Skip Navigation
Funding Opportunities | Search Funded Research Grants and Contracts

IES Grant

Title: Efficacy Study of Check and Connect to Improve Student Outcomes
Center: NCSER Year: 2011
Principal Investigator: Sumi, W. Carl Awardee: SRI International
Program: Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Competence      [Program Details]
Award Period: 09/1/2011–08/31/2015 Award Amount: $3,475,570
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R324A110166

Purpose: There is a compelling need to more effectively intervene with youth with emotional and behavioral disorders to change their pattern of negative behavioral and academic experiences in high school. Importantly, there is a need to engage them in their school programs so they persist through graduation and are well prepared for success in their adult lives. This research team will conduct a randomized controlled trial to test the efficacy of the Check and Connect intervention, a promising, comprehensive student engagement intervention developed to promote school success and completion for secondary students at high risk for school failure and dropout. Although the intervention has been studied previously, the impact of the program has not been evaluated specifically with students with emotional disturbance.

Project activities: Incoming 9th-grade students in an urban city in California will be recruited and randomly assigned to either the intervention condition or typical school services. The Check and Connect intervention includes mentor support for each student to promote student engagement in school and with learning. Multiple measures will be used to assess student behavioral and academic outcomes, including student engagement and progress towards a high school diploma. Researchers will also examine how fidelity of implementation and quality of mentor-student alliance influence treatment outcomes.

Products: The products of this project include evidence of the efficacy of the Check and Connect intervention, published reports, and presentations.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will take place in four high schools in an urban city in California.

Population: Approximately 375 incoming 9th-grade students will participate. Eligible students include those who (a) are identified for special education services in the category of emotional disturbance, (b) have learning disabilities or ADHD and have behavior improvement goals on their IEPs, or (c) are at risk of referral for special education services and school failure because they have at least one indicator each in the categories of behavioral risk, academic risk, and school participation risk (e.g., numerous office discipline referrals, failing courses, and multiple absences per month).

Intervention: The Check and Connect program is intended to promote student engagement in school and with learning. Fundamental to the intervention is the development of a relationship of mutual trust and open communication between the targeted student and a mentor. The mentor regularly (often several times a week) checks on the school adjustment, behavior, and educational progress of the student and intervenes to reestablish and maintain his or her connection to school and learning and to enhance his or her social and academic competencies. The mentor's relationship-building extends to the student's family and school staff involved with the student. The mentor works with students to increase their use of problem solving via a cognitive-behavioral approach to acquiring skills to resolve conflict, identify solutions, and develop productive coping strategies. Students receive Check and Connect mentor support for up to 3 years.

Basic intervention services for all Check and Connect participants include students' regular meetings with their mentor, during which the importance of attending to school work, staying in school, and problem solving is emphasized. Students who show increased signs of disengagement from school receive more intensive individualized intervention to address the specific issues identified through monitoring data (e.g., tutoring to address grade issues, anger management training to address aggressive behavior). The intervention manual provides guidance on how mentors can match strategies to the issues individual students confront.

Research Design and Methods: This study will utilize a randomized trial where students serve as the unit of randomization. Students will be randomly assigned to the Check and Connect intervention or to services as usual.

Control Condition: The comparison group will receive the school program (including special education services if appropriate) that would normally be provided to those students.

Key Measures: The researchers will measure student outcomes for the experimental and control groups using the Student Engagement Survey to assess cognitive and affective engagement. They will also obtain students' school records to assess behavioral and academic engagement as well as progress toward and achievement of a high school credential. In addition, teachers will complete the Social Skills Improvement System-Teacher Form to assess academic and behavioral engagement. Measures of implementation fidelity, mentor-student alliance, and social validity will be used to assess these potential moderators of intervention effect, as well as student, family, and school context factors. Dosage, adherence, and quality of implementation will also be assessed. Measures will be repeated each spring for the three intervention years as long as students remain in school; dropouts will be tracked to assess return to school or enrollment in alternative degree programs.

Data Analytic Strategy: The researchers will use hierarchical linear modeling to test the general impact of the intervention on student engagement and progress toward a high school diploma, as well as mediating and moderating effects. Survival curve modeling of dropout status and growth curve modeling of student engagement will also be conducted.