Connecting Students to Learning:
ICI’s Check & Connect Expanding Its Reach
To prevent school dropout among K-12 students, in 1995 the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) launched Check & Connect, a research-based intervention to increase student engagement at school and with learning. Now, Check & Connect has launched an expanded suite of training and consultation options, its staff are conducting new large-scale research studies on its efficacy, and its new Web site has been unveiled (http://checkandconnect.umn.edu).
Since its inception, the Check & Connect model has been implemented in 27 states and internationally. Ongoing studies have demonstrated a number of positive results for participating students, including:
- As a sustained intervention, Check & Connect improves enrollment, attendance, and odds of graduation for students who are disengaged and at risk of dropout.
- For students with emotional/behavioral disabilities, Check & Connect improves persistence, enrollment, access to relevant educational services, student involvement in IEP transition planning, and attendance.
- For elementary students experiencing tardiness and absences, Check & Connect improves regular attendance.
In collaboration with others, Sandy Christenson and Karen Stout are conducting new research studies examining the implementation of Check & Connect. These studies will involve thousands of students over several years to learn for whom the program works and under what conditions. These efficacy studies deliberately cast a wide net, ranging from at-risk general education high school students in San Diego, to struggling elementary and middle school students in the Chicago Public Schools, to high school students with disabilities in San Jose. Findings from the research will influence training and consultation offerings. “The exciting aspect of the current efficacy studies is that we will learn how students’ perceived connection with others in the learning context and motivation-to-learn impact attendance rates and indicators of academic achievement. As a result of this research, we expect new and varied Check & Connect interventions to be developed for disengaged learners,” says director Sandy Christenson.
In addition to the studies, expanded Check & Connect training and consultation options have been launched. Now available are a one-hour Webinar overview of Check & Connect, training for mentors in a blended in-person and online environment, and a day-long refresher course taught on-site for existing Check & Connect users, in addition to the two-day implementation trainings that have been offered for several years. Another addition is technical assistance to would-be users who are writing grants to fund Check & Connect or planning to evaluate their implementation of the program. A Check & Connect Coordinators’ National Community of Practice, as well as an electronic discussion list to help program users connect with one another are now up and running. And staff have developed an online spotlight on current Check & Connect users, and are using social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Of this expanded training and outreach, program coordinator Kay Augustine notes, “We are thrilled to offer these new opportunities to respond to the growing number of sites implementing Check & Connect.”