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Indicators for Interventions and Support

STRATEGY: Focus on indicators that trigger interventions and alternative approaches with subgroups of students in need of more support.

Many students in the United States are on track for success, but far too many are not performing at expected levels. When learning is assessed in most general education classrooms, many students show a need for different or additional levels of instruction. Schools are responding by offering intervention programs, and teachers are providing additional tutoring and supplemental resources to help. A strong system of assessments that is aligned with key indicators of student success is helping to ensure that students are getting support that targets their identified needs. Schools have a variety of assessments available to them, and there are several research-based strategies and interventions to help them meet student needs. Indicators that trigger interventions and alternative approaches with subgroups of students in need of more support are necessary to help students catch up. Understanding indicators that demonstrate readiness for postsecondary learning and work is also important when making decisions about interventions. Achieve highlights three main areas that demonstrate student preparedness in high school: (1) a “mastery of rigorous knowledge and skills in core academic disciplines”; (2) “skills and dispositions necessary to be successful in charting their postsecondary path”; and (3) successful participation in postsecondary opportunities.


For students to thrive, a school must create a culture focused on student learning that builds on strengths and targets learning and achievement gaps. Through targeted, systematic interventions that meet individual student needs, teachers can better plan and deliver instruction. This requires a system of assessment and data use, interventions for key subjects like reading and mathematics, a schedule that allows for additional time for both remediation and enrichment, and access to additional resources. A focus on early intervention through a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) and dropout prevention through an early warning system (EWS) can offer educators evidence-based indicators and measures to guide their intervention programs. EWS is an evolving strategic response to enable all students to stay on track to graduate from high school. It empowers schools to use real-time data to identify students who are off track in areas such as core subjects, attendance, and behavior so that educators can design appropriate learning supports. Developing or identifying EWS and intervention systems is a collaborative approach to effectively using data to ensure a pathway to graduation. The best systems have combined features that ensure the swift identification of students who are in trouble; immediate interventions that are targeted to students’ present and longer-term needs; frequent monitoring of the success of interventions; and a rapid modification of interventions that are not working.

An organizer from the College & Career Readiness & Success Center offers a set of elements for college and career readiness after high school. One of the elements is “On Track Indicators for Readiness”.

Academic and engagement-related indicators of readiness include student performance with respect to attendance, credit accumulation, course performance (grade point average and demonstration of proficiencies in context), performance on summative assessments, competitive course-taking patterns (Advanced Placement [AP], International Baccalaureate [IB], and career technical education options), and course completion. Indicators of behavior and conduct, postsecondary aspirations, as well as social and emotional learning benchmarks also are essential measures of student readiness. Each of these indicators demonstrates students’ attitude toward learning as well as their ability to set meaningful goals. Although measuring social, emotional, and engagement factors is important, further research is needed to determine how to effectively evaluate these skills.

First Steps to Consider

Quick wins

School-based personnel must buy into the concept of the expanded data-driven culture.

Share and discuss

  • technical components of intervention systems so educators see how to accurately identify which students are on track and which are off track;
  • sampling data collection systems by collecting and analyzing data to guide interventions and enabling all the educators to fully engage in decisionmaking;
  • using EWS to show how to consistently identify needs in attendance, behavior, and course performance and on-track indicators;
  • using data-driven and research-based criteria to define indicators and research-based cut points; and
    the infrastructure to support the development and use of indicators to guide intervention programs (i.e., color-coded data charts, weekly data meetings with staff, teacher-student progress monitoring, etc.).

First steps

  • Learn about indicators for on-track learning. (See the U.S. Department of Education brief “Early Warning Systems” for examples.)
  • Learn from other districts and schools that have successfully implemented interventions.
  • Involve staff and share information with them.
  • Identify existing evidence-based diagnostic assessments and curriculum-based measures that have a research base.
  • Outline a plan for training and support.
  • Demonstrate commitment by outlining initial plan for additional resources and scheduled time.

Complexities & Pitfalls

Too much information can reduce buy-in and ownership at the school level, but not providing enough information-sharing and decisionmaking opportunities can be equally problematic.

Several solutions have emerged to reduce the potential burdens of setting up a system of support and interventions for students, including a focus on collecting, analyzing, and reporting only a few key research-based predictive indicators. Some areas that require ongoing attention are

  • by whom and for what purposes data is shared, how data is stored, and how student privacy is protected;
  • the integration of data from student information systems with that from other information systems such as EWS;
  • accurate data to produce correct recommendations for intervention;
  • appropriate structures, processes, tools, and programs to support implementation; and
  • ongoing professional learning opportunities for teachers.

Guiding Questions

  • What research or evidence guides the development of indicators for EWS and interventions?
  • What types of data will be collected, analyzed, and reported?
  • For what purposes is this data used?
  • What is the system to be used for initial implementation and ongoing monitoring?
  • What learning indicator trends are present in your school?
  • What are the trends with respect to attendance, behavior, and course performance?
  • How can the technical components of the school’s intervention system be strengthened?
  • How can the schools ensure ongoing monitoring of progress and evaluation of the efforts through a continuous improvement cycle?