How Much Is That iPad in the Window?
From a state known for earthquakes comes shaking (or a shakedown) of a different sort due to the technology demands of Common Core. Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second largest in the nation, has botched the rollout of a $1 billion project to provide iPad tablets for every student. The urgency to get technology into the hands of students is driven by the need for access to Common Core curriculum and to take the online Common Core tests, required in California schools next school year.
The Los Angeles Unified School District began a program with Apple Computer to provide “iPads-for-all.” But the tablets are more expensive than originally anticipated because the deal with Apple relied on a volume discount, complicated by the phased rollout planned by LAUSD. A tablet originally expected to cost $678 will actually cost $770. LAUSD officials originally said keyboards were not essential with the iPads, but the new state standardized tests will require them, at a cost of about $38 million beyond the original budget. Stations in classrooms used to recharge the tablets were originally budgeted at $2.6 million for the first phase of iPads but have been revised to cost $3.2 million.
The iPads are more expensive than those purchased at stores because they come preloaded with software from the publishing giant Pearson, a proponent of Common Core. The Pearson curriculum on the tablets is Common Core aligned.
Many students quickly found ways to subvert (hack) the security software, giving them access to Facebook, as well as open access to other prohibited internet sites. Schools were not given clear rules concerning whether students could take tablets home. Parents were not told whether they would be held liable for damage to the iPads. As a result, several schools collected all tablets from students for an indefinite period of time only days after they handed them out. At other schools students are no longer allowed to take them home, greatly diminishing their usefulness. (Los Angeles Times, 8-28-13, 9-25-13, 10-4-13)
In the latest development, it has been reported that “the district will lose access to content updates, software upgrades, and technical support from Pearson after just three years,” according to Education Week (10-25-13).
“It’s an astonishing success,” the individual ultimately responsible for the technology rollout, School Supt. John Deasy told the Los Angeles Times on October 1, just as the chaos began to get noticed. But now his job is in jeopardy as the program comes under scrutiny. Surely all the questions should have been asked and answered before the $1 billion expenditure was ever approved.