Iowa has been implementing Check & Connect across the state, starting in the 2013-2014 school year, within the Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS) model. Check & Connect is often integrated with other interventions in schools, and we find that implementing this personalized intervention in context of a school with universal supports is a cost-effective means of getting results.
To understand Iowa’s experience with implementing Check & Connect within PBIS, we interviewed two critical leaders in the Iowa Department of Education, PBIS State Consultant Bess Wood and Great Prairie Area Education Agency PBIS Coordinator Shelli Blazic. We summarized their responses to our questions below, but let’s first go over some basic background information:
According to the PBIS website, the PBIS model emphasizes school-wide systems of support that include proactive strategies for defining, teaching, and supporting appropriate student behaviors to create positive school environments. It is a preventive way for schools to maximize academic and social behavior outcomes for their students. The supports utilized at the school-wide level are called universal or Tier 1 interventions. The PBIS framework also includes targeted interventions at Tier 2 and more intensive interventions at Tier 3. This framework helps school personnel adopt evidence-based interventions—like Check & Connect—in schools at the appropriate levels.
C&C vs. CICO
Check & Connect (C&C) is different from the PBIS Check in Check out (CICO) model, a tier 2 intervention. A student in a CICO program meets with a mentor every morning to check in. During check out, the mentor reviews students’ self-monitored progress and deliver the incentives. Check and Connect is more relationship-based approach that focuses on problem solving and capacity building, and increasing school engagement through regularly checks of school data. However, C&C can be used in conjunction with CICO to provide more intensive services and supports needed. The differences between C&C and CICO can be compared in this table below:
Check & Connect (C&C)
Check In Check Out (CICO)
|Improves attendance, behavior, and/or grades||Improves mild-moderate problem behavior|
|Long-term (1-2 years)||Short-term (2-4 months)|
|Uses weekly monitoring form||Uses daily progress report|
|Based on relationship building through ongoing connections||Based on immediate feedback and positive reinforcement|
|Family engagement||Family participation|
|Problem-solving and capacity building|
Iowa’s Implementation of C&C within PBIS
Now on to Iowa’s implementation of Check & Connect within the PBIS framework:
Question: How does check Connect fit into your PBIS model in Iowa?
Although C&C is an intervention that can serve both Tier 2 and Tier 3 students in terms of intervention intensity, in Iowa, it is utilized as a high Tier 2 intervention. Bess mentioned that if we see the PBIS multi-tier support system as green (Tier 1), yellow (Tier 2), and red (Tier 3), C&C would be viewed as orange-between yellow and red and CICO as a Tier 2 intervention (Yellow). I also asked why C&C is not viewed as a Tier 3 intervention. Bess’s answer was that because those interventions are often function-based (staff often will conduct a functional behavior assessment to understand the root cause of a behavior and design an intervention accordingly).
Question: What support system is in place for your schools to implement C&C?
Iowa has a state PBIS leadership team comprised of representatives from state Area Education Agencies (AEAs) that meet approximately once per month. They also have a C&C Work Group, comprised of a small group of Iowa C&C trainers, that meets regularly to provide guidance and develop systematic supports to assist trainers and schools in the successful implementation of C&C.
In order to implement state-wide, Iowa is enrolled in C&C’s Train-the-Trainer training model whereby University of Minnesota national C&C staff train Iowa staff to become local certified C&C trainers who then train both other coordinators and mentors across the state.
Question: How do you make sure the intervention is implemented with fidelity?
In Iowa, the conversation about fidelity and data tracking takes place at the state leadership level, as well as at the district level. Although they are still defining fidelity at the state level in terms of what data to collect, where, and how to document this data, each school has a C&C coordinator who is meeting with the mentors, coaching them, gathering their input, and validating what they have shared.
Ms. Wood and Ms. Blazic also provided this bit of advice: be sure to actively listen to mentors and support them to do the best job they can with the students.
Question: How do you determine a school’s readiness to implement C&C in the PBIS model?
To prepare sites to implement C&C ahead of time, the Iowa team has created a listing of C&C Readiness Indicators related to expectations for administrative support. As part of that document, they included an Action Plan Form. The indicators tell a school that they may need to have X, Y, and Z in place before implementing C&C; the action plan helps get these things in place and better ensures the success of implementing C&C.
Question: In general, what is one thing that you see schools in your state struggling with as they implement C&C and other interventions within PBIS?
Ms. Wood mentioned the importance of having systems in place to make decisions. Schools need to have systems to monitor progress and to use data to determine who receives what interventions and when. These systems are set up so that students can go in and out of the intervention very quickly. Ms. Wood also mentioned that we need to think whether our kids are improving their behavior at their targeted level, in addition to thinking about each individual’s intervention.
Question: Typically, who serve as mentors?
Iowa is using existing staff—school counselors, at-risk coordinators, home school liaisons, truancy officers, and classroom teachers—to serve as C&C mentors. At the end of our C&C implementation and mentor training, staff are asked to recruit others and to think about who would be a great mentor in their building.
Question: What are the challenges you have encountered at schools that are implementing C&C within PBIS?
Data tracking is one of the challenges. Another piece is ongoing coaching. Ms. Blazic mentioned that one school she serves is as far as 3 hours away. Should they choose to train and implement C&C, driving to the school to provide ongoing coaching could present as quite a challenge.
At the state level, Ms. Wood mentioned that the state jumped into implementing C&C. They did not fully consider how it would fit into the system prior to their C&C train-the-trainers training from University of Minnesota staff. She recommends to prepare for the implementation prior to going through the training in order to support the trainers. Part of this preparation includes having a plan of action around how to support it, sustain it, and scale it up overtime.
Question: What are the benefits you are seeing using C&C in a PBIS model?
In their words, “There are so many great things happening for students and staff. I get to hear from teachers how their students are able to be there, reduce the absences, feel connected in their schools, and improve grades. Teachers and staff also have a way to look at students differently. They begin to see more deeply into their students’ lives. In our meeting yesterday, a student was identified because of a high number of suspensions. After one year, the suspensions dropped from 47 days to 2 days. That is huge. I have a student who came to the training to share his own data. For him, tardiness went from 15 or 16 a week down to 2. By the end of the school year, he had 0 (zero) tardiness.”
Below are links for more information on Iowa’s implementation of C&C:
- Incorporating Check & Connect with PBIS, a conference presentation by Andrea Matheson and Shelli Blazic in Iowa, offered at C&C’s national conference in October 2015
- PBIS on the Iowa Department of Education website
- Iowa’s Check & Connect Readiness Indicators
About the Authors: Xueqin Qian, Ph.D. is a research associate for Check & Connect at the Institute on Community Integration. Eileen Klemm, M.A. 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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