2017/18 Institute on Community Integration Annual Report


 Jessica Smorodin Sarber and Michelle Austin of the SSPG project develop the online learning modules for Check & Connect.

ICI Receives $2.5 Million Grant to Implement Technology Promoting High School Graduation

In Fall 2017, ICI was awarded a five-year, $2.5 million "Stepping-Up Technology Implementation" grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, to develop tools and a website that support the national implementation of an evidence-based intervention that promotes middle and high school engagement and completion: Check & Connect. The project will also develop resources, tools, and web access to support schools and districts in implementing and using data from the Student Engagement Instrument (SEI).

Under the direction of David R. Johnson, Principal Investigator (PI), and Eileen A. Klemm, Co-PI, this project – titled Systematic Support for Promoting Graduation (SSPG) – develops, pilots, and disseminates technology tools that help educators implement these specific interventions.  

For more than 25 years the Check & Connect model developed at ICI has helped keep thousands of students across the country on track towards high school graduation. The model is based on a trusting relationship between each student and a caring, trained mentor who both advocates for and challenges the student. SEI is a web-supported intervention that establishes reliable and valid measures of students' cognitive and affective engagement; students' engagement data may be used to identify those who are at-risk for disengagement and dropout, as well as to inform and monitor the effects of interventions.

"The Check & Connect model is a well-established intervention that has been proven to work with disengaged students. We look forward to further developing the technology support system that will expand its national implementation," says Johnson.

Check & Connect Manager Eileen Klemm, ICI Director David R. Johnson (center), and Check & Connect National Trainer Joseph Angaran brought the Check & Connect message to the Council for Exceptional Children national conference in Florida in spring 2018.

Check & Connect: New App, New Conference

Check & Connect – the evidence-based student engagement intervention that has been adopted and implemented around the U.S. and internationally since ICI developed it in the 1990s – continued to experience tremendous growth and innovation this year. In addition to providing on-site training on implementation of Check & Connect to over 1,000 educators in 16 states and the District of Columbia, the team introduced an online app for mentors who work with students and hosted the second Check & Connect international conference.

The Check & Connect app offers a mobile digital alternative to pencil-and-paper monitoring of student performance. "The app will enhance the mentor experience while also providing exciting research opportunities for us to continue to develop the Check & Connect model," said Eileen Klemm, Check & Connect Manager. The app will allow practitioners to more easily keep students on track to graduate, enhance fidelity of Check & Connect implementation, save time in data entry and analysis, share visual trends in real time, and customize monitoring and reporting to suit each school site. The app, developed in-house at the University of Minnesota’s Educational Technology Innovations, also includes an administrative feature that allows schools and districts to better coordinate their Check & Connect mentors.

The other significant milestone for Check & Connect this year was its second international conference, "Student Engagement: Connection to School, Motivation to Learn." The conference, held on the University of Minnesota campus, was attended by 150 educators and other school/youth personnel and was a forum where participants who use or intend to use Check & Connect could network and discuss best practices and implementation. Leading experts and practitioners from across the country explained their Check & Connect practices and current research.

Xueqin Qian, ICI Research Associate, spoke about the MAP project at the Association for Positive Behavior Support annual conference.

ICI Releases New Report on Youth with Disabilities in Juvenile Justice System

The Institute on Community Integration (ICI), University of Minnesota, released A Better Path, A Better Future this year, a report describing three innovative projects that have developed and tested strategies for improving the community reentry of youth with disabilities incarcerated in juvenile justice facilities. The featured projects are Project RISE at Arizona State University, Project STAY OUT at the University of Oregon, and the MAP Project at ICI.On November 28, the three Principal Investigators (David R. Johnson,  Minnesota; Sarup R. Mathur, Arizona; Deanne K. Unruh, Oregon) presented the report and discussed the work and findings of the projects with an invited gathering of representatives from several federal agencies that was organized in Washington, D.C.  by the project funder, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). "It is more than evident that far too many incarcerated youth with disabilities continue to fall through the cracks and go unserved or underserved upon release," said Johnson. "In the report we share some of the lessons learned over the past four years that might be useful to others in improving the reentry."The report includes an overview of youth with disabilities in the juvenile justice system, description of the role of IDEA in ensuring they receive special education and related services while incarcerated, strategies and findings of the three four-year model demonstration projects, and 10 lessons learned through the projects that can help inform improvements to services and supports for youth with disabilities during and following their incarceration.A webinar on the findings of the three projects titled, "Lessons Learned from Three Reentry Programs for Young Offenders with Disabilities" was presented in December 2017 by the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition, the TA Center funded by OSEP. Representing ICI in the webinar was Xueqin Qian, researcher on the project.


Check & Connect Training in 2017/18

A map of the United States with the caption: Implementation training for 1000-plus educators and administrators in 18 states and the District of Columbia. The states colored as training sites are Washington, Oregon, California, Montana, Utah, Colorado, Texas, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and District of Columbia.



  • Check & Connect: A Comprehensive Student Engagement Intervention. Eileen A. Klemm
  • Check & Connect Statewide and Regional Contracts. Eileen A. Klemm, Jana Ferguson, Joseph Angaran, Ann Romine
  • Expanding the Circle.  Jana Hallas Ferguson
  • Making a Map: Finding My Way Back.  David R. Johnson, Eileen A. Klemm
  • National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET)  (an ICI Center). David R. Johnson
  • National Longitudinal Transition Study 2012 (NLTS 2012)  (subcontract from Mathematica Policy Research). David R. Johnson, Martha Thurlow
  • National Survey of State Graduation Requirements and Diploma Options. David R. Johnson, Martha Thurlow, Xueqin Qian
  • Systemic Supports for Promoting Graduation. David R. Johnson, Eileen A. Klemm
  • Using Check & Connect to Improve Graduation Rates in Minnesota for Black and American Indian Students with Disabilities. Maureen, Hawes, Eileen A. Klemm