Effects of Check & Connect On Attendance, Behavior, and Academics: A Randomized Effectiveness Trial
Method:A multisite, randomized block design was used to assess the effects of C&C compared to business as usual. Consenting students (n=260) were randomly assigned to treatment and control conditions within 14 urban middle and high schools. Participating students were Hispanic (89%) or African American (11%), female (56%) and largely economically disadvantaged (74%). C&C was implemented in each of the schools by a social service organization, Communities In Schools (CIS). Pre and posttest measures of attendance, grades, and disciplinary infractions were collected. Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM) controlled for the school-level random effects, pretest functioning, and relevant student and school characteristics. Student-level covariates included free and reduced lunch status, race, gender, age, grade, and family income. School-level covariates included school size and the percentage of students considered at risk, highly mobile, disadvantaged, of limited English proficiency, and the percent of students meeting state achievement standards.
Results: Analysis of pretest group equivalence suggested randomization resulted in treatment and control groups being balanced with regards to observed baseline demographic and outcome variables. Controlling for pretest performance and all relevant student and school level characteristics, significant differences at posttest were observed favoring treatment participants compared to control students on grades (β=1.547; p = .043, 95% CI [.047-3.048]) and office discipline referrals (ODR) (β=-.363; p = .036, 95% CI [-.703--.023]). Effect sizes for attendance (δ = 0.07) and ODRs (δ =-0.27) were small to moderate. Contrary to prior studies, no significant differences for attendance were observed.
Implications: Our findings provide rigorous empirical support for C&C with students at-risk of dropout. Although the findings are mixed, they are notable considering the study was an effectiveness trial, implemented under real-world constraints, and there was minimal support by university researchers. Study findings suggest school social workers can implement and use C&C to improve outcomes for at-risk students. Moreover, this randomized, field-based trial demonstrates that local university-school-community partnerships may contribute to the scientific evidence-base by evaluating interventions in real-world settings.