New Guide Helps Schools Create Early Warning Systems to Prevent Dropouts


January 6, 2015


Photo of guide cover

Every 26 seconds a teenager drops out of school in the United States. To reverse that trend, many districts and organizations are turning to early warning systems (EWS) that signal whether a student is at risk of not graduating from high school. While some research exists about establishing these systems and creating indicators, there is less information about actual implementation strategies that are being used across the country.

A Practitioner’s Guide to Implementing Early Warning Systems, a new publication from Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest, helps fill this gap by summarizing the experience and recommendations of EWS users throughout the United States. The guide covers how to establish and train a team to use the EWS; identify accurate indicators; develop usable indicator reports; map interventions in response to student needs; and evaluate student progress.

“People using EWS typically face two major challenges: creating the system and then helping staff members use it routinely,” notes Sarah Frazelle, lead author of the guide with Aisling Nagel. “We found a real need to share the core ideas, recommendations, and experiences of school districts and organizations using EWS so that others just getting started with this work can avoid common pitfalls.”

In addition to the guide, Frazelle and her REL Northwest colleagues are working on other EWS implementation resources such as a series of online modules that walk teams through the process. Districts and community-based organizations in Montana, Oregon, and Washington are helping to pilot test these materials.

The guide is available through the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) website. You can also read a blog post by the report's coauthor, Sarah Frazelle, on how her personal experiences relate to her work on early warning systems.