Category Research

The latest study from the Center for Social Organization of Schools, “Implementation of an Early Warning Indicator and Intervention System,” focuses on 20 southern high schools’ implementation of an early warning indicator and intervention system.

Co-authored by Marcia H. Davis, Martha Abele Mac Iver, Robert W. Balfanz, Marc L. Stein, and Joanna Hornig Fox, the study highlights student behaviors during the ninth-grade year. Since both engagement and achievement tend to decline during this time, the freshman year has been shown to be predictive of subsequent dropout. The decline is not due to the increase in rigorous classwork, as is sometimes assumed, but rather to study habits and attendance, as high school students often receive less adult monitoring of behavior and less adult support than they did in middle school.

National findings indicate that more than half of U.S. public schools implement some type of early warning system to identify students at risk. Simply identifying at-risk students is not enough, however, and the CSOS analysis examines the use of early warning teams to implement interventions. The team model shifts responsibility from an individual adult to a team of adults in a collective and collaborative approach that combines both academic and nonacademic functions. Consistent data monitoring and team meetings resulted in higher intervention implementation and thus significant gains in attendance with more ninth graders staying on track and earning credits.

Students at the schools with the highest levels of implementation were more than two-and-a-half times as likely to be on track in attendance as students in nonimplementing schools.


Marcia H. Davis, Martha Abele Mac Iver, Robert W. Balfanz, Marc L. Stein & Joanna Hornig Fox (2018). Implementation of an early warning indicator and intervention system. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, doi: 10.1080/1045988X.2018.1506977.


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