February 27, 2016

Complicated documentation may be roadblock for effective special education

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Montpelier (Feb 24) – Funding for special education programs is dependent on very specific documentation that schools and supervisory unions must fill out.  The difficulty of the paperwork sometimes stands in the way of funding for special education.  “Why do we need to label a child to give them what they need?” asked Beth Hemingway, Director of Student Support Services for Grand Isle Supervisory Union Because of this often difficult paperwork, effective special education programs like SWIFT can’t get off the ground.

SWIFT, Schoolwide Integrated Framework for Transformation, is a national program developed at the University of Kansas that is a unique method of teaching for students with special needs.  The program is comprised of integration in the classroom with “typical” students, heavy family and parent involvement, engaged administrative staff, and many other things.


Marisa Duncan-Holley speaks to the benefits of the SWIFT program as Rep. Timothy Jerman looks on

Around four years ago SWIFT was introduced to supervisory unions across the state where it was successful for some but not for others.  Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union had to leave SWIFT after a rocky start where they spent the first year “independently operating” according to Wendy Pierce, Special Education Director for SVSU.  Wendy said they began SWIFT without much support and they had to figure out how to document the time of special educators, time sampling, appropriately for their block grant, money given to the supervisory union from the government.  One of the principles of SWIFT is relaxed rules around reporting special educators’ schedules so they can work with a broader scope of kids which conflicts with requirements from block grants that happen to enable supervisory unions to be a part of the SWIFT program.

“We’re looking at children with what are their individual needs” said Marisa Duncan-Holley, Special Education Director for Windham Southeast Supervisory Union.  Marisa was testifying on behalf of the SWIFT program as she believes makes a difference in students’ lives.  According to Marisa “the idea behind SWIFT is to open up the door for all students but because of funding they have to use the special education door”.

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