Los Angeles schools superintendent John Deasy is expected to resign Thursday, according to a report from The Los Angeles Times, and there is one clear blemish on his three and a half year tenure at the helm of America’s second-largest school system — a controversial and failed plan to bring iPads to every student in the city.
Since the program was announced in 2013, it was plagued by very public problems. Everything from the cost of the program to the specific hardware and software to the rollout of the plan itself came under fire by Deasy’s critics.
The iPad program was suspended in early September, and new bids are currently being considered by the Los Angeles Unified School District.
One of the most persisting issues surrounding the iPad plan was the cost, which reached $US1.3 billion — a massive sum even without many of the financial woes affecting the LAUSD. A Facebook page supposedly showing the terrible conditions of LA public schools gained traction as people questioned what would actually be the best use for the district’s money.
According to the anonymous Facebook page administrator, “Repairs Not IPads” was created “for teachers & the community to document neglected school repairs while construction bond $US$US is diverted to purchase iPads.”
The cost was exacerbated, it appears, by unforeseen additions that the district needed to make to the iPads themselves in order for students to use the devices properly for class. As the LA Weekly reports:
The district started small — for LAUSD — when it awarded a pilot project to Apple, but that immediately set off questions raised by the losing bidders (as well as Deasy’s critics, like the school employee unions) about why the district hadn’t set up parallel pilot programs to test other devices and software simultaneously.
Deasy seemed intent on embracing just one type of device, even though older students — high schoolers in particular — clearly needed keyboards to write their reports and papers. IPads don’t automatically include keyboards, and that lack of foresight forced LAUSD to spend a large extra chunk of money on Bluetooth keyboards, driving up the contract costs.
The LA Times also noted in their coverage of the suspended plan that the original contract “immediately came under fire because the model of iPad the district agreed to buy was almost immediately superseded by a newer version on retail shelves.”
Additionally, faulty software allowed for students to easily bypass security measures and set up their own profiles on the devices, raising criticism of the iPads’ faulty firewalls.
According to the Associated Press, “Instead of solving maths problems or doing English homework, as administrators envisioned, more than 300 Los Angeles Unified School District students promptly cracked the security settings and started tweeting, posting to Facebook and playing video games.”
Further issues emerged this summer when emails obtained by local news station KPCC revealed that Deasy was in contact with Apple and software manufacturer Pearson before the competitive bidding process was open to other companies. An LA Times editorial succinctly summed up the issue as “the release of emails that reveal early and extensive communication among Deasy, his top deputy and the two large companies that later won board support for supplying every student with an iPad.”
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