Poor Planning, Training Doomed Los Angeles iPad Program

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A federal review done on the request of Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines has found that the $1.3 billion program that promised to offer all students in Los Angeles schools an iPad was troubled by a lack of resources and inadequate planning in terms of how the devices would be used.

Similar problems were found by the US Education Department with a student records program that had launched at the beginning of the school year.

Both projects were related to the October resignation of LA Schools Superintendent John Deasy, in addition to the resignation, under threat of dismissal, of Ronald Chandler, former head of technology for the L.A. Unified School District.

The review discovered that the district had been too focused on using iPads, rather than also looking into less expensive options. In addition, it was found that teachers were not offered enough training and senior managers for the district were unwilling or unable to address concerns and issues before they developed into larger issues.  “Among the most significant gaps we identified was the absence of district-wide instructional technology leadership,” the report stated.

The iPad program was Deasy’s signature initiative.  Introduced to administrators in 2012, Deasy revealed that the plan would place a tablet in the hands of every student in the district.  There were only a few months to put the program together, which was opened for bids in 2013, reports Howard Blume for The LA Times.

Deasy had planned for a fast process in order to keep the district’s low-income and minority students up-to-date with incoming technology, and he also wanted students to be prepared for the coming computer-based testing that the entire state was set to begin using.

However, the program was fraught with problems from the start.  Facilities chief Mark Hovatter was not a part of the early planning process despite a massive need for technology updates throughout the district.  In addition, the use of school construction bonds to pay for the devices and the expensive curriculum that went along with them was brought into question by many critics.

The rollout of the program at the beginning of the school year in 2013 also had several issues.  Teachers had not received enough training, Internet connections were not strong enough to handle the massive quantity of devices, and students quickly found ways around the security filters, writes Mikey Campbell for AppleInsider.

Even now, according to the federal report, “some schools receiving devices … have not developed plans for how the devices will be used to support learning…. As a result, there is no common vision for how devices should be shifting learning and teaching within schools, making measuring impact difficult, if even possible.”

In addition, the district was found to be too reliant on a single product for digital learning.  The report suggested the district should have looked into lower-cost and free resources that would have saved money.

The iPad program review is still under ongoing.  Documents have been subpoenaed by the FBI as part of a criminal investigation, and an assessment of the bidding process is being completed by LA Unified’s inspector general.