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Early Warning Indicator System (EWIS)

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education collects a wealth of data from school districts, and is working to provide more useful information and tools back to districts using these data. To that end, the Department worked closely with the national research organization American Institutes for Research (AIR) over the 2011-12 school year on the development of risk models to inform an Early Warning Indicator System (EWIS) for grades one through twelve (1-12). The purpose of the Massachusetts EWIS is to provide information to districts on the likelihood their students will reach key academic goals. We are excited to offer this tool for districts to assist with the identification of students that may need additional supports and interventions!

Basic Information:

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EWIS Frequently Asked Questions
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Introduction to the Expanded Post Secondary EWIS Model
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Technical Summary of Expanded Post Secondary EWIS (EW602)
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EWIS Tutorials (video)
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EWIS and Data in Action (video)
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Video highlights of Massachusetts schools and districts, created by the national Data Quality Campaign (DQC)
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EWIS 101: A Presentation frequently used in ESE trainings
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EWIS Spotlight: A one page summary of the EWIS system
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Early Warning Implementation Guide: Using the Massachusetts Early Warning Indicator System (EWIS) and Local Data to Identify, Diagnose, Support, and Monitor Students in Grades 1-12 (published September 2014)
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Updated Appendix A for EWIS Implementation Guide (March 2016)
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Guidance on using EWIS data in the context of educator evaluation
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The Massachusetts Analysis of Dropout Data: 2015-16 Dropouts

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College and Career Readiness Data Resources

Technical Reports

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Technical Descriptions of EWIS Risk Model Development: Early and Late Elementary Age Groupings (Grades 1-6)
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Technical Descriptions of EWIS Risk Model Development: Middle and High School Age Groupings (Grades 7-12)


The Department created the EWIS in direct response to educators' requests for early indicator data at earlier grade levels and throughout high school. The EWIS is a tool to systematically identify students that may need additional attention in order to reach an upcoming academic goal (expected student outcome). Traditionally early warning systems were most often implemented at the high school level to help predict which students are most likely to drop out. The current Massachusetts EWIS is for grade levels 1-12 and is connected to relevant academic goals throughout the academic trajectory.

Across the country, early indicators are becoming an increasingly important tool for educators to better design and target student interventions. An EWIS is intended to be a tool for educators to use in conjunction with other data and sources of information to better target student supports and interventions. Schools can use information from an early warning system to support students who are at risk of not meeting an expected academic goal with both school-wide strategies and targeted interventions. Districts and schools can also use early warning system data to examine school-level patterns over time in order to address systemic issues that may impede a student's ability to meet academic goals.

Massachusetts educators have a lot to be proud of; our fourth and eighth grade students continually outscore and outrank other states on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), our four-year graduation rate has increased for the fifth consecutive year, and our high school dropout rate is at its lowest point in half a century. Despite these achievements, our work remains unfinished to close large and persistent proficiency gaps and to increase the percentage of graduates enrolling in higher education without the need for remedial courses.

Our students need us to take bold steps to make every school an excellent one and prepare them for success after high school. The Department hopes that the EWIS will provide another resource to reach this objective.

The Massachusetts EWIS predicts the likelihood a student will reach an expected academic goal. The EWIS includes risk models connected with four grade groupings: 1) early elementary, 2) late elementary, 3) middle school, and 4) high school. The risk models are each linked to a relevant academic goal (see table below) that are important to the success of Massachusetts students. A student that is "low risk" is predicted to be likely to meet the academic goal. The EWIS risk models reflect national research and promising practices, feedback from a range of stakeholders, and extensive testing of possible indicators of risk and statistical modeling using longitudinal Massachusetts data. The risk models only use readily available data from existing statewide collections.

EWIS Risk Model Age GroupsGrade LevelsAcademic Goals
Expected student outcomes for each grade grouping
Early ElementaryGrades 1-3Proficient or advanced on 3rd grade ELA state assessments
Late ElementaryGrades 4-6Proficient or advanced on 6th grade ELA and Mathematics state assessments
Middle GradesGrades 7-9Passing grades on all 9th grade courses
High SchoolGrades 10-12High school graduation

Research is clear that a variety of factors contribute to a student's likelihood of reaching key academic goals. The EWIS is intended to be used as a starting point for identifying and supporting students who may be at risk for not reaching an upcoming academic goal. Because the EWIS data are calculated using data collected by the Department, districts and schools may also consider using local data to identify and support students.

It is important to note that the predictive power of the EWIS risk models rely heavily on the accuracy of the data reported to the Department and timely data submissions. The Department will identify data reporting issues that may affect the accuracy of the EWIS risk models and will support districts to resolve these issues in order to improve the EWIS tool. EWIS data is especially useful at the beginning of the school year and the Department makes every effort have EWIS Edwin reports available by the end of August. However, only districts who have submitted all their data (SIMS, SCS, SSDR) on-time will receive it during that release.

The Massachusetts EWIS is…The Massachusetts EWIS is not…
A tool to better target interventions and supports at the individual, small group, and whole school levels.
A "life sentence" or a reason to track students.
A systematic way to flag students that need to be further examined to determine what additional support are necessary.
A diagnostic tool that provides details on the exact reason(s) why a student is at risk for not meeting an expected academic goal.
Related to measures that are included in the state's school and district accountability system (PPI), but is not itself an accountability measure.
An accountability measure.
Based on data and risk models that the Department will reexamine each year to continually improve the system.
A stagnant system that will remain exactly the same in future years.

Post Secondary EWIS

Using funding from the US Department of Education, ESE expanded EWIS to provide risk levels for high school students off-track for meeting specific post secondary outcomes. The expanded EWIS uses data on the higher education outcomes of students who previously graduated from high school in the Commonwealth and developed statistical, predictive analytic models to apply them to current students.

The Post Secondary EWIS model provide indicators for students meeting College Success Outcomes as:

  • College Enrollment: likelihood to enroll in postsecondary education,
  • Academic Readiness: likelihood for success in credit-bearing college courses in English and mathematics at the college freshman level,
  • Persistence: likelihood for students to persist from the first to second year of post-secondary education.

Last Updated: April 27, 2017
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