Partners Announced for KU Initiative to Move Toward Rightful Presence in Regular Education Classrooms

Working with the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, the National Center on Inclusion Toward Rightful Presence at SWIFT Education Center, based at the KU Life Span Institute has selected four state education agencies as partners on a project directed toward creating changes in systems, policies, and practices at 32 schools.

"A diverse classroom of students, including a girl in a wheelchair, face the front of a classroom with hands raised, looking toward their teach who is standing next to a human skeleton model"

The Center will partner with the Delaware Department of Education; New Mexico Public Education Department; Orange County Department of Education on behalf of California Department of Education; and Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to implement inclusive practices and policies in the four states. 

Each State Education Agency was selected for its high level of commitment to and progress toward inclusion of students with disabilities. The partners in turn will each select and support two school districts and eight schools, for a total of 32 schools, to increase belonging and learning opportunities for those students who are now segregated from general education.  

“These partnerships will make changes in systems, policies, and practices that result in meaningful engagement in general education for students traditionally kept at the margins of school,” said Amy McCart, KU research professor and co-director of SWIFT. “This includes students with the most significant disabilities who benefit from intensive support when receiving high-quality academic instruction aligned with general education standards, delivered among peers in the same grade-level classroom.”

The Center chose each partner based on its commitment to the project’s goal to build equitable educational systems for students, families, and communities. Their past work in this area includes: 

  • Delaware Department of Education, which emphasizes whole-child Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) with embedded Universal Design for Learning (UDL) for environments that support all learners. Literacy programs, such as the Delaware Early Literacy Initiative, promote evidence-based literacy instruction, including strategies to teach reading to students with significant cognitive disabilities. 
  • New Mexico Public Education Department, which has a robust structure to support Multi-Layered System of Supports (MLSS) implementation, including cross-district professional learning communities and implementation coaches. A strong support system is currently in place for students with high-incidence disabilities and is ready to extend to students with less frequently seen needs.
  • Orange County Department of Education, which participates in a statewide program for implementing MTSS with a whole-child approach, with embedded UDL, and are also well positioned to extend their systems to students currently participating in separate educational programs.
  • Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, which has initiatives in place to increase the placement of students with disabilities into the general education setting, including a robust statewide coaching structure and the expertise and commitment to leverage implementation science. The state infuses equity throughout their frameworks and systems, with a focus on equitable access, opportunity, and outcomes experienced by learners who are systemically marginalized in the state’s schools.

“We are honored to have partners who have committed to work in deep and meaningful ways to change the system of support for students with intensive cognitive needs,” McCart said. “These dynamic learners offer so much, and we are excited to see how effective instructional support within general education will not only change their outcomes, but also provide lasting systems for those learners who come next.”

SWIFT technical assistance providers will collaborate to support the state partners’ systemic and sustainable changes and will monitor the states’ progress toward implementation through regular assessment. The results will demonstrate how to effect change toward inclusive reform in school systems.

A previously announced federal grant established the National Center on Inclusion Toward Rightful Presence to partner with local and state education agencies to support educators and their students as they move beyond inclusion in schools and classrooms, to co-created systemic conditions for rightful presence.