An Educator’s Guide to Implementing an Early Warning System

Posted by Jeff WatsonO

November 20, 2017

Early warning systems are critical to ensuring that every student receives the help and resources they need to succeed. Find out how to select — and effectively implement — the best early warning solution for your district.


According to the U.S. Department of Education, 52 percent of public high schools in the country had some sort of early warning system in place during the 2014-2015 school year. That said, over half (51 percent) of those schools reported limited or nonexistent coordination between their early warning systems and the delivery of other educational services.


Especially in the long term, this disconnect threatens to undercut the effectiveness of fully-integrated, properly implemented early warning systems. In order to avoid problems down the line and ensure that they receive the best results from their efforts, educators must take a measured, methodical approach to selecting and implementing cutting-edge early warning systems with the power to meaningfully improve student outcomes.



Things to Consider When Implementing an Early Warning System


1. Define Goals and Objectives


First and foremost, a district must define its goals and objectives and identify the metrics or key indicators by which it will evaluate its progress toward said goals. Depending on a district’s specific circumstances, it may choose to hone in on bolstering school safety, lowering dropout rates, raising academic performance within a particular cohort, or improving overall performance.


According to Department of Education data, among public schools that already have an early warning system in place, 92 percent track student attendance, 91 percent track course grades, 82 percent track truancy and/or chronic absenteeism, and 79 percent track serious disciplinary incidents like suspensions or expulsions.


2. Find the Right Data Solution

Next, districts must select a solution within the context of these carefully-considered goals and metrics. Which available platform will enable meaningful results? An effective system should not only produce actionable insights that can be used as the foundation of trackable interventions, it must also be simple to integrate into existing classroom workflows and facilitate transparency across multiple levels of oversight — from the classroom itself to the individual school to the broader district office.


Around 97 percent of schools with an early warning system rely on more than one metric or indicator to trigger interventions; on average, schools use six different indicators to trigger actions for at-risk students. Figuring out how these numerous indicators interact in a real-world context — and which interactions lead to which interventions — can be a challenge, but with the right system in place, interventions can be consistent and implemented with fidelity.


3. Provide Interventions With Fidelity


It’s likely your school or district has already mapped out a variety of interventions. But administrators must also solidify the mechanics of these interventions to ensure they are being carried out consistently across the entire district. Which educator is going to administer which interventions? When will specific interventions occur, and in what order? How and when will a student’s parents or guardians be notified? None of these questions has a single right answer, but each must be answered and implemented consistently. Cutting-edge early warning systems can help streamline the process of intervention by organizing the data surrounding each student as different stakeholders collect and record it.


When interventions are consistent and uniform, it becomes easier for you to identify and monitor each of those interventions to determine what’s working, which students have improved, and which students may need additional or adjusted intervention.



Using Technology to Integrate Early Warning Systems and Intervention Tracking


This end-to-end process is admittedly complex, but with the right partner, it can simplify internal processes and improve student outcomes. Many districts already track and collect nearly all the data required to facilitate an effective early warning system — they simply need to centralize and organize it.


Learn more about early warning systems in our white paper, Facilitating Effective Interventions.





Getting Up and Running with Hoonuit’s Early Warning Solution


At Hoonuit, our mission is to help districts organize and act on this data in ways that deliver positive outcomes for each and every one of their students. When a district joins forces with Hoonuit, we guide its key stakeholders through a straightforward three-step process that sets educators and their students up for sustainable success.


First, we facilitate the migration of district data into our intuitive platform. Typically, this involves us providing instructions to district administrators regarding the kind of data that might be useful for an early warning system and the way in which such data should be formatted. In many cases, administrators can simply connect existing data collection mechanisms directly to our platform, guaranteeing that no critical information is lost during the data transfer process.


Next, we identify all of a district’s existing intervention programs and enter them into our systems, giving administrators the ability to monitor individual programs longitudinally to ensure that they’re being implemented with fidelity.


Finally — and most importantly moving forward — we provide in-depth training to a school’s and/or district’s administrative staff. We equip high-level stakeholders with the skills and resources they need to become first-rate experts on our platform.


Of course, we are always available to answer higher-level questions and assist with troubleshooting technical difficulties, but our goal is to help districts stitch efficient, effective early warning systems and intervention tracking into the very fabric of their administrative processes. When these critical support systems become part and parcel of what a district does on a daily basis, success is well within reach for every student.

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