From Accountability to Prevention: Early Warning Systems Put Data to Work for Struggling Students

Mindee O'Cummings
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Schools need ways to identify struggling students long before their difficulties derail their hopes for graduation and beyond. More state, district, and school leaders are now realizing that the same data they collect for accountability measures also can be used to improve instruction and support better outcomes for students. Early warning systems offer a way to use available data to identify students at risk and drive targeted interventions that help them get back on track.

This issue paper includes lessons learned from more than seven years of working with individual schools, school districts, and state education agencies as they design, develop, implement, and refine early warning systems. The paper provides practical lessons for educators at all levels and backgrounds, whether considering starting a new statewide early warning system or revisiting the structure of practices at a school that has been implementing the process for many years. Lessons are grouped by levels that include schools, districts, and states.

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