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Program Profile: Check & Connect Plus Truancy Board (C&C+TB)

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on May 01, 2018

Program Summary

This is a school-based program that integrates a case-management framework for providing social support to truant youth. The goals of the program are to improve school attendance and renew progress toward graduation. This program is rated Promising. Students in the intervention group were more likely to have graduated and less likely to have dropped out than students in the comparison group.

Program Description

Program Goals
The goals of the Check & Connect Plus Truancy Board (C&C+TB) program are to improve school attendance and renew progress toward graduation.
 
Target Population
The program targets students who have been referred to a community truancy board or have had a petition filed in juvenile court due to continued unexcused absences, despite the school’s effort to provide a series of interventions.
 
Program Components
Eligible students have the option to come before the community truancy board and have a “stay” placed on their juvenile court petition. The truancy board (5 to 10 members, including school administrators, volunteers from social service agencies and local businesses, and a juvenile court probation counselor) seeks to collaboratively engage truant youth and their families in accessing a variety of school, court, and local community resources to improve school attendance, promote school attachment, and enhance academic achievement. Program participants and their families meet with the school-based, community truancy board individually to discuss truancy laws and legal consequences of continued truant behavior, to identify obstacles to attendance, and to collaboratively develop a formal agreement outlining the specific steps to be taken by the student and family to improve attendance.
 
The court probation counselor serves as a truancy specialist and mentors the student in a one-on-one relationship using the Check & Connect (C&C) program model. C&C has two primary components: the Check component and the Connect component. In the “Check” component, truancy specialists use school data to monitor student attendance (e.g., absences, tardies, skips), social–behavioral performance (e.g., referrals, suspensions, detentions), and academic performance (e.g., grades, credits earned). In the Connect component, truancy specialists share checked data with students, reinforce the salience of education, and facilitate personalized interventions to boost engagement (Guryan et al. 2017; Heppen et al. 2017). Truancy specialists use information about the student’s school engagement level and family circumstances and available school, community, and court resources to tailor the ways in which they intervene with students. Truancy specialists also connect with families of students, through home visits or over the phone, to serve as liaisons between home and school and to partner with parents to increase student engagement (Guryan et al. 2017; Heppen et al. 2017).
 
Truancy specialists meet with students individually, formally (scheduled) and informally (unscheduled), starting in ninth grade and until graduation. Type and frequency of contact, however, vary based on the student’s risk level. An initial assessment of student risk level, conducted at the time of the truancy board meeting, is used to classify a student as low, intermediate, or high risk. Assessment data is collected through an initial interview and a youth-completed instrument assessing risks and needs on six scales: aggression–defiance, depression–anxiety, substance abuse, peer deviance, family environment, and school engagement. All students participate in an initial meeting with the truancy specialist. Low- and intermediate-risk students have this meeting within 2 weeks and 1 week of the board’s meeting, respectively, whereas high-risk students have this meeting within 1 to 2 days of the board’s meeting. All students also receive brief, daily, informal contacts, initiated by the truancy specialist, during lunch or in between classes. Furthermore, truancy specialists engage students in 1-hour, formal check-ins: monthly for low-risk students and biweekly for intermediate- and high-risk students. Intermediate- and high-risk students also receive supplemental weekly phone contacts and home visits, with high- risk students receiving such contacts more frequently. Contact schedule is subject to change on an ongoing basis.
 
Each truancy specialist carries a caseload of several students, has an office in each school within which he/she works, and travels between schools to meet with students.
 
Key Personnel
Truancy specialists are probation counselors from the county juvenile court contracted to provide a range of case management services to youth. Essential qualifications include familiarity with and access to school, community, and court resources. Furthermore, the C&C program emphasizes the following essential qualifications: a willingness to persist, a belief that all students have abilities, willingness to work closely with families and school staff, and advocacy and communication skills, including the ability to negotiate, compromise, and confront conflict constructively (Sinclair et al. 1998).
 
Program Theory
The work of the community truancy board is guided by a restorative-justice theoretical framework, which views crime as a violation of people and relationships and aims to bring those affected by the crime (i.e., victim, offender, and other community stakeholders) together to encourage offender accountability and agree on a plan to repair harms (Developmental Services Group, Inc. 2010; Wilson et al. 2017). Studies of the effectiveness of restorative justice programs and practices for youth delinquency show promising findings for both offenders and victims (Rodriguez 2007; Wilson et al. 2017).
 
The emphasis on collaboration  across community truancy boards, students, parents, schools, and juvenile courts is also consistent with Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) ecological model of human development and Stokol’s (1996) social–ecological theory, which emphasize the interplay of personal attributes, social contexts, and environmental conditions in influencing individual behavior.
 
C&C is centered on student engagement, referring to a student’s level of active participation in school and related activities (Finlay 2006; Fredricks et al. 2004). Student engagement, which is viewed as a multidimensional construct involving behavioral (e.g., attendance, participation in classroom discussion), affective (sense of belonging, connectedness to school), and cognitive (perceived relevance of schoolwork, self-regulation toward goals) engagement (Heppen et al. 2017), has been linked to positive school-related outcomes, including improved academic achievement and reduced absenteeism and dropout (Anderson et al. 2004; Finlay 2006; Fredricks et al. 2004). Furthermore, C&C’s use of a nurturing and supportive relationship with an adult to improve engagement outcomes for youth is consistent with the model of youth mentoring that theorizes that support and role modeling provided within mentoring relationships can strengthen youth academic and behavioral outcomes (Rhodes et al. 2006).
 
Additional Information
This program is modeled on the Check & Connect program, the review of which can be found here:  https://crimesolutions.gov/ProgramDetails.aspx?ID=574. The primary difference is that this program includes the above described truancy board component.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Educational Status
Strand and Lovrich (2014) found that students in the intervention group were more likely to have graduated (82 percent) and less likely to have dropped out (18 percent), compared with students in the comparison group (64 percent graduated; 36 percent dropped out) at the conclusion of the 2011–2012 school year. The graduation and dropout differences between the groups were statistically significant.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Strand and Lovrich (2014) evaluated the effectiveness of the Check & Connect Plus Truancy Board (C&C+TB) program in a quasi-experimental study with a sample of 132 students in Spokane, Washington. Students in the intervention group (n=66) attended West Valley High School and had truancy petitions on file with the Spokane County Juvenile Court. Students in the comparison group (n=66) attended one of three other local area high schools. Selected schools were in the same county or in an adjoining county as the intervention school and were judged to be culturally, economically, and demographically similar to the West Valley School District. Students in these schools were first matched to intervention students by grade and gender and then by academic performance (e.g., number of credits, number of credits attempted) and school behavior (e.g., number of unexcused absences, total number of disciplinary events). There were no statistically significant differences between students in the intervention and comparison groups on any of the matching variables. Sixty-two percent of youths in the study were female, and 83 percent were white. Furthermore, youths in the intervention and comparison groups, respectively, had 23.40 and 24.10 total absences, 8.00 and 7.90 unexcused absences, 2.60 and 2.90 total disciplinary events, and 5.80 and 6.00 attempted credits. 
 
All students were enrolled as ninth graders between 2007 and 2009, and all attended the West Valley Community Truancy Board (WVCTB) during the 2008–2009 school year. A truancy specialist was matched with each student in the intervention group to provide one-on-one case management using the C&C model. To assess program fidelity, truancy specialists were required to document the frequency and nature of contacts with youths in their case notes. These notes and oral descriptions of interactions were reviewed during biweekly supervision meetings with a court-based supervisor. To assess fidelity to the community truancy-board meeting procedures, trained coders completed a 10-item WVCTB Fidelity Checklist for a subsample of 14 students. The checklist assessed the following domains: 1) philosophical commitment to restorative justice, 2) school administrative leadership participation, 3) community member participation, 4) respectful, nonpunitive, goal-directed communication with families, 5) observance of nondiscrimination and privacy rights of students, and 6) student support and follow-up contact. Proper board procedures were followed for all 14 participants (100%) for 8 of the 10 checklist items. 
 
Students’ educational status was obtained from the Educational Research Database, maintained by the Washington State Center for Court Research. Data from the conclusion of the 2011–2012 school year (allowing each student 4 to 5 years to graduate) was used to classify students as having graduated, having received a GED, continuing in school, having dropped out, or having transferred out of the district. Chi-square analysis was used to compare the distribution of outcomes for students in the intervention and comparison groups. This review was limited to the comparison of students in the intervention and comparison groups who had graduated or dropped out at follow up. Four students who had not yet completed school, two  students who had obtained a GED, and 20 students who transferred out of district were excluded from this analysis, leaving a sample of 106 students.
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Cost

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Cost information related to the Check & Connect program is available on the following website: http://checkandconnect.umn.edu/. No cost information related to the community truancy board is available.
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Implementation Information

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Information on how to implement the Check & Connect program is available in a manual that can be purchased at the program website (http://checkandconnect.umn.edu/).  

Information on how to replicate the community truancy board model is provided in the Spokane County (WA) Community Truancy Board Toolkit (available here: http://www.modelsforchange.net/publications/475). 
 
An assessment instrument used to facilitate rapport with the child and support school re-engagement can be found here: https://warns.wsu.edu/.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Strand, Paul S., and Nicholas P. Lovrich. 2014. “Graduation Outcomes for Truant Students: An Evaluation of a School-Based, Court-Engaged Community Truancy Board With Case Management.” Children & Youth Services Review 43:138-44.

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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Anderson, Amy R., Sandra L. Christenson, Mary F. Sinclair, and Camilla A. Lehr. 2004. “Check & Connect: The Importance of Relationships for Promoting Engagement With School.” Journal of School Psychology 42(2):95–113.


Bronfenbrenner, Urie. 1979. The Ecology of Human Development. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Development Services Group, Inc. 2010. “Restorative Justice.” Literature review. Washington, D.C.: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
https://www.ojjdp.gov/mpg/litreviews/Restorative_Justice.pdf

Finlay, Krystina A. 2006. Quantifying School Engagement: A Research Report. Denver, Colo.: National Center for School Engagement.
http://schoolengagement.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/QuantifyingSchoolEngagementResearchReport-2.pdf

Fredricks, Jennifer. A., Phyllis C. Blumenfeld, and Alison H. Paris. 2004. “School Engagement: Potential of the Concept, State of the Evidence.” Review of Educational Research 74:59–109.

Guryan, Jonathan, Sandy Christenson, Amy Claessen, Mimi Engel, Ijun Lai, Jens Ludwig, Ashley C. Turner, and Mary C. Turner. 2017. The Effect of Mentoring on School Attendance and Academic Outcomes: A Randomized Evaluation of the Check & Connect Program. Institute for Policy Research, Working Paper Series. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University.



Heppen, Jessica B., Kristina Zeiser, Deborah J. Holtzman, Mindee O’Cummings, Sandra Christenson, and Angie Pohl. 2018. “Efficacy of the Check & Connect Mentoring Program for At-Risk General Education High School Students.” Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness 11(1):56–82.

Rhodes, Jean E., Renée Spencer, Thomas E. Keller, Belle Liang, and Gil Noam. 2006. “A Model for the Influence of Mentoring Relationships on Youth Development.” Journal of Community Psychology 34(6):691–707.



Rodriguez, Nancy. 2007. “Restorative Justice at Work: Examining the Impact of Restorative Justice Resolutions on Juvenile Recidivism.” Crime & Delinquency 53(3):355–79.



Sinclair, Mary F., Sandra L. Christenson, David L. Evelo, and Christine M. Hurley. 1998. “Dropout Prevention for Youth with Disabilities: Efficacy of a Sustained School Engagement Procedure.” Exceptional Children 65(1):7-21.



Stokols, Daniel. 1996. “Translating Social Ecological Theory into Guidelines for Community Health Promotion.” American Journal of Health Promotion 10(4):282-98.



Wilson, David B., Ajima Olaghere, and Catherine S. Kimbrell. 2017. Effectiveness of Restorative Justice Principles in Juvenile Justice: A Meta-Analysis. Fairfax, Va.: George Mason University.
https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/grants/250872.pdf
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Related Practices

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Following are CrimeSolutions.gov-rated practices that are related to this program:

Targeted Truancy Interventions
These interventions are designed to increase attendance for elementary and secondary school students with chronic attendance problems. The practice is rated Effective for improving attendance.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - More than one Meta-Analysis Education - Attendance/truancy



Mentoring
This practice provides at-risk youth with positive and consistent adult or older peer contact to promote healthy development and functioning by reducing risk factors. The practice is rated Effective in reducing delinquency outcomes; and Promising in reducing the use of alcohol and drugs; improving school attendance, grades, academic achievement test scores, social skills and peer relationships.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
Promising - More than one Meta-Analysis Drugs & Substance Abuse - Multiple substances
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Education - Multiple education outcomes
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Mental Health & Behavioral Health - Psychological functioning



Dropout Prevention Programs
School- or community-based programs targeting frequently absent students or students at risk of dropping out of school. These programs are aimed at increasing school engagement, school attachment, and the academic performance of students, with the main objective of increasing graduation rates. The practice is rated Effective for reducing rates of school dropouts, and rated Promising for improving test scores/grades, graduation rates, and attendance.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - More than one Meta-Analysis Education - Dropout
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Education - Academic achievement/school performance
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Education - Graduation
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Education - Attendance/truancy
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Program Snapshot

Age: 14 - 19

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, American Indians/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic, White, Other

Geography: Urban

Setting (Delivery): School

Program Type: Mentoring, Truancy Prevention, Wraparound/Case Management

Targeted Population: Truants/Dropouts

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: Model Programs Guide

Program Developer:
Sandy Christenson
Professor Emeritus
University of Minnesota
Department of Educational Psychology
Website
Email

Researcher:
Paul S. Strand
Professor
Washington State University, Dept of Psychology
2710 Crimson Way
Richland WA 99354
Phone: 509.372.7177
Website
Email