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National Center on Secondary Education and Transition

Increasing Rates of School Completion
Moving From Policy and Research to Practice

A Manual for Policymakers, Administrators, and Educators

Part III: What Works in Dropout Prevention?

Sample Dropout Intervention Program


Background: Check & Connect was developed in 1990 at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration with input from researchers, practitioners, parents, and students. The model was originally funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs and was part of three projects addressing the problem of dropout for students with emotional/behavioral disabilities.

Intervention Description: Check & Connect is a model designed to encourage student engagement in school and learning through a comprehensive approach. Fundamental elements of the model include relationship building, routine observation of warning signs of withdrawal, individualized intervention, promotion of problem-solving skills, and encouragement of students’ participation in school activities. These key features are carried out through an individual referred to as a monitor, who serves essentially as a mentor, case manager, and advocate.

As the name of the model suggests, Check & Connect consists of two main components: checking and connecting. The check component of the model involves checking on indicators of student engagement such as attendance, social/behavioral performance, and educational progress. These variables are observed and recorded regularly on a monitoring sheet. The connect component incorporates both basic and intensive interventions designed to maximize limited resources. All targeted students obtain basic intervention, which includes providing information about the Check & Connect model to students and families. It also involves conversations with each student about his/her progress in school and use of problem-solving strategy to address problems. Intensive interventions, on the other hand, are provided for students identified as exhibiting signs of withdrawal and may include providing tutoring services, facilitating meetings between home and school, linking with community resources, or assisting with the development and implementation of behavioral interventions.

In addition, family outreach is utilized in the Check & Connect model to encourage communication and collaboration between the home and school. Monitors implement a variety of strategies, such as telephone calls, home visits, and meetings to build relationships with families and increase parental participation in the education process.

Participants & Setting: While Check & Connect was first created for urban middle school youth with behavioral and learning challenges, it has been replicated for students with and without disabilities in grades K-12. Students are referred to the program based on alterable warning signs of school withdrawal, such as academic performance, attendance, and emotional/behavioral problems. Schools in urban and suburban settings have utilized Check & Connect.

Implementation Considerations: Monitors are key to the Check & Connect model and work to promote student engagement. They are responsible for assessing student levels of engagement and implementing student-focused interventions. Preferably, monitors work with the same students over a period of several years. Qualifications for a monitor include: determination, belief that all children have abilities, readiness to work with families employing a nonblaming method, advocacy and organizational skills, and the capability to work independently in various settings. Individuals who serve as monitors characteristically possess a bachelor’s degree in a human-services area and have some experience working with children and families. Weekly supervision of monitors and staff development is provided by project personnel.

Cost: Estimates suggest the cost of implementing the Check & Connect model is approximately $1,100 per student.

Evidence of Effectiveness: Four longitudinal research studies have been conducted on Check & Connect. Overall outcomes have yielded decreases in truancy and dropout rates, as well as increases in accrual of credits and school completion.

The original pilot was carried out from 1992 to 1995 and involved students with learning and emotional/behavioral disabilities from grades 7 to 9. Results from this research indicated that at the end of ninth grade, more youth in the treatment group were in school and on track to graduate than similar students assigned to the control group.

Another Check & Connect project began in 1996 and concluded in 2001. Participants included youth with emotional and behavioral disabilities in grades 9 to 12. Outcomes from the study revealed that more students in the participant group were in school as of June 2000 than students in the control group. In addition, more students in the participant group completed school or were within one year of completing as of June 2000 than students in the control group.

Check & Connect was also implemented with students in grades K through 6 from 1997 to 2002, and these youth were followed up through the secondary grades. Individuals with and without disabilities and their families were involved in the research project. After two years with Check & Connect, the percent of students present and arriving to school on time increased dramatically.

Additionally, the School Success Truancy Intervention project implemented Check & Connect for youth with and without disabilities from ages 11 to 17. Outcome indicators of the project’s impact include a reduction of student absences and an increase in the percentage of students who were present in school at least 95% of the time after two years with Check & Connect.

Manual or Training Available: A manual, Keeping Kids in School: Using Check & Connect for Dropout Prevention, describes the program and provides sample monitoring sheets. It is available through the Publications Office of the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota, 150 Pillsbury Drive S.E., Minneapolis, MN, 55455, icipub@umn.edu, 612-624-4512.


Christenson, S. L., & Carroll, E. B. (2000). Strengthening the family-school partnership through Check & Connect. In E. Frydenberg (Ed.), Learning to cope. London: Oxford University Press.

Christenson, S. L., Hurley, C. M., Hirsche, J. A., Kau, M., Evelo, D. L., & Bates, W. (1997). Check & Connect: The role of monitors in supporting high-risk youth. Reaching Today’s Youth: The Community Circle of Caring Journal, 2(1), 18-21.

Christenson, S. L., Sinclair, M. F., Lehr, C. A., & Hurley, C. M. (2000). Promoting successful school completion. In D. Minke & G. Bear (Eds.), Preventing school problems-promoting school success: Strategies and programs that work. Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.

Christenson, S. L., Sinclair, M. F., Thurlow, M. L., & Evelo, D. L. (1999). Promoting student engagement with school using the Check & Connect model. Australian Journal of Guidance and Counseling, 9(1), 169-184.

Evelo, D., Sinclair, M. F., Hurley, C., Christenson, S. L., & Thurlow, M. L. (1996). Keeping kids in school: Using Check & Connect for dropout prevention. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration.

Sinclair, M. F., Christenson, S. L., Lehr, C. A., & Anderson, A. R. (In press). Facilitating student engagement: Lessons learned from Check & Connect longitudinal studies. Journal of California Association of School Psychologists.

Sinclair, M. F., Hurley, C., Christenson, S. L., Thurlow, M. L., & Evelo, D. L. (2001). Connections that keep kids coming to school. In R. Algozzine & P. Kay (Eds.), Preventing problem behaviors. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.

Sinclair, M. F., Thurlow, M. L., Christenson, S. L., & Evelo, D. L. (1995). Check & Connect: Partnership for school success: Project evaluation 1990-1995. In H. Thornton (Ed.), Staying in School: A Technical Report of Three Dropout Prevention Projects for Middle School Students with Learning and Emotional Disabilities. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration.

Thurlow, M. L., Sinclair, M. F., & Johnson, D. R. (2002, July). Students with disabilities who drop out of school: Implications for policy and practice. Issue Brief, 1(2). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration, National Center on Secondary Education and Transition.

Contact Information:

Sandra L. Christenson, Ph.D.
University of Minnesota
Phone: 612-624-0037
Fax: 612-624-0879
E-mail: chris002@umn.edu

Mary F. Sinclair, Ph.D.
E-mail: sincl001@umn.edu

Web site: http://ici.umn.edu/checkandconnect

Table of Contents

Cover Page

Introduction & Getting Started

Part I: What Do We Know About Dropout Prevention?

Part II: How Were Sample Intervention Programs Selected?

  • The Need for Examples of Effective Interventions
  • Search Process & Initial Criteria
  • Raising the Bar
  • Final Parameters for Selection
  • Abstracts: Coding & Definitions

Part III: What Works in Dropout Prevention?

Part IV: Where Else Can I Go for More Information?

  • Related Resources & Organizations
  • Journal Articles & Related Publications
  • Web Sites Providing Data on Dropout Rates

Appendix: Reproducible Handouts on Dropout Prevention


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Citation: Lehr, C. A., Johnson, D. R., Bremer, C. D., Cosio, A., & Thompson, M. (2004). Essential tools: Increasing rates of school completion: Moving from policy and research to practice. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration, National Center on Secondary Education and Transition.

Permission is granted to duplicate this publication in its entirety or portions thereof. Upon request, this publication will be made available in alternative formats. For additional copies of this publication, or to request an alternate format, please contact: Institute on Community Integration Publications Office, 109 Pattee Hall, 150 Pillsbury Drive SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455, (612) 624-4512, icipub@umn.edu.

This document was published by the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET). NCSET is supported through a cooperative agreement #H326J000005 with the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the U.S. Department of Education Programs, and no official endorsement should be inferred. The University of Minnesota, the U.S. Department of Education, and the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition are equal opportunity employers and educators.