Early Warning Indicator Research on Dropouts

Research conducted by the Philadelphia Education Fund (Ed Fund) and Johns Hopkins University shows that students at risk of dropping out can be identified as early as sixth grade. Students in grades 6 through 8 struggling with one of more of these three Early Warning Indicators (EWIs)– 1) low attendance (less than 80 percent), 2) poor behavior (three or more negative behavior marks), and 3) course failure in math or English – have a 15 percent chance of graduating high school.

The Ed Fund has taken the learnings from the last ten years of work and developed a practice to help 18 schools build their own Early Warning System (EWS).  EWS is a systematic approach to addressing EWIs that is sustainable, scalable and more cost-efficient per school than other approaches. 

The EWS model builds capacity of understaffed schools to access, use and interpret data to inform instruction and intervention and to leverage existing resources to improve student outcomes. The Ed Fund EWS team facilitates EWS implementation by assisting schools in performing five objectives:  1) school-wide needs assessment to inform a plan to enhance school level data inquiry processes so staff members can effectively align actions to assist students stay on track to graduation, 2) mapping resources to identify existing interventions and approaches at schools to address EWIs, 3) establishing data protocol and educating teachers about data analytics and how to use EWIs to improve instruction; 4) EWS meeting facilitation to drive the coherent operation of each component of EWS; and 5) targeted professional development and technical assistance.  The successful execution of these EWS objectives will lead to the following outcomes: positive and active data culture in schools; more students on-track to graduation; and schools more fully resourced to support students with EWIs.

The United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey is not only a funder of EWS, but also an important partner in marshalling neighborhood resources for the 17 EWS schools as well as identifying volunteer engagement opportunities and corporate support. 

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