In Midst Of Massive iPad Program, Los Angeles Dissolves Tech Committee

Board of Education President Richard Vladovic revealed in a statement last week the decision reached that will lead to the Common Core Technology Project Committee, responsible for overseeing the $1 billion technology program for the Los Angeles school district, will be disbanded this coming April.

The committee’s purpose is to oversee the unrolling of the Los Angeles school district’s $1 billion plan to provide every teacher, student and administrator with a computer. The committee was also set in place to ensure through monitoring that the district’s academic goals for the new learning standards of the Common Core, recently adopted for mathematics and reading, are met with the curriculum that will be provided and installed on new iPads for students.

New state tests of the adopted standards will eventually all be given on computer in the near future as well.

Following the announcement last week, Vladovic stated in an interview, “I think there needs to be a conclusion of some sort,” while also insisting that all necessary oversight for the plan would continue.

School board committees such as the one overseeing the iPad program are created with the intention to allow members to publicly voice questions and concerns about policies and proposals that there wasn’t enough time to discuss during regular meetings.

Critics of such committees, writes Howard Blume of the LA Times, consider the panels redundant to the board’s overall work — a prodigious waste of staff time. Previous board president Monica Garcia had dissolved them.

Vladovic said he intended to strike a middle ground, making most committees temporary with a defined, finite purpose. Some have complained that the CCTPC has impeded an innovative effort that would otherwise have progressed further and faster. The iPad program was envisioned as a national model, and senior officials, including Supt. John Deasy, defend the overall effort as superlative.

The 12 member committee, chaired by Monica Ratliff, includes appointees from various community and district related organizations such as employee unions.

The panel has raised or unearthed issues that senior administrators sometimes fumbled, providing incomplete, inaccurate and conflicting information. The work of the committee also influenced changes to the project such as the addition of a fuller evaluation and a trial of laptop computers for older students.

“It’s very clear that the rollout had some problems and the district has been well served by admitting there were problems and beginning to address them,” said Ratliff. Also, “It was really important for the public to have their questions asked publicly and, to a degree, answered.”

There are still many elements of oversight in the technology plan that the committee has attempted to address such as access to the full curriculum that is supposed to aid the district reach its new academic goals and the licensing of that curriculum. It was reported to have been owned by the district but retracted by officials and stated to have only been licensed for three years.

The committee also sought to commission an evaluation of the computer’s actual effects on student achievement.

The district’s inspector general is examining the process of the computer contract which was intended to supply 570,000 iPads for $768 each. Last week information that supported an analysis that fewer iPads were needed was not included for the board and public’s discretion during a recent meeting.

Scott Folsom, a member of the bond committee in charge of reviewing major expenditures of bond funds such as those for the iPad project, said he is concerned by Vladovic’s move to disband the committee albeit he does understand it was never meant to be permanent.