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Alexandria schools considering new ‘early warning system’ to prevent student dropout

Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) is working on implementing a new strategy that aims to create an “early warning system” for students at risk of dropping out of school.

At a school board meeting tomorrow (Thursday), Superintendent Gregory Hutchings is docketed to present a proposal for ACPS to develop and adopt the new system.

“ACPS will develop and implement an Early Warning Indicator System (EWIS) as a division-wide monitoring strategy that utilizes key performance indicators to proactively engage interventions for students in grades placed at risk of experiencing poor academic outcomes,” said Anthony Sims, executive director of school improvement, in a memo. “The EWIS represents ACPS’ focus on innovative strategies to transform structures and systems that perpetuate racial and educational inequities that lead to marginalization and disparate achievement outcomes for certain student groups.”

The memo said EWIS focuses on student performance data collected at multiple intervals throughout the school year to assess which students are considered at-risk.

“Traditionally, early warning indicator models use similar data variables, including absence/truancy events, behavioral referrals, discipline data, course grades/failure, mobility, grade retention, and local and state performance assessments,” Sims said. “Some districts have expanded the early warning indicator concept to monitor student progress relative to ‘college and career readiness’ benchmarks established across the elementary, middle, and high school continuum.”

The idea isn’t exactly new — a 2016 report indicated that over half of all high schools had similar programs — but the strategy at ACPS pushes that assessment beyond just the high school range. The memo said this approach allows educators to intervene to push students to achieve certain milestones throughout their education at ACPS as early as fourth grade.

Sims indicated in the memo that development of the new early warning system would have several stages, including identification of those indicators and milestones.

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