“All implementations of Check & Connect should have a designated program leader—someone responsible for maintaining intervention integrity.” (Christenson et al., 2012, p. 78)
“Project coordinators must build confidence both in mentors and in themselves. They need to develop leadership skills with personal strength. Project coordinators need good advocacy skills and need to be able to provide mentors with concrete examples of advocacy skills.” (Maria Maki, Check & Connect Project Coordinator, Fond du Lac Ojibwe School)
On September 12, 2013, we had our first quarterly Check & Connect Coordinators’ Community of Practice conference call of the new school year. These calls are a forum for current Check & Connect project coordinators (program leaders) to come together to discuss a particular topic, share ideas, and problem-solve together. Project coordinators from novice to veteran programs at an array of Check & Connect sites—including individual school districts, community organizations serving individual or multiple school districts, a state education department targeting youth in custody in Check & Connect, and a nationwide community organization implementing an after-school adaptation of Check & Connect—participated in this call.
The topic for this call was Strategies for Fidelity of Implementation. If the Check & Connect mentor is the linchpin of the Check & Connect program, then the Check & Connect project coordinator is the linchpin of program fidelity, or implementation of the program as intended. In the case of Check & Connect, this means adhering to the core components of the model. Our call encompassed thought-provoking questions and real-world answers around the issue of fidelity of implementation. We also discussed our newly developed Check & Connect Coordinator Fidelity Rubric.
So how do project coordinators ensure fidelity of implementation of the Check & Connect model? Based on input from this recent Coordinators’ Community of Practice call and feedback from other project coordinators in the field, we compiled a list of top ten tips and strategies:
- When meeting with mentors individually, listen to them and address their questions and concerns. Problem solve with mentors and provide examples of ways the mentor can advocate for students and families.
- Meet biweekly with mentors as a team to present cases, which allows for group problem solving.
- Through individual and team meetings, confirm that interventions are being implemented appropriately in response to student data. Provide solid, specific feedback regarding how mentors are implementing the model.
- Provide leadership in developing opportunities for ongoing professional development during monthly team meetings. Lead professional development activities on relevant topics. For example, here’s an example of an activity you could lead on the Attend-Engage-Invest continuum:
- Post chart paper or posters with descriptions of each part of the continuum.
- Ask mentors to place students where they think they belong on the continuum.
- Brainstorm strategies to move them along the continuum.
- Supervise the organization of Check & Connect files and materials. Provide suggestions for efficiency, time management, and prioritization in the management of documentation.
- Review monthly monitoring forms, which include both “check” data, and cross-reference with actual school data.
- Compile monthly summaries which include each student’s name, summary of “check” data, and summary of “connect” interventions. Determine if appropriate interventions are being implemented based on the data.
- Get to know school staff to build trust and help with problem solving related to person-environment fit.
- Support mentors as they connect with families. Encourage them to persist in trying to make these connections and to seek ways they can connect with families such as by attending social events in the school and community, attending IEP meetings or parent /teacher conferences, and communicating persistently and regularly with families.
- [Please help us finish our top ten list! How do you ensure fidelity of implementation in your implementation of Check & Connect?]
Christenson, S. L., Stout, K. E., & Pohl, A. J. (2012). Check & Connect: Implementing with fidelity. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration.
About the Authors: This article was co-authored by Sharon Mulé and Eileen Klemm, M.A. Ms. Mulé is the project coordinator for Connecting Through Service – a student retention project at the Fond du Lac Ojibwe School in Cloquet, Minnesota – at the Institute on Community Integration and a member of the Check & Connect team. Ms. Klemm is the project coordinator for Check & Connect presenting training nationally, facilitating the Check & Connect Coordinators’ Community of Practice, and providing leadership in the overall training and support of the Check & Connect model.
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