Check & Connect

Florida's State Personnel Development Grant 

Implementing Check & Connect During Distance Learning: Information for Districts Participating in SPDG

Florida's State Personnel Development Grant (SPDG), Graduation for All (2017-2022), provides technical assistance and professional development to targeted school districts across Florida. Participating Middle and High Schools receive information, materials and coaching necessary to implement Check & Connect and/or the Strategic Instructional Model (SIM™).

Graduation for All represents the second SPDG in FL providing support for Check & Connect and/or SIM™ to improve outcomes for secondary students with disabilities. The prior grant titled, Successful Graduates (2012-2017), supported participating schools for a period of two years and demonstrated a positive impact on improving graduation and dropout rates. Specifically, 73% of implementation sites reported a positive trend with federal uniform graduation rate and 50% demonstrated a decline in federal dropout rate during the previous grant.

Building on these successes, the current award aims to amplify capacity building at the district level to facilitate sustainability of implementation for both initiatives.

In addition to providing support to districts participating in the grant, the program serves as a statewide resource for information on Check & Connect, overseeing a large cadre of local Check & Connect trainers and connecting districts to local and national resources for implementation.

Funding: Florida's SPDG is a five-year project funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP, #H323A170031), United States Department of Education.


What is Check & Connect?

Check & Connect is a comprehensive student engagement and dropout prevention program for students at risk of dropping out of school. Florida’s State Personnel Development Grant provides technical assistance and professional development to participating districts implementing Check & Connect.

Check & Connect was developed through a partnership between the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration and Minneapolis Public Schools. Since its inception in 1990, Check & Connect has been studied and implemented with K–12 students with and without disabilities, in suburban and urban settings. Check & Connect is currently being implemented by schools and community organizations across the U.S. as well as abroad.

Critical Components of Check & Connect

  1. Mentor: who works with students and families for a minimum of two years
  2. Check: systematic monitoring of data schools already collect on students’ behavior, attendance and course performance
  3. Connect: timely interventions driven by data, to reestablish and maintain students’ connection to school and learning and to enhance students’ social and academic competencies
  4. Family Engagement: mentors engage with parents and other caretakers to foster their active participation in their child’s education

How does Check & Connect work?

First and foremost, Check & Connect is about relationship building. Each student participating in Check & Connect is paired with a mentor. Check & Connect mentors seek to build long‐term, sustained relationships with participating students that will promote connections to school and academic progress.

The mentor plays a key role in the Check & Connect model. The mentor develops a dependable, persistent relationship with the student, built on mutual trust, which focuses on problem-solving, fostering coping skills and encouraging the student to maximize personal growth and learning. Mentors are often existing school staff, although dedicated mentors hired solely for this role as well as volunteers from the community are also utilized.

The Check & Connect coordinator functions as an organizer who could potentially take on the responsibility to identify students in need of Check & Connect services; recruit mentors; schedule trainings and technical assistance, and monitor program development with attention to fidelity. Check & Connect’s Project Director and Project Facilitators provide training and technical assistance at every stage of implementation.

Check & Connect: A Video on Comprehensive Student Engagement Intervention

Check & Connect Training

The State Personnel Development Grant coordinates and provides Check & Connect trainings across Florida including:

  • Preparation and Implementation Training: a one day session that is targeted for school and district leadership teams. This training guides the team through an 11-step planning process to prepare for implementation at a specific local site.
  • Mentor Training: a two-day training session that prepares individual mentors to implement the Check & Connect model.
  • Coordinator Orientation: a three hour training that prepares individuals coordinating Check & Connect at a specific site.
  • Mentor and Coordinator Summits: these trainings provide refresher sessions for mentors and coordinators which foster additional skill building, reflection on implementation success and challenges and action planning for improved implementation.
  • Fidelity of Implementation Workshops: this annual workshop provides sites who have implemented at least one year a structured opportunity to reflect on implementation, review site specific data from the previous year and plan for increasing fidelity of implementation
  • Train-the-Trainer Workshops (conducted by Check & Connect National): approximately 80 local Check & Connect trainers have been certified through support from SPDG. SPDG coordinates initial and ongoing trainings required for certified trainers with the national office.

Trainings are scheduled based on participating district needs but open to all FL districts on a space-available basis. For information about upcoming sessions and training opportunities, a public training calendar is available below or you may contact Elaine Miller (, Check & Connect Program Director.

For more information on upcoming trainings click on the calendar below.

Congratulations to the 2021 Florida Check & Connect Coordinator and Mentor of the Year!
The Florida Check & Connect project solicited nominations for the first annual FL Check & Connect Mentor and Coordinator of the Year Awards. These awards were established to recognize individuals for their exceptional dedication to their mentee and/ or the Check & Connect program. The project advisory committee reviewed nominations, voted and announced the winners at the FL Mentor Summit and FL Coordinator Summit in June 2021. Congratulations to both winners for this honor, we sincerely appreciate your efforts! 

2021 Florida Check & Connect Coordinator of the Year: 
Therese Edwards (School Social Worker, Lee County)   
Highlights from Ms. Edwards’ nomination:
“I couldn’t imagine leading the program at my school without [Terry] by my side. We make a great team whether finding the perfect mentees for our mentors, providing support resources, tracking mentors down to have all the information they need, updating necessary information, and taking on mentees when mentors drop out in order for our mentees to not lose any support. Terry is the social worker at our school and she has shown what our mentors need to do to build positive relationships with families. She has not only been a rock star with at risk students in our program, but also our whole school…I am so glad she is a part of the team…” 

2021 Florida Check & Connect Mentor of the Year:
Greg Wintersteen, (Community Volunteer, Charlotte County)
Highlights from Mr. Wintersteen’s Nomination:
“Greg has served as a Check &Connect mentor since October of 2018, working with his mentee since sophomore year. He has been a constant source of support, providing encouragement, motivation, and advocacy for both the mentee as well as the family… The mentee could always count on his mentor to come see him weekly despite any obstacles that life may bring…The academic success was celebrated and challenges were worked through using problem solving and capacity building…The dedication and determination of the mentor extends to the mentee’s family.”

Grounded in Research

Check & Connect is a nationally recognized program with proven success. Of the dropout prevention interventions reviewed by the U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse, Check & Connect is the only program found to have strong evidence of positive effects on staying in school. Download the Check & Connect Intervention report here.

Studies show that Check & Connect improves enrollment, attendance and the likelihood of graduation for students who are disengaged and at risk of dropping out of school. In addition, Check & Connect has also demonstrated effectiveness in supporting students with emotional/behavioral disabilities to improve school attendance and increase student participation in their transition individual educational plan (IEP) meetings (Sinclair et al., 1998; Sinclair & Kaibel, 2002; Sinclair et al., 2005)

Online Resources

National Check and Connect Website
The Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota, is home to Check & Connect. The website has excellent introductory information for administrators, videos, online resources, information on communities of practice and research about Check & Connect.

National Mentoring Partnership
The National Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR) is the unifying champion for expanding quality youth mentoring relationships in the United States. MENTOR provides resources and essential tools to mentoring programs nationwide and are free and available to the public on their website.

FL Check & Connect Coordinator Toolbox: Coordinators in participating districts may access resources, videos, document files as well as communicate with fellow coordinators across the state on Basecamp. If you are a coordinator and are unable to access this toolbox please contact your district’s facilitator (see contact information below).

FL Check & Connect Mentor Toolbox: Mentors in participating districts may access resources, videos, document files as well as communicate with fellow mentors across the state on Basecamp. If you are a mentor and are unable to access this toolbox please contact your district’s facilitator (see contact information below).

FL Check & Connect Trainer Toolbox: Local trainers may access resources, videos, document files, certification information, as well as communicate with fellow Trainers across the state on Basecamp. If you are a trainer and unable to access this toolbox please contact the Check & Connect Program Director (see contact information below).

FL SPDG Data Portal: Staff at participating districts may access the SPDG data portal to update or view current action plan, complete surveys, and view school, district and state SPDG data and graphs in real-time.

Florida’s State Personnel Development Grant (SPDG): Successful Graduates (2012-2017) Flyer
Florida’s SPDG is a five-year project funded by the USDOE, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). The grant planning was designed to respond to concerns about the graduation, proficiency and dropout rates of students with disabilities.

Check Check & Connect Online Mentoring
This resource provides mentors with strategies for fostering online relationships, planning conversations around school, and facilitating online interventions. It was developed by the University of Minnesota in collaboration with the FL State Personnel Development Grant. 

Florida Check & Connect: Key Project Information

Florida’s State Personnel Development Grant (SPDG) Infographic (2012-2018)

Florida's SPDG: Measuring Student Engagement Poster

Family Engagement for Mentors
The SPDG created a series of modules related to the topic of family engagement and mentors roles. They were developed to specifically align with the Check & Connect core components and include:
1. Home - School Communication
2. Building Relationships and Establishing Guidelines
3. Home Visits and Support for Learning


Sinclair, M. F., Christenson, S. L., Evelo, D. L., & Hurley, C. M. (1998). Dropout prevention for youth with disabilities: Efficacy of a sustained school engagement procedure. Exceptional Children, 65(1), 7–21.

Sinclair, M. F., Christenson, S. L., & Thurlow, M. L. (2005). Promoting school completion of urban secondary youth with emotional or behavioral disabilities. Exceptional Children, 71(4), 465–482.

Sinclair, M. F., & Kaibel, C. (2002). Dakota County: Secondary Check & Connect programs: School Success Check & Connect program evaluation final summary report. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration.

Contact Information

Elaine Miller, Project Director
(727) 873‐4059

Sonya Eorio, North/Central Florida Facilitator
(352) 318-5290

Sheila Ward, Central/South Florida Facilitator
(850) 332-3325