Learning Series on Early Warning Systems


  • September 27, 2016 - September 27, 2016
  • This five-part series concluded in September 2016. Archived videos are available below. For more information, contact us at relwest@wested.org.

Learning Series on Early Warning Systems


Webinars in the series:

1) EWS 101: Introduction to the 5 Core Components of Early Warning Systems [2/25/16 - recording on left]

2) EWS 201: How to Build Effective Teams and Provide Interventions Within a Tiered Framework System [3/31/16 - recording on left]

3) Successes and Lessons Learned: A District's Perspective on Early Warning Systems [4/19/16 - recording on left]

4) Going Districtwide: Implementation Lessons for Using EWS and Local Risk Indicators [5/24/16 - recording, in 5 segments, on left]

5) When Dropouts Return to School: How an EWS Can Help Identify and Support "Re-enrollees" [9/27/16 - recording on left]

Be sure to check the national REL website for all EWS-related offerings from the REL Network.

EWS 101: Introduction to the 5 Core Components of Early Warning Systems

School and district staff from across the country attended this webinar learning series about early warning systems (EWS), which ran from February–September, 2016. Webinar recordings are available on the left side of this page and on the IES YouTube channel. For webinar details, please see below.

EWS: Why and What?

Every 26 seconds a teenager drops out of school in the U.S. Early warning systems (EWS) can identify students at risk of not graduating so that schools can provide support early on to get students back on track to academic success and on-time graduation. In this first webinar, participants learned about the five key components of an effective EWS:

  • Building a team
  • Identifying appropriate indicators
  • Creating data reports
  • Mapping interventions to indicators
  • Evaluating interventions

Who Should Attend EWS 101

For school and district staff interested in learning the basics of EWS.

Additional EWS 101 Readings

A Practitioner's Guide to Implementing Early Warning Systems (REL Northwest)

EWS research and implementation resources (American Institutes for Research)

EWS 101 Speakers

Sarah Frazelle is Education Northwest's EWS practice expert and lead author of the Institute of Education Sciences' report, A Practitioner's Guide to Implementing Early Warning Systems.  As the Montana state coordinator for REL Northwest, she works closely with a variety of education stakeholders to facilitate collaboration across departments within state and local education agencies. As the lead of the REL Northwest's Montana Data Use Alliance, Frazelle provides techinical assistance on data quality and early warning systems for dropout prevention.

Jenny Scala is a senior researcher for the American Institutes for Research (AIR). She participates in multiple projects using her expertise in using data to inform instructional decision-making. Scala's technical assistance includes creating new strategies for supporitng the implementation of early warning intervention and monitoring systems to identify and support at-risk students at the state, district, and school levels.

Amy Syzmanski has over 20 years of experience in the field of education, primarily in the area of special education. Szymanski currently works as a statewide Secondary Transition and Workforce Development consultant with the State Support Team Region 1 in Ohio. She is well-informed in the areas of secondary transition for students with disabilities and dropout prevention and has presented on these topics at the local, state, and national levels.

Denise Wright has worked for the Centennial School District in Portland, Oregon since 1997. She has held the positions of learning specialist and student services consultant, and is currently the student services supervisor for the district. In this role, she works with K-12 staff who are developing and implementing multi-tiered systems of support, including early warning systems. Wright also provides training and supervision for special education staff.

EWS 201: How to Build Effective Teams and Provide Interventions Within a Tiered Framework System

Schools and districts nationwide are turning to EWS to reduce dropout rates and promote on-time graduation. Two elements that are essential for an effective EWS are the development of an implementation team and the alignment of the EWS with related data use initiatives.

In this second webinar in the series, participants learned how to build an effective team that is able to incorporate EWS into everyday practices and to align it with tiered frameworks such as Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS), Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), and Response to Intervention (RTI). The session included an opportunity to practice matching sample interventions to indicators and evaluating whether there are enough interventions to support the number of identified struggling students.

Who Should Attend EWS 201

School and district staff members who are familiar with EWS, have made steps to establish an EWS team, and would like more information on how to incorporate EWS into everyday practices.

EWS 201 Speakers

Sarah Frazelle, Education Northwest (bio above)

Jenny Scala, American Institutes for Research (bio above)

Jason Harlacher is a senior researcher at Marzano Research and holds a PhD in school psychology. Harlacher has extensive experience in tiered frameworks, including Schoolwide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, Response to Intervention, and Multi-Tiered Systems of Support. He has several publications on Response to Intervention and is a published author, having authored Designing Effective Classroom Management and co-authored Practitioner's Guide to Curriculum-Based Evaluation. He provides research, technical assistance, and consultation for schools and educators on using data to make decisions in tiered frameworks.

In addition, two practitioners shared their journey of using data to increase the success of their students. Shawn Hendrickson is the principal at Mission Middle and High School in St. Ignatius, Montana, located on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Heidi Mathie Mucha is an associate instructor of special education at the University of Utah and an evaluator of a statewide grant focused on MTSS.

Successes & Lessons Learned: A District's Perspective on Early Warning Systems

This webinar provided a case summary of one district's use of an early warning system (EWS). Attendees learned about Washoe County School District's (Reno, NV) use of EWS, including how the need for an EWS developed and steps they took to analyze student risk factors and develop local early warning indicators to identify at-risk students and provide relevant interventions. The webinar also covered challenges encountered along the way, along with how the district responded. 


Trish Shaffer is the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) Director at Washoe County School District (WCSD) in Reno, NV. She has a background in teaching, and has served as the Director for over five years. She coordinates a team of consultants as WCSD implements MTSS and EWS across the district.

Ben Hayes is the Chief Accountability Officer in WCSD. Hayes has worked in WCSD for over 10 years and assists schools in conducting program evaluations. He is also responsible for gathering district-wide data, conducting research within the district, and communicating relevant findings to district-level personnel.

Jason Harlacher, Marzano Research (bio above)

Going Districtwide: Implementation Lessons for Using Early Warning Systems and Local Risk Indicators 

This webinar provided an overview of early warning indicators and a case study of EWS implementation in one school district. It highlighted the process of initiating an early warning system and the importance of communication and support between schools and districts as they iterate and improve student data collection and reporting for dropout prevention. The webinar also featured a discussion of the research partnership between Utah's Davis School District and REL West to conduct a local validation study to ensure rigorous data use and build trust among EWS users. Goals of the webinar were to:

  • Review common indicators in an early warning system
  • Learn how a district can support schools’ use of early warning data
  • Understand how districts may determine locally relevant indicators and thresholds in an EWS

Who Should Attend

School and district educators interested in expanding or tailoring an early warning system for use districtwide.


Jenny Scala is a senior researcher for the American Institutes for Research (AIR). She participates in multiple projects using her expertise in using data to inform instructional decision-making. Scala's technical assistance includes creating new strategies for supporitng the implementation of early warning intervention and monitoring systems to identify and support at-risk students at the state, district, and school levels.

Brian Hunt is the principal of North Davis Junior High School, a Title I grade 7-9 school in Clearfield, Utah. Prior to that, Brian was an assistant principal at Northridge High School and North Davis Junior High in the Davis School District. Brian taught history before becoming a school administrator. His focus at his current school is effectively using resources to promote student learning and a positive school culture and climate. Brian was born and raised in northern California and has lived in Utah for 18 years.

Logan Toone is Director of the Assessment Department in the Davis School District in northern Utah. His duties include assessment, data collection, surveys, and any other efforts related to the evaluation of schools, teachers, and student achievement. Dr. Toone’s career started as a high school mathematics teacher, followed be serving as the mathematics curriculum supervisor at the district office prior to accepting his current position. He received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Weber State University, and he completed a Ph.D. in education at Utah State University. His passion is in data collection and analysis. Dr. Toone believes that a solid empirical understanding of where we are in education allows us to chart a course that will increase student achievement and brighten the future for our students. He is a lifelong resident of Davis County, Utah.

When Dropouts Return to School: How an EWS Can Help Identify and Support "Re-enrollees"

Dropouts who return to school, or re-enrollees, are a subgroup of students especially at risk for dropping out again. However, few schools/districts/states identify or track the progress of re-enrollees as a subgroup in their early warning systems (EWS) or other data systems, even though these students may have been flagged in an EWS for attendance, course credit, or other problems prior to dropping out.  

Knowing who these returning dropouts are, how many are in local schools, what specific supports they need and receive, and their academic progress upon re-enrolling is critical to dealing comprehensively with the dropout crisis. This webinar makes the case for identifying these students in a district EWS or other similar data system when they return as re-enrollees in order to provide the support they need to be successful.

As a result of their participations, attendees:

  • Heard from a nationally known researcher about what is known about students who have dropped out of school and subsequently re-enrolled, including data on risk factors and outcomes;
  • Understood more about the experiences of students who drop out and re-enroll; and 
  • Learned about promising practices for supporting re-enrollees.

This webinar featured an overview of quantitative and qualitative research pertaining to the re-enrollee experience, including student perspectives. A practitioner from the Washoe County School District in Reno, NV shared about her district’s efforts to support re-enrollees through targeted interventions and tracking systems.


Vanessa Barrat is a Senior Research Associate with WestEd's Regional Educational Laboratory West (REL West). Barrat performs quantitative research to improve the practice and policy of education. Her research in education policy is disseminated nationwide to education stakeholders, including the Reenrollment of High School Dropouts in a Large, Urban School District report, which found that dropping out is not necessarily a permanent outcome since one-third of the students who dropped out from the district high schools reenrolled in the following years.

Jennifer Harris is a Program Evaluator for the Washoe County School District (WCSD) in Reno, Nevada, where her responsibilities include developing and implementing evaluation projects that inform the work of dropout prevention, intervention and reengagement efforts. She also provides evaluation support for special education and the Multi-Tiered System of Supports framework. As a champion of student voice, Jennifer led efforts in the WCSD to build capacity for student voice district-wide by assembling and facilitating a committee to establish a district vision for student voice, leading the development of an annual Student Data Symposium and annual student voice conference, providing professional development for WCSD personnel to partner with students in their decision-making processes, and advocating for the adoption of a student voice coordinator position to ensure sustained support for student voice in the WCSD. 

Webinar Series Information and Sponsors

The Learning Series on Early Warning Systems is a coordinated set of technical assistance activities conducted by the Insitute of Education Sciences' Regional Educational Laboratory Program. The webinars listed here are collaboratively presented by REL West, REL Northwest, REL Central, and REL Southwest. For information about all of the webinars, tools, and other products that are a part of this series from the ten RELs, visit the national Series website.