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The Early Warning Systems Learning Series

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An important part of keeping students on track for graduation and postsecondary success is to identify and address problems before they grow into major obstacles. For that reason, many schools and school systems are implementing Early Warning Systems. These systems use a wide range of data to identify students that are at risk, allowing educators to provide timely interventions and supports.

The Institute of Education Sciences' Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Program is hosting a learning series on implementing and using Early Warning Systems (EWS) for dropout prevention. The projects in the series include a variety of technical assistance activities related to developing and implementing EWSs. The RELs worked together to ensure a final set of activities that was coherent and coordinated with no duplication. These projects are listed here by type: webinars, in-person events, videos, tools, infographics, reports, and works in progress. We encourage you to tweet about the Early Warning Systems Learning Series using the hashtag #REL_EWS.

Webinars

Early Warning Systems to Support Students at Risk of Dropping Out of High School
REL Northeast & Islands
December 14, 2012
The Puerto Rico Research Alliance for Dropout Prevention at REL Northeast & Islands hosted this webinar to share with educators and policymakers research on key indicators for predicting high school graduation, as well as guidance on developing and implementing a robust EWS. The presentation was part of the Puerto Rico Alliance's ongoing efforts to support the Puerto Rico Department of Education and Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics in their mandate to establish an EWS for all public schools in the territory.

The State Role in Early Warning Systems
REL Midwest
March 24, 2015
Following an overview of EWS use across the country, representatives from Wisconsin and Minnesota shared details about their states' EWSs, including the role of the state and lessons learned from working with the districts. An assistant principal from a high school in Minnesota talked about how his school has used the EWS to identify students at risk of dropping out and the interventions provided to those students.

Early Warning Systems 101: An Introduction to the Five Core Components of an EWS
REL Northwest, REL Southwest, and REL West
February 25, 2016
The one-hour session provides an overview of the five core components of EWS: building a team, identifying appropriate indicators, creating data reports, mapping interventions to indicators, and evaluating interventions. Practitioners from Oregon and Ohio will also share their experiences in team building and mapping interventions.

Planning High School Academic Interventions for Students Identified as at Risk by an EWS
REL Southeast
The goals for this webinar include helping district and school-based practitioners conduct self-studies for planning and implementing high school academic interventions. The webinar describes and shows participants how to use a working document self-study guide tool developed by REL Southeast Improving Literacy research alliance members.

Early Warning Systems 201: How to Build Effective EWS Teams and Provide Interventions within a Tiered Framework System
REL Central, REL Northwest, and REL West
March 31, 2016
Participants will learn how to build an effective team that is able to incorporate EWS into everyday practices and frameworks such as Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS), Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), and Response to Intervention (RTI). This interactive session includes an opportunity for participants to practice matching sample interventions to indicators and evaluating whether there are enough interventions to support the number of identified struggling students. The webinar features REL representatives who have helped schools and districts nationwide implement EWS, as well as practitioners from Montana and Utah who will share their journey of using data to increase the success of their students.

Success and Lessons Learned: A District's Perspective on Early Warning Systems
REL Central, REL Northwest, and REL West
April 19, 2016
The webinar provides a case summary of one district's use of an EWS. Participants will learn how Washoe County (Nevada) School District developed and implemented its EWS. Presenters offer practical advice on how a district can create an EWS, the steps taken to analyze student risk factors and develop early warning indicators, and how to overcome challenges.

Considering the Best EWS Model to Fit Your Needs
REL Appalachia
May 12, 2016
Attendees discuss several different types of Early Warning Systems. Participants also explore how other types of state, district, or national accountability systems can be marshalled to serve as a type of EWS or an alternative model for a system.

Massachusetts, Minnesota, and the State Role in Supporting Early Warning System Implementation
REL Northeast & Islands
May 18, 2016
What is the role of state education agencies in supporting the implementation of early warning systems (EWSs) to identify students at risk of not graduating from high school? Join Susan Therriault, REL Northeast & Islands, in this webinar for an overview of the state role in EWS implementation, along with Kate Sandel, Massachusetts Department of Education, and John Gimpl, Minnesota Department of Education. They discuss their processes for organizing, implementing, monitoring, and adjusting their EWSs and the supports (team members, training, guidance, resources) available in their states to support EWS work and confront challenges to implementation. Strategies to connect EWS work to other state agency programs and priorities are also discussed.

Going Districtwide: Implementation Lessons for Using Early Warning Systems and Local Risk Indicators
REL West
May 24, 2016
This webinar provides a case study of EWS implementation in Davis School District in Utah. It will highlight the process of initiating an early warning system and the importance of communication and support between schools and districts as they iterate and improve student data collection and reporting for dropout prevention. The webinar also features a discussion of the research partnership between Davis School District and REL West to conduct a local validation study to ensure rigorous data use and build trust among EWS users.

Developing a Culture of Data Use to Maximize the Use of an Early Warning System
REL Northeast & Islands
August 9, 2016
In this webinar, REL Northeast & Islands provide strategies and materials on ways to deepen data-use practices and support robust implementation of Early Warning Systems. This session uses and customizes the "Toolkit for a Workshop on Building a Culture of Data Use," which was published by the Institute of Education Sciences.

Data Illustration and Visualization for EWS
REL Appalachia
August 25, 2016
Webinar attendees will learn strategies for visualization of an EWS and available software, as well as best practices in preparing and conditioning data for use in an EWS. Presenters also discuss the links between underlying models and data display.

Early Warning and Risk Prevention for English Learners
REL Southwest
September 7, 2016
Early warning systems (EWS) enable districts to identify and support students at risk of falling behind academically or dropping out. Learn from the research and the field as we examine how early warning systems can be refined to target at-risk English learners (ELs). Researchers share the experiences of eight districts with large EL populations and established early warning systems. In addition, staff from one of the districts, Fresno Unified School District, described their EWS, which includes EL-specific risk indicators and interventions.

Connecting with Parents about Early Warning Systems
REL Midwest
Part 1: August 25, 2016
Part 2: September 13, 2016
The first webinar is geared toward districts and schools and will present a resource booklet that administrators can use to communicate with parents about dropout prevention efforts and Early Warning Systems.

The second webinar is intended for a state education agency audience and will include a companion video that states can use to communicate with parents about what EWSs are and how school districts and schools use these systems to provide appropriate supports and interventions. The webinar will also outline specific strategies for communicating with parents about EWS and how states protect student privacy in their data systems.

EWS 401: Using Early Warning Systems To Identify and Support English Learners
REL Southwest, REL Northwest, REL Pacific and REL West
September 13, 2016
Schools nationwide are using Early Warning Systems (EWS) to identify students who are beginning to fall off track for graduation and to plan interventions that will get them back on track. This webinar focuses on the unique risk factors faced by English learner students and how districts can remove obstacles and/or use early warning indicators to help them graduate successfully.

Four Signs Your District is Ready for an Early Warning System: An Example from Guam
REL Pacific
September 20, 2016
Early Warning Systems (EWSs) can be a critical component of school and district strategies to mitigate academic achievement and dropout issues for at-risk students. But if you don't have an EWS in place, where should you start? Webinar attendees will learn about the following four "readiness signs" that your district is ready to develop and implement an Early Warning System.

When Dropouts Return to School: How an EWS can Help Identify and Support Re-enrollees
REL West
September 27, 2016
Dropouts who return to school, or re-enrollees, are a subgroup of students especially at risk for dropping out again. However, few schools, districts, or states identify or track the progress of re-enrollees as a subgroup in their early warning systems (EWS) or other data systems, even though these students may have been flagged in an EWS for attendance, course credit, or other problems prior to dropping out. Knowing who these returning dropouts are, how many are in local schools, what specific supports they need and receive, and their academic progress upon re-enrolling is critical to dealing comprehensively with the dropout crisis. This webinar makes the case for identifying these students in a district EWS or other similar data system when they return as re-enrollees in order to provide the support they need to succeed.

In-Person Events

EWS 301: Using and Improving Interventions in Early Warning Systems
REL Northwest
August 19, 2016
This one-day, face-to-face meeting in Portland, Oregon, is designed for district teams from the Northwest states and beyond that have significant EWS experience. Participants brainstorm strategies for selecting, mapping, and assigning interventions and evaluating intervention effectiveness.

From Research to Practical Application: A Workshop on Creating Early Warning Systems
REL Central and REL Northwest
August 26, 2016
This one-day, in person event in Centennial, Colorado, is designed to provide an overview of EWS and prepare school- and district-level teams to implement their own system. Attendees learn the research base for common indicators used in EWS, how to use indicators to match students to corresponding interventions, and then how to monitor implementation and the impact of the assigned interventions. Attendees will leave with an action plan they can use to begin implementation of EWS in their sites.

Videos

After the ABCs: Integrating Qualitative Data to Develop Effective Interventions and Community Support
REL Mid-Atlantic
March 2015
This presentation by Daniel Leland highlights the need to pair EWS data with qualitative information to gain accurate and comprehensive student profiles. He presented examples of how school-based intervention teams can best use both quantitative and qualitative data, as well as how combining data sources can help schools gain stakeholder support and community resources. The presentation was made at the 2015 Pennsylvania Department of Education Data Summit.

How Early Warning Systems Can Help Your Students and School Succeed
REL Mid-Atlantic
March 2015
In this video, Dr. Robert Balfanz presented recent findings on how schools can use EWSs to keep all their students on track for graduation and to improve the overall school climate and academic outcomes. The presentation was made at the 2015 Pennsylvania Department of Education Data Summit.

Using Data to Identify At-Risk Students
REL Mid-Atlantic
March 2015
During the 2015 Pennsylvania Department of Education Data Summit, panelist Joetta L. Britvich, Principal of South Middle School in the Albert Gallatin Area School District, described how her school uses data to identify at-risk students.

Tackling Chronic Absenteeism in High School Grades
REL Southeast
March 2016
In the recorded webinar, Dr. Robert Balfanz from John Hopkins University presents work on the often overlooked prevalence of chronic absenteeism in low-performing schools and the role of chronic absenteeism in undermining school reform efforts. Actionable implications of these data, including policy and practice steps at the state and local level are discussed.

Reducing Chronic Absenteeism: Every Day Counts!
REL West
July 2016
This 19-minute video from REL West first describes the prevalence, causes, and academic consequences of chronic absenteeism in grades K-12 in Utah and across the nation. It then addresses promising strategies for reducing chronic absence, highlighting three schools in Utah that have built schoolwide cultures of good attendance, used data to identify students missing school to trigger outreach, and personalized outreach to support students. The video is designed to be viewed in its entirety or can be stopped after each segment for discussion and reflection.

Understanding Risk Factors for English Learners in Completing High School
REL Southwest
August – September 2016
REL Southwest developed three short videos including interviews with research experts and practitioners on the topic of EWS for English learners. The first of these videos begins with a definition of an Early Warning System (EWS) and overview of how an EWS is used in an educational setting. Three main aspects of an EWS are described. The speakers then address the importance of using an Early Warning System to look not only at individual students, but also groups of students, giving special consideration to the unique needs of English learners in EWS design and implementation.

The second and third videos provide a short overview of The Early Warning and Risk Prevention for English Learners technical assistance project from the perspectives of the researchers at REL Southwest, and the participants in three Texas school districts.

Communicating with Parents about EWS
REL Midwest
August 2016
The REL developed a video for states to use to communicate with parents about EWSs and how school districts and schools use these systems to provide supports and interventions.

Implementing an Early Warning System in a District: Experiences from Pennsylvania and Beyond
REL Mid-Atlantic
September 2016 (recorded May 2016, during the Pennsylvania Department of Education Data Summit)
A panel of stakeholders from districts within and outside of Pennsylvania share their experiences and answer questions about implementing Early Warning Systems. The panel also briefly reviews the latest EWS research. This event took place at the annual Pennsylvania Department of Education Data Summit, attended by roughly 1,000 district-level staff from across Pennsylvania, many of whom have the authority to drive district policy.

Data Illustration and Visualization for EWS
REL Appalachia
October 2016
This whiteboard animation captures the important steps in building functional EWS data visualizations.

Supporting Baltimore City Schools in Implementing a Continuous Improvement Process around Data Use
REL Mid-Atlantic
September 2016
The Baltimore City School District has a robust data collection and management system and an Instructional Leadership Tool that includes data for an EWS. However, the use of these data varies across schools and depends on the knowledge and functioning of school-level instructional leadership teams. This video highlights how three high schools implemented a continuous improvement process focused on the schools' use of data to support the career and college readiness of their students.

Whiteboard Animation of a District Guide for Selecting Early Warning Indicators
REL West
October 2016
REL West developed a guide for districts to select locally-appropriate indicators and cut-points, based on collaborative work with the Davis School District (see webinar from May 24th). To communicate the purpose and use of this guide, REL West will develop a whiteboard animation as an illustration. The REL will conduct user testing to determine the best style and method of communicating the information.

Tools

Keeping your student in school: A parent guide
REL Midwest
August 2016
This brochure can be used by district and school administrators to communicate with parents about the common signs of being off track to graduate from high school, and how they can partner with their schools to help their student reach graduation day. The brochure is available in English, Spanish, and includes customizable versions in each language.

High School Intervention Self-Study Guide
REL Southeast
August 2016
This Self-study Guide for Implementing High School Academic Interventions was developed to help district- and school-based practitioners plan and implement high school academic interventions, including those based on EWS data. It is intended to promote reflection about current district and school strengths and challenges in planning for implementation of high school academic interventions, spark conversations among staff, and identify areas for improvement. The guide provides a template for data collection and guiding questions for discussion that may improve the implementation of high school academic interventions and decrease the number of students failing to graduate from high school on time.

Four Signs your District is Ready for an Early Warning System: A Discussion Guide
REL Pacific
September 2016
For districts without an EWS in place, this guide is intended to focus conversations and decisions about whether the district is ready for an EWS and when and how to proceed with EWS implementation if the district is ready. The discussion guide will help readers assess the degree to which each of four readiness signs exist within their districts and data systems. Those signs are: a clear vision for addressing the dropout problem, a high quality data system, access to expertise in data analytics, and the capacity the deliver a tiered intervention system.

Infographics

Comparing Methodologies for Developing an Early Warning System
REL Southeast
May 2016
The infographic shows the benefits of using a Classification and Regression Tree (CART) compared to logistic regression both visually and through a table of characteristics. In addition, a graphic provides a list of those who may benefit from the use of CART analyses.

Early Warning Systems Indicator: Course Performance
REL Southeast
May 2016
This infographic shows readers information on the importance of course performance as an indicator in an Early Warning System and areas to consider when implementing academic interventions from a working document self-study guide for implementing high school academic interventions developed by REL Southeast Improving Literacy research alliance members.

Defining Tiered-Models and Early Warning Systems: Similarities and Differences
REL Central and REL Northwest
June 2016
The infographic shows readers the similarities and differences among response to intervention (RTI), school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports (SWPBIS), multi-tiered system of support (MTSS), and EWS. The infographic also includes the principles behind RTI, SWPBIS, and MTSS, and how these principles relate to EWS. Readers will also learn the salient features of each model.

Identifying Early Warning Indicators in Three Ohio School Districts
REL Midwest
July 2016
This infographic introduces readers to the concept of Early Warning Systems, and shares an overview of the results of the recently released study Identifying Early Warning Indicators in Three Ohio School Districts (see below for link to the full study).

Graphic summaries of "A Practitioners Guide to Implementing Early Warning Systems"
REL Mid-Atlantic
August 2016
REL Mid-Atlantic developed a series of graphic summaries based on the five core components of the REL Northwest EWS implementation guide, A Practitioners Guide to Implementing Early Warning Systems.

Data Illustration and Visualization for EWS
REL Appalachia
September 2016
The infographic summarizes EWS data at a state, district, or school level using a dashboard. REL Appalachia will focus on EWSs that display information that is easy to understand and actionable for education stakeholders.

Reports

A Practitioner's Guide to Implementing Early Warning Systems
REL Northwest
January 2015
http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/projects/project.asp?ProjectID=396
To reduce the number of students dropping out, many schools and districts are turning to Early Warning Systems that signal whether a student is at risk of not graduating from high school. Little information exists about the actual implementation strategies being used across the country. This report summarizes the experiences and recommendations of EWS users throughout the United States.

Comparing Methodologies for Developing an Early Warning System
REL Southeast
February 2015
http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/projects/project.asp?projectID=469
This report explains the use of logistic regression and classification and regression tree (CART) analysis in the development of EWSs. It was motivated by state education leaders' interest in maintaining high classification accuracy while simultaneously improving practitioner understanding of the rules for identifying students as at-risk or not at-risk readers. Results indicate that CART is comparable to logistic regression. Details of each method are provided to assist analysts interested in developing EWSs using one of the methods.

Early Identification of High School Graduation Outcomes in Oregon Leadership Network Schools
REL Northwest
April 2015
http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/projects/project.asp?projectID=338
This study examined student characteristics related to completing high school in four years, with emphasis on graduation outcomes for male and English language learner students. The authors looked at a cohort of students who began grade 9 in the 2007/08 school year in four Oregon districts. Findings confirmed previous studies showing that attendance and grade point average (GPA) in grades 8 and 9 are significantly associated with graduating on time.

Identifying Early Warning Indicators in Three Ohio School Districts
REL Midwest
July 2016
http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/projects/project.asp?projectID=358
The purpose of this study was to identify a set of data elements for students in grades 8 and 9 in three Ohio school districts that could serve as accurate early warning indicators of their failure to graduate high school on time. The three districts varied in size, demographic composition, and locale. The research team collected student-level data on two cohorts of grade 8 and 9 students and used logistic regression and Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) curve analyses to identify the indicators that were the consistent predictors of failure to graduate on time and the cut points for these indicators that most accurately distinguish students who were at risk from those who did graduate on time. Results show the optimal cut point for classifying students as at risk varied significantly across districts for five of the eight potential indicators included in the study. End-of-year attendance rate was the only indicator that was a consistent predictor for both grades in all three districts. The most accurate indicators in both grade 8 and grade 9 were based on coursework (GPAs and course credits). Consistent with prior literature, failing more than one class and earning one or more suspensions also were strong predictors of failure to graduate on time. On average, indicators were more accurate in grade 9 than in grade 8.

Works in Progress

Early Warning Indicators of High School Dropout for English Language Learners in Road Map Districts
REL Northwest
Early 2017
https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/projects/project.asp?projectID=337
Improving retention and graduation rates for English language learners (ELLs) is a concern throughout the Nation. This study focuses on seven South Seattle and South King County (Washington) school districts that participate in the Road Map for Educational Results initiative. This study looks at whether early warning indicators used to predict high school dropout in Road Map school districts are accurate predictors for ELLs in those districts.

Impact of an Early Warning and Intervention Monitoring System on Student and School Outcomes
REL Midwest
Early 2017
https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/projects/project.asp?projectID=388
At the request of its Dropout Prevention Research Alliance, REL Midwest will work in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio to evaluate the impact of the early warning and intervention monitoring system (EWIMS) model in a cluster randomized trial. This study will fill an important gap in the knowledge base, and districts and schools in the Midwest and other regions will be able to use the results to inform their own decisions about implementing an EWS. The study builds on initial work to validate indicators of student risk for failure to graduate in Ohio districts.