Validating the Early Warning System Tool Indicators in Rural Contexts

Could high school dropout indicators tested in urban areas also predict high school dropouts in my rural state of Idaho? We all realize schools large and small, rural and urban, need student data tracking systems. The Early Warning System (EWS) Tool v2.0, available from the National High School Center, is a free, downloadable Excel-based tool that uses readily available student-level data to identify students who exhibit early warning signs that they are at risk for dropping out of high school. Dubbed in previous research as “high yield indicators,” the EWS Tool v2.0 tracks data on attendance, grade point average, credits earned and the number of course failures. These indicators have been found to be highly predictive of dropout rate in large, urban areas such as Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles. Having grown up about 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia, having visited Chicago and Los Angeles, and now living in Idaho, I can attest that there is no urban area that looks anything like Philadelphia, Chicago or Los Angeles within the Gem State! Therefore, before we recommended to Idaho schools that they implement the EWS Tool v2.0, my colleague, Carrie Semmelroth, and I decided to follow the suggestions outlined in the Achieve, Inc. report by Jerald (2006) that schools and districts test the predictive validity of the indicators to ensure appropriate cut points and decision rules are set. We worked with two Idaho districts to assess the EWS indicators’ validity in predicting dropout rates in rural and suburban settings. The full results of our efforts were reported in the NASSP Bulletin, but essentially, we found that the National High School Center’s EWS indicators identified nearly all of the students who later dropped out of high school using the same decision rules as had been established by the research conducted in larger, urban settings. For additional information on the effectiveness of data systems, the Doing What Works Dropout Prevention topic provides some powerful interviews with experts from the Consortium on Chicago School Research, the Department of Graduation Pathways, and an intervention team. Guest Blogger: Dr. Evelyn Johnson received her doctor of education degree from the University of Washington, Seattle in 1999 and is currently an Associate Professor of special education at Boise State University. From 2003-07, she worked as a research associate for the National Research Center on Learning Disabilities (NRCLD), examining issues related to Response to Intervention (RTI) and Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) determination.

Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.

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