WSU leading implementation of statewide online truancy prevention program

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WSU Tri-Cities professor serves on research team working on project

Washington State University is leading the online implementation of a program aimed at reducing school truancy that could positively affect schools across the state — and possibly the nation.

The Washington Assessment of the Risks and Needs of Students, or WARNS, program uses data-driven procedures to track and improve interventions with students. The Becca Bill, which requires children ages 8-17 to attend a public, private or home-based school, indicates that unexcused absences might be an early warning sign for unaddressed problems with school failure and dropout rates.

Paul Strand, WSU Tri-Cities professor of psychology; Nick Lovrich, WSU Regents professor emeritus; Brian French, professor and director of WSU’s Learning and Performance Research Center and Psychometric Laboratory; and Bruce Austin, research associate in educational psychology and the LPRC, have worked since 2014 to evaluate and refine the WARNS program.

The program was developed in 2008 to assess students who have been linked to truancy, delinquency and/or dropping out of school, based on six factors: aggression-defiance; depression-anxiety; substance abuse; peer deviance; family environment; and school engagement.

Within the program, schools can use the data to develop and implement a plan for at-risk students through school community truancy boards to help prevent and correct student behavior.

WSU’s recent evaluation of the program supports using the WARNS as a global screening assessment of risks and needs, citing its reliability and validity. The evaluation was published by SAGE Journals this spring.

“A critical component to the use of scores for decisions about youth is building this line of evidence,” French said.

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