A Warwick mother is looking to have her daughter opt out of a school program slated to begin this fall that would provide personal information to the School Department that she claims is in violation …
A Warwick mother is looking to have her daughter opt out of a school program slated to begin this fall that would provide personal information to the School Department that she claims is in violation of federal law.
That’s not the way the School Department sees the Panorama program that it has started to implement.
“This is going to make teacher lives easier,” Lisa Schultz, director of curriculum, said Thursday.
In layman’s terms, she said the program pulls together student data to give a “visual” of how they are performing. It also generates displays of colored bars indicating levels of performance for a class or a school. She said the data generated is from three basic areas – attendance, academics and behavioral. In addition, the one-year contract signed by the administration provides for three surveys during the year. Schultz said the department will send a letter to parents and guardians to have their student opt out of the survey but not the overall program.
That’s fine says Tara Levasseur, but she argues the behavioral portion of the program collects information that violates federal law requiring parental and or guardian permission for any non-academic surveys and data collecting.
Levasseur, who was unsuccessful in her bid to be on the November District 1 election ballot, said she found while campaigning “a lot” of parents were unaware of the program and were opposed to it when told about it.
“I guess I talked a little too much about it,” she said reflecting on her loss. Shaun Galligan and Frank Brown, the two candidates with the most votes, will face off in the General Election.
In emails to district constituents, Levasseur said Panorama would “collect student data on behavior, family home life, equity, questions concerning sexuality and questions concerning illegal substances. Panorama also allows teachers and staff to analyze and collect data to generate a behavioral profile on all students that will follow them through all grades and is districtwide.”
In addition to information on a student’s attendance and academics discipline data or behavior data gets into the Aspen, the program Warwick Schools use to feed the Panorama Student Success program, explains Kristen Murray, school financial planning and analysis manager, in an email.
“The RI Department of Education requires schools to collect this information. This information is not new to what we have always collected,” she writes.
She said Panorama integrates all these data points “easily streamlining the process for districts and schools to understand their areas of strengths and areas of need.”
She said the SEL (social, emotional learning) survey is new. While parents can chose to opt out their children, she said “students taking this survey will provide invaluable insights into their experiences and how we can improve and adapt our district to their needs. If a student doesn’t feel like they have enough information to answer a question, they will be able to skip the item altogether.”
Levasseur said she called department administrators and found their answers inconsistent with what the School Committee was told in April when the Panorama program was approve.
“I was getting the run around,” she said.
After she made it an issue in her campaign, the school administration met with her the Friday before the primary.
Schultz thought the meeting went well and that Levasseur was content to know she would have the option to opt out of the surveys. On the other hand, Levasseur said the meeting, “didn’t change my opinion at all.” She said she still wants her daughter out of the behavioral portion of the program.
Schultz said the department is not prepared to release what information the survey component would contain. As examples, she said students could be asked about their learning strategies and how they react when they get struck and how they manage their emotions. There would not be questions about home life, she said.
Levasseur is concerned by who would access to the information and how it could become accessible to groups outside the school department. She asks, for instance, what happens if Panorama is hacked or should it go out of business.
Levasseur is unsure where she takes this from here. She has an attorney and may legally fight her daughter’s inclusion in the program.
She believes she would have others behind her.
“A lot of parents are very mad,” she said.
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