Panel Paper: Mentoring to Prevent Truancy In Chicago: Early Results From a Mixed Methods Process Evaluation

Friday, November 9, 2012 : 1:00 PM
International C (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Mimi Engel, Vanderbilt University and Amy Claessens, University of Chicago

High school dropout and academic failure are among today’s most pressing education problems and have received much attention from policy makers and researchers. However, the process of school disengagement begins long before high school with chronic school absences, or truancy. School absences are highly predictive of both academic failure and dropout in high school (Lamdin, 1996; Peterson & Colangelo, 1996; Allensworth & Easton, 2007).  For example, dropout rates for third graders who miss four or more weeks of school are double those of third graders missing less than 2 weeks (Cook et al., 2012). Both school engagement and student relationships with adults have been linked to positive school outcomes (Anderson, Christenson, Sinclair, & Lehr, 2004; Finn, 1993; Finn & Rock, 1997; Pianta & Walsh, 1996). If young children become disconnected from school early on, this disconnection can persist and have negative long-term consequences for academic motivation and achievement (Hamre & Pianta, 2001). The Check & Connect (C&C) structured monitoring and mentoring program, aims to address these two important aspects of student school performance by building a supportive relationship between at-risk students and a mentor focused on school engagement.

A large-scale, random assignment study of the C&C intervention is currently being fielded in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Using a mixed methods approach, the larger study aims to understand the effectiveness of the C&C intervention and how and why it succeeds (or fails). The intervention began in the 2011-12 school year and will continue through 2012-13.  Approximately, 1500 1st through 7th graders in 24 schools who were absent 5-15% of school days during the 2010-11 academic year have been randomly assigned to the C&C treatment or control group. The program includes 15 full-time mentors who work with the treatment students.

In the proposed paper, we will rely on data collected from the C&C program designers, study managers, and mentors to describe the program during the first year of implementation, how the implemented program aligns with the original program design, and analyze the perceptions of key players in the intervention design and implementation on the program to date. We will analyze quantitative program data about the intensity and frequency of mentor interactions with C&C participants and their families. We will also analyze complimentary data including interviews with the two program creators, the study coordinator, and the 15 mentors and their supervisor to understand the extent to which the C&C intervention being fielded in Chicago aligns with the program as designed, how the mentors perceive and understand the program, and to examine variation in implementation across mentors and schools

The mixed methods study design enhances our ability to understand the process of targeting truancy through a mentoring model and will provide useful information about heterogeneity in implementation across mentors. The proposed study will inform the development and implementation of policies and practices focused on bringing potentially effective interventions to scale in disadvantaged urban school districts.