EWS 2.0 Workgroup Recommendations

When a valid indicator shows that a student needs additional support, further analysis will help determine the best course of action.

This section details the EWS 2.0 workgroup recommendations for conducting a root cause analysis of student needs and determining the most effective strategies for supporting students toward high school graduation and postsecondary learning.


Identify the Reason(s) for an Indicator: Root Cause Analysis

EWS 2.0 asks adults in the school, district, or community to consider why students or groups of students show a need for additional or different types of support. This is called root cause analysis.

Two Levels of Root Cause Analysis

For the individual student and groups of students with common indicators

~ A team of school or grade-level adults familiar with the student(s) should investigate reasons for the indicators and how best to provide support. This is the most common type of analysis in an EWS 2.0 system.

~ An adult with a positive relationship with the student should have a conversation with the student about the reason(s) underlying the indicator(s).

For an entire grade, school, or group of schools

~ A similar investigative process can help identify school, district, and community practices and/or policies that result in large numbers of students having indicators.

~ A root cause analysis expanded to grades or schools can be considered a systems analysis and a means to identify the best preventative strategies.

What Should Root Cause Analysis Include?

Consider all easily accessible, appropriate student and school data relevant to the indicator(s) and
student(s). This may include any of the following, among others:

~ Academic outcomes

~ Demographic factors

~ Social-emotional observations

~ Daily interactions

~ Out-of-school challenges

~ School policies and practices

When expanded to system-level analysis also consider

~ Whether students are provided universal access to conditions for success in such areas as quality instruction, course selection, counseling, college process navigation, extra academic help, school climate, extracurricular activities, health care, etc.

~ Whether students or groups of students confront constraints in or out of school that undermine the pathway to adult success. These can be explicit or implicit, intended or unintended, including social and cultural norms, racial/gender/ethnic bias, direct/indirect effects of poverty, etc. While school or district-based actions may not resolve the external constraints that adversely affect students, they may be able to mitigate or moderate their impacts on school success.


Bring together all elements of the analysis — root cause and systems analysis, determination of the most strategic action level(s), and consideration of existing capacities and resources — to identify appropriate immediate and long-term action(s).


  • What patterns and trends are there among students with the same indicator(s)?
  • Will the student(s) require direct support(s) at either the small-group or case-managed level? Can students’ needs best be addressed at classroom, grade, school, district, community, or state levels? Can partnerships with postsecondary institutions and employers help?
  • Which action(s) will have the greatest effect for the time and energy invested?
  • Would one of the most effective actions be to rethink or change institutional practices or policies at school, district, community, state, or federal levels?


(short- and long-term)

  • Consider and build on student strengths.
  • Start with actions that can be carried out with resources on hand, while developing new capacity or finding additional resources if current ones are not sufficient.
  • If the root cause is a systems issue, a two-stage response may be needed:
  • What short-term steps can enable the student(s) to overcome system challenges?
  • What can be done in the mid- to long-term to change the system?
  • What can be enacted promptly? What will take a few months to implement? What might be done in the next year or two?
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