Due to the bungling of their billion dollar 1:1 iPad program the LA Unified School District has become a poster child for how not to deploy technology in schools, but earlier this week common sense broke out in a school board meeting. (Now there’s a sentence I never expected to write.)
The LAUSD school board held a meeting Tuesday night and voted to scale back Superintendent Deasy’s ambitious plans for a 1:1 iPad program. After a heated 2 and a half hour debate over the billion dollar project, they decided to move forward with a more limited deployment while at the same time evaluate whether the project should proceed further.
A total of 82 schools will be getting iPads this year, out of 600 plus schools in the district. That is a much reduced number from the original plan, which had envisioned 250 schools receiving iPads this year and an additional 400 schools getting them next year. The school board also decided to distribute iPads to all teachers and educators in the school district
47 schools had already received the iPads at or near the beginning of the school year, but many of the tablets were recalled after it was discovered that the students were more adept at getting around the security than anyone had expected. The additional 35 schools will be getting iPads largely because the LAUSD staff argued that the additional iPads represented the minimum number necessary for students to take new state standardized tests in the Spring.
The larger number of iPads should also make it easier to evaluate how the tablets affect student achievement, one of the other decisions the school board made that evening. The effect of the iPads will be compared to the alternatives, including laptops. The board has decided to distribute laptops to 7 LAUSD high schools as part of what sounds like a compromise.
One board member in particular, Monica Ratliff, pushed for the evaluation, and she also convinced the rest of the board to review the devices and curriculum currently in use elsewhere in the district and at local charter schools. Clearly at least one school board member has not yet drunk the purple kool-aid, so with luck she might continue to be the voice of reason on the board.
And given how much has gone wrong the board is going to need that voice. The school district was seriously underprepared for this program when they rushed into it this summer, and that has led to issues with training, infrastructure, and the still unresolved issue with funding this program in year four. That billion dollar price tag only covers the first 3 or so years, something the school board didn’t consider when they first voted to go forward with the pilot.
image by flickingerbrad