Academic journal article School Community Journal

Strong School-Community Partnerships in Inclusive Schools Are "Part of the Fabric of the School.We Count on Them"

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Strong School-Community Partnerships in Inclusive Schools Are "Part of the Fabric of the School.We Count on Them"

Article excerpt

Introduction

Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass (2012) described school-community partnerships as meaningful relationships with community members, organizations, and businesses that are committed to working cooperatively with a shared responsibility to advance the development of students' intellectual, social, and emotional well-being. School-community partnerships can impact student success and post-school outcomes as well as positively influence and benefit the community in return. Auerbach (2010) characterized authentic partnerships as "respectful alliances among educators, families, and community groups that value relationship building, dialogue, and power sharing as part of a socially just, democratic school" (p. 729). The development of authentic, trusting relationships is germane to establishing effective school-community partnerships.

Community involvement in schools is a critical component for student achievement (Anderson, Houser, & Howland, 2010; Bryk, 2010; Coleman, 1988; McAlister, 2013; Sanders, 2006). Research shows schools that develop strong community partnerships have (a) a higher percentage of students performing on grade level (Sheldon, 2003), (b) increased parental volunteerism (Anderson et al., 2010), (c) supported school reform efforts (McAllister, 2013), (d) increased student test scores (Blank, Melaville, & Shah, 2003; Sheldon, 2007), (e) increased student attendance rates (Sheldon, 2003, 2007; Sheldon & Epstein, 2004), and (f ) connections for students to learning opportunities outside of school (Blank et al., 2003). Because of their strong influence on students, families, and schools, trusting community partnerships are an integral feature of the Schoolwide Integrated Framework for Transformation (SWIFT).

SWIFT is an evidence-based theoretical framework for a fully braided, inclusive educational delivery system that extends beyond the school to include families and community, as well as state and district policies and practices (Mc- Cart, Sailor, Bezdek, & Satter, 2014; Sailor & Roger, 2005; Sailor et al., 2006). We define "evidence-based" as practices drawn from research studies that have been replicated numerous times with defined, measurable outcomes indicating effectiveness. Inclusive schools educate all students in learning environments that practice equity-based inclusion of all children, where every student is valued as a member of his or her neighborhood school and is provided the supports needed to achieve social and academic success. The SWIFT framework integrates five evidence-based domains as the foundation of effective inclusive school transformation (see Figure 1):

(a) administrative leadership (e.g., Ainscow & Sandhill, 2010; Burrello, Hoffman, & Murray, 2005; Marzano, Waters, & McNulty, 2005; Waldron & McLeskey, 2010),

(b) multi-tiered system of support (e.g., Bradshaw, Mitchell, & Leaf, 2010; Lane, Oakes, & Menzies, 2010; Sugai, Simonsen, Bradshaw, Horner, & Lewis, 2014),

(c) integrated educational framework (e.g., Hang & Rabren, 2009; O'Day, 2002; Wenger, 2000),

(d) family and community engagement (e.g., Anderson-Butcher et al., 2008; Bryk, 2010; Lawson & Sailor, 2000), and

(e) inclusive policy structure and practice (e.g., Burrello, Sailor, & Kleinhammer-Tramill, 2013; Kozleski & Smith, 2009).

While the SWIFT framework is appropriate for any school (O'Rourke, 2014; Ryndak, Jackson, & White, 2013), it is especially beneficial for transforming schools that struggle with low achievement, high rates of problem behavior, and segregated delivery of specialized services. As such, the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) established the National Center on Schoolwide Inclusive Reform, referred to as SWIFT Center, to provide intensive technical assistance to K-8 urban, rural, and high need schools, along with their districts and state education agencies, to improve outcomes for students with disabilities while transforming schools to positively impact all students (U. …

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