Partnership aims to improve student achievement in Washington, DC, area schools

By focusing on improving the experiences of students with disabilities in Washington, D.C., schools, a University of Kansas center dedicated to improving equity and justice in education will partner with the District of Columbia Office of State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) for a $3 million, five-year program to help educators improve outcomes for students with and without disabilities.

Amy McCart, director of the SWIFT Education Center at the KU Life Span Institute, has been working with administrators across the country such as Amy Carter, to improve educational outcomes for 15 years. SWIFT Education Center, a part of the KU Life Span Institute, will help OSSE provide new adult learning opportunities for district leaders on systems and practices shown to bring students with disabilities into the academic and social life of the school, while also improving overall student achievement. 

Participating district staff will develop the mindset, knowledge and skills that will help them to directly partner with school leaders to change the way their schools work, said Amy McCart, SWIFT Education Center co-director.

“School leaders will learn how to make flexible use of all their staff, facilities, curriculum and schedules in an effort to help every student engage fully in all that a school has to offer,” she said.

Educators will learn how to integrate use of academic, behavior, social and emotional student data indicators to inform their decisions about the instruction and support they provide to students.

With two decades of research and technical assistance experience in 21 states, SWIFT Education Center focuses on improving the experiences of every student in the educational system, regardless of disability, socioeconomic background, race or other demographics that are often underserved.

“We consider it a high honor to be working in our nation’s capital to equip educators in ways that support positive gains among students of color and students with disabilities,” McCart said.

Shavonne Gibson, OSSE assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, said her agency was excited about the partnership as well.

“We look forward to working together to build D.C. educators' knowledge of equitable, inclusive practices that will improve outcomes for all students,” she said.