Los Angeles Board Approves Next Phase Of iPad Project

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Board of Education approved the next phase of a $1-billion effort to provide computers to every student, teacher and administrator. A bidding process to provide laptops for students at seven high schools and buy as many iPads as needed to complete new state tests is set to begin in the spring after the board agreed to distribute iPads to every student at 38 more schools. The board opted not to follow the advice of an oversight panel that had recommended purchasing thousands of fewer devices.

A proposal that removed entirely a cap on how many iPads the district could buy for standardized testing scheduled for the spring was approved in the end by board members, who said they wanted to avoid unnecessary spending. However, they expected the number to be well below the 67,500 tablets the district staff had recommended.

Purchasing about 38,500 for testing was recommended by the oversight committee, relying on a district analysis. During a six-week exam window, the iPads used for testing would be shared by different classes.

When the upcoming state test was twice as long, a larger number was calculated. Because district staff decided that a cushion would be helpful, it was never adjusted. Officials have been blasted by critics who believe they are simply trying to buy as many iPads as they could to institutionalize the iPad program beyond any retreat.

On Tuesday, the measure was approved by a 6-0 vote and it provides iPads to every student at an additional 38 campuses. The program began at 47 schools in the fall. The district action also authorized testing out laptops for students at seven high schools.

As Howard Blume of Los Angeles Times reports, a staggering $115 million is the estimated cost. Apple had agreed to provide the latest tablets for the same price that the district had agreed to pay for an older discontinued model, as announced by L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy.

A lower price for thousands of iPads that will be used only for testing (a reduction of about $200 to $300 less per device) is being negotiated by officials.

For a cost that is more in line with what some other school districts are paying, the discount would lower the price per iPad from $768 each. Curriculum developed by Pearson will not be included in the iPads. According to the head of facilities for the Los Angeles Unified School District, Mark Hovatter, also not included in the test package would be training from Apple and Pearson and an Apple TV box that is provided to every classroom under the full contract.

Because the license to use the curriculum only lasts three years, the curriculum is being excluded. According to a member of an oversight committee that reviews school bond spending, if the curriculum were included on the testing machines, the license would be activated even though the curriculum would not be used in the current academic year.

The vast majority of costs in the iPad effort are being paid for with bonds.