Harris School Solutions
Harris School Solutions

The Real Value of an Early Warning System is Saving Students

(and has a Bonus of Saving Time and Money)

Life is full of early warning systems alerting us of the need to intervene to avert major problems. A child comes to you crying because she fell off her bike, scraping herself. You clean her abrasions, knowing that dirty wounds get infected. Her crying was an early indicator. Your car temperature gauge lets you know when to pull over and add coolant before destroying the engine. By intervening in each situation, you save time and money. More importantly, you also save the child from unnecessary pain. 

Students also signal when they need an intervention. Unfortunately, students cries for help often get lost in the noise of a busy schoolYou oversee many students’ education. Sometimes students’ clues that they struggle are subtle, and you don’t want to risk missing the signs of struggle with even one student.  

With an Early Warning System (EWS), educators notice early at-risk indicators, provide targeted support, and students’ flourish. 

Without an EWS, teachers and administrators do not have the essential tools to support students effectively. They end up spending too much time accumulating and interpreting a dizzying array of data. Teachers who are busy collecting and aggregating data have less time to plan lessons with appropriate scaffolds. They can also feel demoralized because aggregating data typically isn’t one of their core skills. Teachers prefer using an EWS to identify at-risk students over the inefficient folder system because their training was in planning and delivering targeted instruction 

Likewise, administrators prefer to provide leadership and resources rather than chase data. Educators hunting for data lose time, but hopefully, they see a student’s decline before theget to a desperate place.  

The inefficient use of educator time is not the worst part of not having an EWS. Students suffer when overworked educators miss early indicators of them disengaging. Missing early indicators is likely because educators have a lot to manageThe longer students languish without sufficient support, the further down the path of disengagement they go. Students who “slip through the cracks” are at risk of dropping out of school. Hopefully, the school notices and provides intense interventions before the students give up because dropping out of school decreases a person’s opportunity in the job market. Delaying these interventions invariably cost more than early interventions. Even worse, students suffer emotional pain during the years they are struggling. 

Early Risk Indicators 

Research shows that students who are starting to disengage show academic struggles, behavioral problems, or poor attendanceSometimes students have early indicators in all three areas. Tracking data in these three categories has proven to be effective at helping educators provide appropriate early interventions. Some schools also look at factors that affect students globally, such as their health and home environment. You might also consider tracking remote versus in-school learning to evaluate the effect the pandemic had on students. Problems not corrected in elementary school usually become more severe as students progress into middle school and high school.  

In elementary school, look out for the following indicators. 


  • Low scores on achievement tests
  • Significant problems decoding in 3rd grade and beyond. 
  • Poor reading comprehension skills 
  • Below grade level in math 


  • Chronic absenteeism or tardiness
  • An extended absence 


  • Multiple behavioral referrals 
  • Suspensions 
  • Not getting along with peers 

Health and Environmental: 

  • Unstable home life such as loss of parent, homelessness, abuse, and food insecurity  
  • Mental or physical health issues 

In middle school and high school, continue to look for the same indicators as elementary school and add the following indicators: 

  • Below a C in math or English
  • GPA below 2.0
  • Not earning enough credits to graduate
  • Getting in fights
  • Getting in trouble with the law
  • Being the victim or perpetrator of cyber-bullying
  • Becoming parents
  • Substance abuse 

How an EWS works with MTSS 

The edInsight EWS automatically tracks key indicators, aggregates data points, and shows the results graphically. Having it done automatically is especially critical for educators in medium to large schools.  

Each indicator comes from a body of evidence. For example, low reading comprehension would show up in the data as assessment scores, poor grades, and teacher observations 

Some data points carry more weight than others. For example, unexcused absences can be more heavily weighted than excused tardiness. You can use the default settings for each indicator’s weight or customize them to meet your needs.  

The EWS monitors all the input and creates indicator report cards for each student, ranking them in order of need. These reports guide your MTSS interventions. Students with a lower risk indicator score are your Tier 1 students and will show up as green. Students needing Tier 2 support are highlighted in yellow, and students needing Tier 3 support in redYou choose the cutoff criteria for each tier based on your student population. 

Helping students who are starting to slide from Tier 1 to Tier 2 is as important as seeing those who are slipping from Tier 2 to Tier 3. Their beginning struggles might go undetected in schools without edInsight’s EWS. The edInsight dashboard shows you in real-time who needs what type of help so you can immediately implement interventions. With proactive support, you get them back on trackIt feels great to see students’ progress and return to Tier 1. Providing early interventions spares resources and heartache 

Hallmarks of an Effective EWS 

According to On Track for Success, an effective EWS, such as edInsighthas multiple layers and capabilities. Any decent EWS has the following qualities:. 

  • The dashboard shows students in the different tiers for academics, behavior, attendance, and holistically. 
  • The reports are easy to generate and read. 
  • It integrates with your other systems. 
  • The reports are customizable to align with your MTSS criteria. 
  • It encourages collaboration.
  • It includes progress monitoring.
  • It has built-in workflows, alerts, and process management. 

The edInsight Advantage 

The edInsight EWS fulfills all the criteria as an effective EWS and has some fantastic perks. You can add notes about a specific student, and the dashboard alerts all the educators associated with that student. Teachers like this feature when they have a breakthrough with a student because they can communicate and collaborate about strategies and next steps. 

The EWS works well with other solutions in the edInsight Student Performance Suite. By bringing all your data into one place, you see a complete view of your students. You know the instruction students received with the Curriculum & Lesson Planner Module. Using that knowledge, you can assign interventions using the RTI/MTSS Module. You may also want to build a group and analyze data points in the Data Management Module. 

In addition to using default criteria, we understand each schools’ needs are unique. The edInsight EWS allows you to customize the criteria you track. Customization quickly identifies at-risk students using data points that are especially important in your district. For academic indicators, you can use grades, formative testing benchmark assessments, and standardized assessments to identify and close learning gaps. Use the Assessment Builder Module to build special assessments  for groups at risk. You can customize criteria by grade-level too, so you only see the information you need 

Administrators like that edInsight tracks district-specific intervention plans and RTI/MTSS Meetings. It improves progress monitoring which helps administrators evaluate the value of various interventions. 

Request a demo of the Student Performance Suite to see how the EWS will save your district time and money and improve students’ lives.