Check & Connect mentor Erin Whitehead, left, had a weekly check-in with a student in Carver County. Whitehead is an AmeriCorps Promise Fellow, a community volunteer serving as a mentor.Check & Connect mentor Erin Whitehead, left, had a weekly check-in with a student in Carver County. Whitehead is an AmeriCorps Promise Fellow, a community volunteer serving as a mentor.

Check & Connect goes digital

A new app enhances a tested dropout prevention tool

For more than 25 years, Check & Connect has been improving student outcomes and keeping at-risk kids on track to graduation. Through the program, mentors and students meet weekly, harnessing valuable one-to-one time to build connections with young people who need them. The mentors’ goal: Fuel students’ motivation to learn by building trusting relationships, providing persistent support, and helping them learn to solve their own problems.

Check & Connect was founded in the 1990s by researchers and practitioners at CEHD’s Institute on Community Integration in collaboration with Minneapolis Public Schools. It is the only dropout prevention intervention shown to have positive effects on keeping kids in school.* In the last 15 years, Check & Connect has trained more than 5,000 professionals in schools, districts, and community organizations to implement the model.

Unique to Check & Connect is the model by which mentors check in with students and provide immediate supports to address specific issues. Their system of tracking data? A paper form. Mentors fill out forms weekly and submit reports monthly to a site coordinator, who aggregates the data to determine the impact on student outcomes.

Imagine if they could do this on a tablet, laptop, or computer. Data entry could be simplified, and reporting would be immediate and visually powerful.

Thanks to a partnership between ICI and Educational Technology Innovations (ETI), this vision is a reality with a new Check & Connect web-based application. After more than two decades of growth, the collaboration brings yet another innovation to Check & Connect.

Program manager Jean Echternacht appreciates the synchronicity.

“The timing was perfect,” she says. “Just as the Check & Connect team decided it was time to offer mentors a quicker, easier, and more flexible way to record and manage data, the college was developing a team of software developers, marketing experts, and entrepreneurs to do just the type of work we were looking for.”

How it works

With the new Check & Connect app, mentors use a tablet or computer to track and visualize student outcomes. This is useful especially when showing trend data, like improvements or lapses, to students and families.

For administrators examining program impact, the reporting features are the most valuable. They can visualize trends over time comparing student outcomes with interventions provided.

The Check & Connect app is not only a replacement for the paper monitoring form. It’s an enhancement. New features enable users to easily track progress toward graduation, receive alerts when interventions are needed, and monitor implementation.

“With the Check & Connect app, everybody wins,” says ETI chief of operations Ryan Warren. “Mentors can more easily track student progress, principals and caregivers can more easily access progress, and researchers can further understand how this intervention is being used and what is proving to be most effective for continued development and refinement.”

Check & Connect implementation sites have a suite of offerings to choose from, starting with the implementation manual, trainings tailored to meet a site’s needs, technical assistance to help ensure fidelity of implementation, and a powerful data-tracking and reporting tool.

Learn more about ETI and preview the new app on Check & Connect’s website.

*What Works Clearinghouse, est. 2002, supported by the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education

Story by Megan Dushin | Photo by Dawn Villella | Fall 2017