District Guide for Creating Indicators for Early Warning Systems

This guide, prepared by American Institutes for Research for REL West, provides concrete advice to help school districts review student data or records, identify student characteristics and behaviors that are related to education outcomes, and make sound decisions in developing or refining accurate early warning indicators.

The guide focuses on the foundation for an early warning system for dropout prevention: understanding which locally informed indicators best predict students at risk of not achieving desired graduation outcomes, then building those indicators to match the local need.

Organized into seven sections, the guide:

  • Reviews commonly used early warning indicators and summarizes the research behind these indicators
  • Explains the process to select a student sample, explore the local data sources, and prepare a dataset for analysis
  • Discusses simple descriptive ways to understand the distributions of potential predictor and outcome variables with the local context
  • Provides examples of descriptive ways to understand the relationships between potential indicators and graduation outcomes
  • Outlines the steps needed to establish appropriate cut points for early warning indicators
  • Examines the rationale and steps for comparing early warning indicators
  • Discusses how to examine the reliability and validity of indicators or a combination of indicators
  • The sections guide users through the steps involved in developing or refining early warning indicators that reflect their own local context. Tables, graphs, and templates are included as practical examples.

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