The National Forum on Education Statistics recently released a Guide to Early Warning Systems, a compilation of best practices for education agencies to detect high school students who are at risk of dropping out and intervene as early as possible. As we well know, “Timely academic progression and graduation can strongly influence a student’s future life outcomes” including employment, financial stability, health, even life expectancy.

The Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) is a featured case study within this guide for their Early Warning System (EWS) plugin. The Ed-Fi team partnered with Delaware on this project from its inception beginning in 2017. States want to provide valuable data back to educators so that they can improve practice and support student achievement, and early warning systems do just this by combining multiple data points, applying research based metrics, and delivering actionable data in real time to teachers. When a state utilizes the Ed-Fi Data Standard and technology tools like Delaware has, the time and effort it takes to make this a reality for teachers statewide is cut dramatically.

The beauty of Delaware’s EWS plugin: They didn’t have to start from scratch. Rather than reinvent the wheel, members of the Ed-Fi team worked with them to adapt and deploy Pennsylvania’s EWS plugin via the Ed-Fi Exchange. From the Delaware team’s perspective, “The Ed-Fi technologies have provided a standards-based stack of solutions and applications, allowing us to implement applications developed elsewhere into our Dashboards and systems, as well promoting forum and language to discuss common problems and solutions.” What’s even more beautiful: Implementing the plugin came at no major cost, the biggest expense being incorporating the plugin into their dashboard.

Delaware is truly case-study-worthy because they went about this thing the right way from start to finish, treating the project as a valuable investment of their time and resources. They assembled a collaborative team of LEA and SEA staff to work with Ed-Fi team members, conducted their own qualitative research, and thoroughly reviewed and trained their teams on the existing research conducted in Pennsylvania that informed the plugin’s original development.

Pennsylvania’s research identified the “ABCs”—attendance, behavior, and course performance—as the strongest indicators of student dropout risk, and Delaware ensured their educators and district-level staff understood these indicators in the context of their own culture and their own students, ensuring strong buy-in and commitment to take full advantage of the new system.

Delaware’s EWS “requires no new data collections or data entry activities to support implementation and use. Instead, the EWS plug-in uses data that are stored in the statewide SIS. Each day, the prior day’s data are extracted from the SIS, loaded into the state data warehouse, and then transformed and loaded into the EdInsight Dashboard… The EWS plug-in automatically flags students as at risk of dropping out of school if student data related to at least one at-risk indicator are found to be above a predefined threshold.”

The three takeaways listed at the end of this case study hold true for any major implementation: collaborate with trusted partners; solicit feedback; communicate early and often. “The time necessary for system development was greatly reduced due to the DDOE’s collaborative partnership with the Ed-Fi Alliance. The help provided by the Ed-Fi Alliance enabled the DDOE to implement the EWS plug-in in a short timeframe and at a significantly reduced cost.”

While we certainly appreciate the kudos, much credit is owed to the team in Delaware for their wholehearted commitment to the advancement of their data systems and their students. Their EWS took just over a year from early talks to official launch in February of this year, and that timeline requires vision and drive.

This success story is one of our favorites of 2018 because it demonstrates that our team truly is here to support you, as are neighboring states and districts who have been successful with similar implementations. Much of the required technology has already been built and can be tailored to your district or state’s unique needs, and these implementations don’t have to be a five or ten year plan. They can be a 2019 plan.