Early warning systems (EWS) use readily available school data to identify students who are at risk of not graduating from or dropping out of high school, allowing educators to intervene early. Schools can use information from an EWS to support students who are at risk with both schoolwide strategies and targeted interventions. States, districts, and schools can use EWS data to examine school-level patterns in the current school year and over time to address systemic issues that may be impeding a given student’s ability to graduate.

The free resources and tools available on this site were developed by American Institutes for Research (AIR) as part of the National High School Center, a technical assistance center funded by the U.S. Department of Education from 2005 to 2013 that served as the central source of information and expertise on high school improvement for Regional Comprehensive Centers and states. The resources focus on the use and implementation of early warning indicators and systems to identify students who are at risk of not graduating from high school.

The resources and tools, with supporting documentation, are organized into: Implementation and Research, EWS High School Tool, and EWS Middle Grades Tool.

Additional Early Warning System Resources

Commentary: O’Cummings Speaks on “Keeping Kids in School” (08/13/2013)

Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland examined data on students from the graduating classes of 2011 and 2012 to identify early indicators that accurately flag 75 percent of future dropouts as early as the second semester of first grade. Mindee O’Cummings, AIR principal researcher, commented on the implications of these analyses in a Washington Post article and an interview on Fox 5 news.

Report: Predictive Indicators for College and Career Readiness

Many educators rely on intuition, instinct, or similar techniques to guide their decision making. Even educators who desire to use data often find themselves guessing about which data is important to help them prepare students for college and careers. Our work at AIR on predictive indicators provides educators with the research to understand which data can be used appropriately to predict student failure and success. The case studies included here show how AIR responded to challenges in programs in Massachusetts and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Report: Research-Based Practices for College and Career Readiness

Organizations require research and data to support their efforts to prepare students to be college and career ready. Strategically used research and data can help to eliminate barriers; identify actions to be taken; and guide program planning, monitoring, and decision making.

The college and career readiness group at AIR relies on research and data in two critical ways. First, the AIR team uses literature reviews and environmental scans to identify research-based practices focused on college and career readiness. Second, the team analyzes data and develops tools to help clients connect research-based practices directly to actions—bridging the gap between research and practice.

Brochure: Early Warning Systems: Designing Effective Interventions to Improve College & Career Readiness

Across the United States, almost 7,000 high school students drop out of school each day.

The National High School Center at AIR developed an EWS tool that provides accurate and timely data to identify students most at risk for dropping out of high school. The Center’s tool allows districts to dig deeper into their data, see patterns, and uncover the reasons behind students’ poor performance. Administrators implementing the system say that the tool has focused their attention on how schools operate, calling the process “eye-opening.”

The Center’s EWS is used in 68 districts in six states, and the Center’s tool has been downloaded more than 20,000 times. The federally funded center operated by AIR serves as the nation’s central source of information and expertise on high school improvement and will run through spring 2013.