In the policy domain, Mary Schuh, Kimberly Knackstedt, Jake Cornett, Jeong Hoon Choi, Dan Pollitt, and Allyson Satter found participating states, districts, and schools made progress in implementing inclusive policy that aligns across federal, state, and local levels.  In the administrative leadership domain, Elizabeth Kozleski and Jeong Hoon Choi examined how implementation of the administrative leadership domain of SWIFT impacts leadership performance and educator support systems implementing within schools.  The family and community engagement domain was equally promising, with Judith Gross, Jeong Hoon Choi, and Grace Francis finding positive family perceptions of engagement and partnership with schools following implementation of SWIFT. 

Wayne Sailor, Amy McCart, and Jeong Hoon Choi, studied the impact of a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS), and found preliminary evidence of the effectiveness of this model on student academic and behavioral outcomes, as well as the impact of SWIFT implementation on rates of inclusive education.  Similarly, I found, along with colleagues Mary Morningstar, Tyler Hicks, and Jonathan Templin, that rates of school inclusion increased over the years of implementation of the SWIFT model. 

Together, the research findings present a detailed account of the many positive impacts of SWIFT implementation on students and families, and provide directions for further areas of research and support for promoting equitable inclusive school services for all students. 

Jennifer is an Assistant Professor in the Special Education Department at the University of Kansas. Her research focuses on inclusive education for learners with low-incidence disabilities who have extensive and complex support needs.