State Advocacy

Massachusetts Early Warning Indicator System

Massachusetts Early Warning Indicator System


Massachusetts’s Early Warning Indicator System

Massachusetts is the birthplace of the American Revolution. However, Complete College America’s Report on remediation says that in Massachusetts, of the students that are attending a four-year school and taking remedial coursework, only 51.2 percent receive a bachelor’s degree within six years.

Policymakers and educators have taken steps to ensure students are on track for college and careers by developing the Masschussetts Early Warning Indicator System (EWIS). EWIS identifes students who are in danger of dropping out of high school through the use of predictive analysis.

Massachusetts Early Warning Indicator System (EWIS)

EWIS includes indicators from across K–12, not just high school. In September 2012 the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education launched EWIS to help educators, school leaders, and policymakers gain a clearer picture of how students are progressing toward college and careers. “We learned a lot from our stakeholders at both the state level and across districts,” said Jenny Curtin, the state coordinator for high school graduation initiatives. “Many times, they saw something that we may have missed, which produced a much better product in the end.” Through these enhancements, school leaders, educators, and policymakers can identify students who are off track to graduation and intervene earlier to get them back on the path to success.

What EWIS is not:

  • a “life sentence” or a reason to track students
  • a diagnostic tool that provides details on the exact reason(s) why a student is at risk for not meeting an expected academic goal
  • an accountability measure
  • a stagnant system that will remain exactly the same in future years

What EWIS is:

  • a tool to better target interventions and supports at the individual, small group, and whole school levels
  • a systematic way to flag students that need to be further examined to determine what additional supports are necessary
  • related to measures that are included in the state’s school and district accountability system (but is not itself an accountability measure)
  • based on data and risk models that the department will reexamine each year to continually improve the system

Pivotal Role of the State in Developing EWIS

Massachusetts drew on its key resources to develop and implement EWIS. The state’s previous system, the Early Warning Indicator Index (EWII), served as the starting point for EWIS. The state also drew on its connections with national early warning system leaders. It worked with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) to conduct an extensive literature review of indicators for early warning systems. AIR then identified and tested possible indicators for the risk models based on those recognized in the research and data that are collected and available from the department’s data system. The state played an additional role in the implementation process of EWIS. It did extensive outreach to districts, including

  • webinars and other instructional material that help administrators understand how to use the system
  • working groups to gauge how EWIS was meeting stakeholder needs
  • tools and resources to help educators improve teaching, learning, school readiness, and education outcomes

Looking Ahead

The development of the Massachusetts EWIS is a significant step in using predictive analysis to ensure that students are on track toward college and careers. This system provides districts with information that is crucial to helping identify at-risk students during the early, late, middle, and high school years. In the coming years, stakeholders will have the opportunity to use this information to take actions that will improve student outcomes.

Other references that were used in the creation of this success story are Everyone Graduates Center Report 2011: The Use of Early Warning Indicator and Intervention Systems to Build a Grad Nation, Using Data to Keep All Students on Track to Graduation, and the America’s Promise Report 2012: Building a Grad Nation.

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