Student Data

Use Early Warning Indicators to Begin Interventions Now

5 min. read

Education is not just about imparting knowledge; it’s about ensuring that each student can reach their full potential. To achieve this, schools often rely on data to understand the learning progress of their students. But what if, rather than waiting for the end of the semester or the annual state test, we could identify students at risk of falling behind much earlier? This is where the concept of Early Warning Indicators (EWIs) comes into play.

What are Early Warning Indicators?

EWIs are a set of indicators that provide information about a student’s risk of falling off-track academically or socially. They are proactive measures that use readily available data to highlight students who might be at risk of not meeting critical educational milestones.

Typical indicators might include:

  • Absenteeism
  • Low grades in foundational subjects
  • Behavioral issues
  • Decreased participation in class


Why Are EWIs Important?

  1. Prompt Interventions: The sooner we identify students who are at risk, the sooner interventions can begin. Early interventions are proven to be more effective than reactive measures, as they address issues before they become deeply entrenched habits or patterns.
  2. Resource Allocation: With the help of EWIs, schools can allocate resources, such as tutoring or counseling, more effectively and efficiently.
  3. Building Support Systems: By identifying at-risk students early on, schools can establish supportive environments and partnerships between teachers, parents, and counselors, fostering a collaborative approach to student success.


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Implementing EWIs in Your School District

  1. Data Collection: Begin by collecting relevant data, ensuring that it’s accurate, timely, and comprehensive. This could be attendance records, grades, or behavioral reports.
  2. Analysis: Use this data to set benchmarks for what is considered “at risk.” For instance, if a student misses a certain number of days within a month, they could be flagged by the EWI system.
  3. Intervention Strategies: Once students are identified, have a clear set of intervention strategies in place. This could be peer tutoring, counseling, parent-teacher meetings, or after-school programs.
  4. Regular Reviews: Continuously monitor the effectiveness of your interventions. Adjust strategies based on their success and changing student needs.
  5. Professional Development: Ensure that your staff is trained to understand and utilize EWIs. This includes not just recognizing the indicators but also understanding how to respond.


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If I have an RTI program, why do I need EWIs?

Both Early Warning Indicators (EWIs) and Response to Intervention (RTI) are pivotal in the educational system as methods to identify and support students at risk. However, they serve different purposes, have different focal areas, and employ varied approaches. Here’s a comparison to help differentiate the two:

  1. Purpose and Definition:
    • EWIs: Early Warning Indicators are signals, often derived from data, that a student may be at risk of not meeting key educational milestones. These indicators might include poor attendance, behavioral issues, or low course performance, among others. The goal of EWIs is to flag potential concerns early on so that they can be addressed proactively.
    • RTI: Response to Intervention is a multi-tiered framework designed to identify students who are struggling academically and provide them with targeted instructional interventions. It’s a process that closely monitors student progress and adjusts interventions based on that progress.
  2. Focus:
    • EWIs: The focus is generally broader. While academic performance is a part of EWIs, they also encompass non-academic factors like behavior and attendance.
    • RTI: Primarily focused on academic performance and the effectiveness of instructional methods.
  3. Implementation:
    • EWIs: Schools often use a system or dashboard that collects data on attendance, behavior, and course performance to generate alerts when students show signs of being at risk.
    • RTI: Schools often use a system or dashboard that collects data on attendance, behavior, and course performance to generate alerts when students show signs of being at risk.
      • Tier 1: General classroom instruction for all students.
      • Tier 2: Targeted interventions for students who don’t respond to Tier 1.
      • Tier 3: Intensive, individualized interventions for students who continue to struggle despite Tier 2 interventions.
  4. Response:
    • EWIs: Once a student is identified as at-risk through EWIs, schools might use various interventions, from counseling to parental involvement or academic supports, depending on the specific warning indicators.
    • RTI: The response is directly tied to academic performance. If a student doesn’t show progress in Tier 1, they move to Tier 2, and if still not making sufficient progress, to Tier 3.
  5. Duration and Monitoring:
    • EWIs: EWIs are continuous in that they consistently monitor specific indicators throughout a student’s academic journey. They can flag issues at any time.
    • RTI: Monitoring is more structured and is often done at set intervals. The intervention’s effectiveness is gauged, and if a student is not making progress, they might move to a more intensive tier.

While EWIs and RTI might seem similar because both aim at identifying and supporting students at risk, they have distinct differences. EWIs act as alarms, alerting educators about potential issues, whereas RTI is a structured approach to providing layered academic support based on student needs. Both are crucial, and in an ideal setting, they can complement each other to ensure every student gets the best support possible.


Early Warning Indicators are a powerful tool for K-12 school districts. They shift the educational approach from reactive to proactive, ensuring that every student receives the support they need as soon as they need it. By implementing EWIs, we can create a more inclusive, attentive, and successful educational environment for all students. Don’t wait for the end-of-year test results to understand where your students stand. Begin interventions now and ensure a brighter future for every learner in your district.

Taylor Plumblee

Dr. Taylor Plumblee is an experienced education executive with demonstrated success in education management and marketing. She joined Frontline Education in 2021 and is the Manager of Product and Solution Marketing with a focus on Student & Business Solutions including School Health Management, Special Program Management, Student Information Systems, and Data & Analytics. She has taught at both the elementary and high school levels in both traditional public and public charter schools. Her areas of expertise include student services, career technical education, special education, school health management, and student information systems. Her areas of responsibility included staff professional development, guidance and student services, and master schedule at the largest high school in Central Florida, with a student enrollment of 4,300+. She directly supervised 25 faculty, 10 school counselors, and 5 support staff. Taylor graduated in 2020 from Northeastern University with her Doctorate in Education with a concentration in Curriculum, Teaching, Leadership, and Learning. Her dissertation researched the conditions under which education technology is successfully implemented in the school setting. She has found success in bringing her experience in school based-administration to the SaaS and EdTech industry.