FYI, the Institute on Community Integration Staff Newsletter

December 2008

Keeping Students Engaged With School: ICI’s Check & Connect

Each year roughly 1.23 million students in the U.S. do not graduate from high school with their peers. Students who leave school before graduation are more likely to become unemployed, incarcerated, and/or dependent on social programs than those with a high school diploma. The Institute on Community Integration (ICI) is responding to this problem by offering Check & Connect, a comprehensive, targeted intervention designed to enhance students’ engagement at school and with learning through relationship building and problem solving.

This month Check & Connect, which first began as a federally-funded research project at ICI in 1990, launches its new implementation manual and training that build on that early work. The manual and training prepare school districts, community organizations, and others to replicate Check & Connect with youth in their communities, and promote student competence, school success, and school completion.

One of 22 dropout prevention interventions rated by the U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse, Check & Connect is the only program found to have strong evidence of positive effects for staying in school. The program is based on the following assumptions: (1) Leaving school prior to graduation is not an instantaneous event; (2) solving the dropout problem will require a multifaceted effort of home, school, community, and youth; (3) students must be empowered to take control of their own behavior; and (4) schools must be designed to reach out to families in partnership with community. The four components of Check & Connect are: 

  • A mentor who provides persistent support and keeps education salient for students.

  • Systematic monitoring of absences, tardies, suspensions, expulsions, behavioral referrals, failing classes, and credits accrued (the “check” component).

  • Timely and individualized intervention based on the check information.

  • Enhanced home-school communication and home support for learning.

The new manual (available from ICI’s Publications Office) outlines the key components of Check & Connect, describes the steps to implement this research-based model, and presents the theory underlying the intervention. School districts and youth organizations desiring assistance in implementing the intervention can participate in Check & Connect training, either at their sites (for customized training) or at designated sites throughout the country. The next scheduled training is March 30-31, 2009 on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis.

Over the past 18 years during which the Check & Connect model has been created, implemented, and revised, a number of lessons have been learned about student engagement. According to Sandy Christenson, one of the developers of Check & Connect, “We have learned the power, value and importance of individualized interventions – those that create a person-environment fit. We’ve also found that relationships are essential for students’ behavior change, commitment to learning, and academic progress. And we’ve learned the necessity to engage students on multiple levels: academically, behaviorally, cognitively, and affectively. Through Check & Connect we strive to address all those components.”

FFI on Check & Connect contact Ann Mavis at 612-624-1489,, or visit