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Summaries of RCT Grants

RCT of the Check and Connect dropout prevention program in rural high schools

This project will fund an RCT of Check and Connect, a dropout prevention program for high school students with learning, emotional, or behavioral disabilities.

Grant Recipient: Westat, Inc.

Principal Investigators:

John Hitchcock, Ph.D., Westat

Emily Diaz, Ph.D., Westat

Term: 2021 — 2029

Funding: $564,344

Summary: This project will fund an RCT of Check and Connect, a dropout prevention program for high school students with learning, emotional, or behavioral disabilities. Students enter the program in 9th grade and are assigned a trained mentor who works with them by providing mentorship and coordinating services with the goal of keeping them on track to graduate.

Two prior well-conducted RCTs conducted with close adherence to the program model found that Check and Connect in urban school districts decreased students’ high school dropout rates by 18 – 21 percentage points, and led to increases in attendance and academic credits earned. However, these studies were limited by their relatively small sample sizes and, in one study, shorter-term follow-up. Additionally, it is not yet known whether these effects can be replicated in rural school districts, which have similarly high dropout rates as urban schools but fewer trained staff specializing in at-risk populations. If this RCT replicates the earlier impacts on high school persistence and finds meaningful impacts on high school graduation, it would provide school districts and policy officials with a credible path forward to improving educational outcomes for at-risk students in rural schools.

    Westat will recruit a sample of 50 rural high schools (with 20 at-risk 9th grade students per school) and randomly assign the schools to either a treatment group offered Check and Connect, or to a control group that receives usual services. The study’s primary outcome will be high school graduation five years after random assignment (i.e., five-year high school graduation rate), measured with administrative records from the Departments of Education.

    The study’s pre-specified analysis plan is linked here.



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