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GIPS addresses CRT concerns within district

Local4 News at 10
Published: Feb. 28, 2022 at 9:47 PM CST
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Near the end of 2021, Grand Island Public Schools made a purchase that raised some eyebrows of parents in the district. The purchase was to a company known as Panorama for $52,000.

Panorama in recent months has been making headlines for a more pro-critical race theory stance, and has been acknowledged for its stance by several publications including forbes.com. However, Panorama also administers surveys to students three times per year for grades 3-12, and has done so for years.

Nonetheless, the purchase led to some public discourse about CRT teachings in Nebraska, and in particular GIPS. So, Local4 reached out to the district to clarify what the purchase was for.

Below is the statement we received from the district:

“Grand Island Public Schools (GIPS) has been using Panorama, a well reputable and robust technology/surveying platform, in recent years. We piloted the program in 2019 and moved to a districtwide usage in 2020.

GIPS currently operates under a service rate of $52,000 a year with Panorama which may be evaluated and renewed annually.

For what use?

Panorama is a survey tool for engaging teachers, students, and parents. Specifically for GIPS, we utilize the platform to ask high-level questions about involvement in school related activities and overall experience.

Typically, our questions do not solicit information or opinion pertaining to curriculum, testing, or state standards.

When we measure the data, we filter it thru the lenses of:

  • School Climate
  • Student Safety
  • School Expectations from the Student Perspective

What benefit does this provide?

We are required by the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) to administer parent surveys of our choosing aimed towards school improvement. In addition to this platform providing a fruitful way to measure student engagement at the building level, this is an effective way we may report to state requirements while making a more meaningful impact in the social and emotional learning spaces for our students.

Panorama is a platform that we have been using for three years and it has proven to be a valuable resource. We are not concerned, at this time, with what may be perceived as a distant, anecdotal connection to Panorama and individuals engaged in the discussion surrounding Critical Race Theory (CRT). The attempt to spotlight this as a detail worthy of scrutiny is feeble at best and misses the heart of what we aim for when we speak to both the social and emotional well-being of our students and our goal of greater equity within our schools.

We recognize that CRT is a buzzworthy topic in public education. But we also recognize that in the arena of public discourse it can be easy to focus on the inflammatory rather than nuance.

At this juncture, what is commonly referred to as CRT is not a curriculum. Nor has it been formalized as a program implemented in Grand Island Public Schools. When we reference important topics surrounding the teaching of history, social studies, civics, and community engagement we have a greater responsibility as educators to speak to what is actually taking place in our classrooms; what is being taught; what is required by the state; what the Board of Education elects to implement from a policy level. The heated debate surrounding CRT, by and large, has grown to be more about headlines than practical solutions.

At Grand Island Public Schools, we advocate for equity in our district at every level from extracurricular activities, to grading, to staff training, all of it. We are a district of equity, opportunity, and excellence. We want our students to know that no matter their race, socio-economic status, or background they can graduate college and career ready.

We agree that race, social issues, and how we advocate for our students while celebrating their heritages are vital to the mission of making Every Student, Every Day, A Success. That being said, if we are going to have this conversation let’s ensure it’s motivated by what’s important. Let us discuss, address, and remove systemic barriers that limit opportunities; let’s bring equity to the forefront as we look to champion the potential of every single student; and let’s embrace and celebrate the rich diversity that makes our schools and communities strong. These are ideals we as a school district are committed to and we invite the community to join us in these efforts as we always have.”

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