Evidence and Use of the Washington Assessment of Risk and Needs

Primary author: Brian French
Co-author(s): Bruce Austin; Thao Vo; Cihan Demir; Paul Strand

Primary college/unit: Arts and Sciences
Campus: Pullman


The Washington Assessment of Risk and Needs (WARNS) is widely used in over 100 districts in the State of Washington. School districts and court entities rely on scores from the WARNS to inform conversations with youth and families about adolescent behaviors related to chronic school absences, or truancy. WARNS assesses six domains including peer deviance, aggression and defiance, substance abuse, depression and anxiety, school engagement, and family environment. With Washington having one of the highest rates of truancy in the United States, WARNS plays a critical role in understanding such factors. We present work in three areas to highlight support for the WARNS. First, our research highlights how we account for a students’ contextual environments when examining WARNS items for fairness, ensuring scores carry equal meaning across ethnic groups. Second, we highlight the development of a computerized adaptive test (CAT) that provides users with a time-efficient and short form of the WARNS, reducing assessment fatigue without degrading score accuracy. Third, we highlight the WARNS models of use from large to small districts around the State, and new developments including a Spanish version. The evidence and use of the WARNS help to bring student voices back into the truancy conversation in the State. Our work has resulted in increased use of the WARNS and decreases in student truancy and negative behavioral trajectories, and have led to distal outcomes of student success.