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Early Warning Systems: A Different Application


One of the strategies implemented by dropout prevention programs is an early warning system that schools can use to identify students at highest risk of dropout.

early warning systems analyze information on several student factors (e.g., attendance and course performance) and corresponding indicators (e.g., absences, grade point average and credits earned). The earlier these factors/indicators are discovered the greater the opportunity schools can target specific interventions.

Early warning systems are first steps to address the problem of high school dropouts and potential challenges students encounter during their high school years.

Establishing a school system approach to early identification of students at highest risk of dropping out is a good strategy.

I wonder about applying an early warning system in a different way. What if we developed and implemented school early warning systems to identify the strengths, talents and interests of students?

Instead of factors and indicators that lead schools to identify students most at risk, what if schools developed a system to identify each students’ attributes and interests. For example asking students:
  • “What do you do well?” and “what interests do you have?” provides teachers the opportunities to understand each student’s strengths rather than a focus on their areas of risk.
  • “When you are doing your best in school what is happening?” informs teachers, staff and school leaders of the conditions that support students’ success rather than identifying areas where they struggle focusing on those challenges.
  • “What about this class/course do you find most interesting?” encourages teachers to inspire and motivate their students from an area of interest rather than from a prescribed scope and sequence.
I believe a strengths-based early warning system increases the opportunity for students to engage in classes in ways relevant to them, rather than feeling disengaged from the teaching/learning process.

This strengths-based orientation flips a negative for a positive and better meets the students where they are. It helps students fully develop their competencies, rather than a singular focus on reducing or eliminating negative factors that impede students’ progress and success.

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