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EARLY WARNING SYSTEMS: New Publication Examines How Early Warning Data Can Keep Students on Track Toward College and a Career

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"By creating EWS that empower stakeholders, meet districts' unique needs, and protect student information, states will make strides in supporting effective data use that moves students one step closer to college and career readiness."

State policymakers should work with districts and schools to implement early warning systems (EWS) that help educators keep high school students on track toward college and career readiness, a new report from Data Quality Campaign finds. The report, Using Early Warning Data to Keep Students on Track Toward College and Careers, explores the options states have for aggregating and translating student data into actionable information they can use to prevent students from dropping out and meeting their individual needs.

By utilizing EWS, states can find patterns and trends, or predictive indicators, for student achievement, the report notes. By analyzing data points, such as behavioral problems, course grades, and attendance records, schools can more easily pinpoint students at risk for dropping out and provide additional supports to help them succeed. These interventions come in the form of addressing students’ unique academic, social, and emotional needs. These data points can be broadened to target students who need more rigorous course work to meet their full potential. The report points out the necessity of balancing student privacy with tailoring the early warning indicators to meet stakeholders’ needs.

In order for EWS to be as effective in meeting students where they are, state policymakers need to act now to get the critical data into the hands of school leaders, educators, and parents, the report argues. Every state has access to large quantities of data; the key is disseminating the information and using it to benefit students. The report identifies four steps policymakers can take to improve EWS and promote it in schools and districts:

1. Encourage the use of predictive analysis to inform action by educators and others involved with assisting students to improve learning outcomes.
2. Support the development of research-based indicators for predictive analysis.
3. Ensure that early warning data are timely, of high quality, and consistent to inform indicators.
4. Establish a culture in which critical educators and others involved in a student’s life have timely access to warning data.

The report includes a practical chart on how policymakers can meet each of these four state goals. For each goal, it outlines why there is a state role, what the state needs to consider, and an example of a state meeting that role. For example, in 2010, Arkansas excelled at ensuring that early warning data is timely, of high quality, and consistent by launching an EWS to identify students who were off track toward college and a career. State leaders also provided district staff, principals, counselors, and teachers with daily reports and training on how to collect and interpret the data.

early warning

Currently, twenty-eight states are producing early warning reports, but as shown in the map to the right, there is wide variation in how the information is disseminated. In fifteen states (shown in green), the state education agency (SEA) collects, analyzes, and distributes the data to schools and districts; three states (shown in blue) provide tools necessary for districts and schools to upload their own data. In Ohio, the SEA collects early warning data on behalf of local education agencies and provides the data to other partners that conduct the analysis and then provides it to schools and districts. No matter how districts and schools access the indicators, the report says it is essential that state policymakers encourage the use of data to keep students engaged and on a track toward success.

“By creating EWS that empower stakeholders, meet districts’ unique needs, and protect student information, states will make strides in supporting effective data use that moves students one step closer to college and career readiness,” the report reads.

Using Early Warning Data to Keep Students on Track Toward College and Careers is available athttp://dataqualitycampaign.org/files/DQC%20Early%20Warning%20June12.pdf.

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