Check & Connect, the K-12 student engagement intervention developed at the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) in CEHD, turns 25 this year, and ICI is marking the occasion by holding the first-ever Check & Connect National Conference on October 7-8 at the University of Minnesota. Check & Connect is a comprehensive intervention designed to enhance student engagement at school and with learning for marginalized, disengaged students in grades K-12. The conference will bring together leading experts and practitioners from around the country to address the topic of student engagement among at-risk youth, share lessons learned, and gain tools for implementing and sustaining Check & Connect to support youth in reaching their goals and graduating from high school.
Check & Connect began in 1990 when the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs awarded a five-year grant to enable a group of ICI researchers to develop a dropout prevention program in collaboration with the Minneapolis Public Schools. The project targeted about 200 middle school students with emotional/behavioral disorders and/or learning disabilities for intervention, with mentors checking their students’ performance of alterable variables weekly (e.g., attendance, behavior, academics) and providing timely intervention focused on problem solving, skill building, and support from school personnel, families, and community service providers to enhance engagement. The program succeeded. Compared to control groups, many more students who received the Check & Connect intervention stayed in school and were, by grade 9, on track to graduate within five years.
Since 1990, Check & Connect has been implemented in K-12 schools in over 27 states, including statewide use in three states, and in other countries. Of the dropout prevention interventions reviewed by the U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse in 2006, Check & Connect was the only program found to have strong evidence of positive effects on staying in school. It has also been adapted for use in other settings, including postsecondary education and the juvenile justice system. One of the model’s developers, Sandy Christenson, Professor in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Educational Psychology, notes the importance of Check & Connect’s approach to the whole student: “Engaging students is more than promoting academic engaged time or attendance. We must pay attention to students’ emotional and intellectual responses to school in order to improve their schooling experiences and school completion. Enhancing students’ sense of belonging and motivation to learn is a core feature of Check & Connect.”
The Check & Connect National Conference will be held at the McNamara Alumni Center, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, on October 7-8. It is for professionals interested in learning more about student engagement in general and Check & Connect specifically, as well as current sites implementing Check & Connect’s model. In addition, on October 6, there will be a pre-conference training offering a condensed version of Check & Connect’s typical two-day implementation training for those considering or beginning use of Check & Connect. For information on the implementation manual, training, and consultation services, visit http://checkandconnect.umn.edu.