Office of College, Career and Technical Education

Development of the Early Warning Indicator System

The Massachusetts EWIS, or Early Warning Indicator System, is a tool for districts to systematically identify students who may need additional attention in order to reach an upcoming academic milestone. EWIS has been available to districts since 2012.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) created EWIS in response to district interest in an early warning index. The Early Warning Indicator Index (EWII), a precursor to EWIS, identified rising grade 9 students who were at risk of not graduating from high school. Districts shared that the Index was helpful and requested early warning data across grade levels. EWIS builds on the strengths and lessons learned from the EWII to provide early warning indicator data to districts for students in grades 1-12.

DESE collaborated with American Institutes for Research (AIR) to develop EWIS risk models using funds from a 2011 federal State Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) grant. A DESE team worked closely with AIR to determine the appropriate models for each grade level using a rigorous statistical method. An EWIS Advisory Group with members from DESE and other state agencies reviewed the research findings and discussed key decisions. DESE expanded the EWIS risk models to include postsecondary outcomes using funding from a second SLDS grant starting in 2015. Postsecondary risk levels were first available to districts in 2016.

EWIS risk models are developed by examining academic outcomes for Massachusetts students in prior years, and validating or comparing those students to current students across a range of data. The models are then used to predict whether current students are on track to meet upcoming outcomes.1 EWIS risk models are developed for each grade level and grade cluster (e.g., early elementary school, late elementary school, middle school, and high school) and each outcome. This allows users to identify students who are at risk of missing milestones across the educational trajectory. Although there are common indicators across age groups and grade levels, the risk models vary by grade level.

DESE designed EWIS to rely on data in existing statewide collections: using state data from a prior school year allows DESE to provide risk levels statewide at the beginning of each school year. The data come from several sources: the Student Information Management System (SIMS), Student Course Schedule (SCS) collections, assessment results from Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System and Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State for English Language Learners (ACCESS for ELLs). The postsecondary models also include data from AP, SAT, HEIRS and NSC.

EWIS risk models are validated and updated annually as new data become available and to account for shifts in data sources. These changes are reviewed with the EWIS Advisory Group.

For more about the development of the risk models, download the Technical Reports from DESE's EWIS website.

1 EWIS predicts the likelihood that students will miss an academic milestone, without intervention. Early warning systems cannot predict with 100% accuracy whether students will achieve an outcome.

Last Updated: July 12, 2017

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