How L.A. Unified completely screwed up their iPad program

“In the first formal evaluation of the troubled iPads-for-all project in Los Angeles schools, only one teacher out of 245 classrooms visited was using the costly online curriculum. The reason, according to the report, was related to the program’s ambition, size and speed,” Howard Blume reports for The Los Angeles Times. “The analysis found that district staff was so focused on distributing devices that little attention was paid to using iPads effectively in the classroom.”

“Among the issues cited at several schools: high school math curriculum wasn’t provided, efforts to log in and access curriculum were unsuccessful and at least one school said it preferred the district’s own reading program. Four out of five high schools reported that they rarely used the tablets,” Blume reports. “The early goal ‘was to just get the devices out, that was basically it, just get the devices out, use them as quick as possible … there were other goals… they were talked about but they really didn’t get implemented,’ one technical specialist told evaluators. A district leader who was not identified said: ‘We didn’t have enough people so everyone was working on deployment… that really, really impacted our professional development [training] rollout, in fact we barely had one because of that.'”

“The curriculum, which cost L.A. Unified about $200 per device over three years, was among the biggest problems identified by schools. In May, researchers visited 245 classrooms in a sample of 19 schools. The Pearson curriculum was being used in one classroom — for a lesson on fractions,” Blume reports. “An administrator from one high school noted that the curriculum did not contain high school math. ‘At nearly all schools, staff stated that the Pearson curriculum that was promised during initial… trainings was not available during the school year,’ the report said.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Utter incompetence begets tremendous waste.

The brainless wonders responsible for this clusterfsck should be fired, but since this is U.S. public education we’re talking about, they’ll likely get awards and raises instead.

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18 Comments

    1. My first reaction when I heard about the LA schools problems with iPads was: Well, this is definitely not an iPad problem, it must be an IT issue. Somebody didn’t get the ducks in a row.

    1. Unless Apple mgt really knew LAUSD would screw it up, and they didn’t initially ask for help then Apple could do no different. Only thing is if they realized early on it would be a cluster, Apple mgt might have gone up the chain to offer “free” help to really save the Bad PR this gave.
      Unless you think Apple is responsible when a call drops on your carriers network in an area where they have bad coverage?

      1. kevcanady’s point is valid. Apple had a vested interest in making this project a success. It may not be Apple’s fault LA screwed it up, but the potential upside of a successful program would have far outweighed the cost of making sure it was done right.

    2. Apple helps those who help themselves. L.A. Unified had full access to Apple’s resources and DIDN’T BOTHER TO USE THEM.

      L.A. Unified also had full access to the sources of the Pearson curriculum and DIDN’T BOTHER TO USE THEM.

      This is how IT gets its reputation as a FAIL industry. IT is supposed to enable technology, NOT get in the way. They damned well did get in the way in this case.

  1. Just to put some perspective on what schools have become, I’ll compare when I went to school with now.

    In the 50s-60s, my local high school and grade schools with 300-500 kids had 3-4 people (some teachers) in “the principal’s office.”

    The LA schools system today doesn’t have the # of supervisors at 1% of their students.

    The LA County school system has more administrators than it has teachers.

    Do you detect what has happened to your tax dollars? Do you see now that we have people making decisions about schools who may never have even been in a school once they left it themselves?

    By the Federal Government starting the Dept. of Education under Pres. Carter, they started usurping local districts power and, of course, putting in all sorts of rules from WDC. These rules are also seemingly aligned with the nat’l teachers union.

    It has made a total mess of education. The kids I grew up with all knew how to read, write, calculate and do at least a little practical problem solving. I don’t see that today in the public schools where if they have 50-75% passing basic competency, the school districts applaud themselves.

    Bureaucracy is slowly strangling society and yet people think “Government rules are protecting me.”

    At what price?

    1. Before trotting out the tired, old “evil teacher’s union” red-herring, perhaps you should explain why most of the states which have outlawed teacher’s unions do so poorly. Here are the numbers:
      “Five states in the U.S. specifically prohibit collective bargaining for teachers. Their rankings in combined ACT/SAT scores: 44. Virginia; 47. Texas; 48. Georgia; 49. North Carolina ; and 50. South Carolina.

  2. Big organizations are typically a clusterfuck. Too many people doing the same thing and not coordinating with others they need to. In government the problem is even worse because they have too much money to burn and they can never go bankrupt, so even when they totally f__k up, nothing bad happens.

    If other school districts want to avoid the LA fiasco, here is the process to use:

    1. Find an IT person or small IT team that is excited about using the iPads and will champion the concept in the administration.
    2. Find a few teachers who are excited about the concept and will champion the project.
    3. Launch the project on a small scale in the classrooms of the teachers identified in Step 2.
    4. Discover the bugs, issues, and roadblocks, in the small pilot projects. Fix them, if they are fixable.
    5. Launch the project SLOWLY in other classrooms with teachers who are open to using iPads.

    Finally, if many classrooms and teachers don’t want to use iPads and prefer to continue with the traditional approach, let them. Everyone does not have to do the same freakin’ thing.

    There, problem solved.

  3. I went to privite schools in jr high ( that is what it was called then) and high school just when desktop computers were coming out in the late 70’s early 80’s. My jr. high got 2 TRS 80s because a board member was sold that they could teach us better. They did not train one teacher how to use them. A couple of kids knew how because their parents had one. They stayed locked in a closet until PTA day. The school went bankrupt. Took nonprofit to seriously. My high school got an Apple ][+. The owner of the school spent about a year learning it and testing what it could do with students. Then they hired a computer teacher. I was in the first BASIC class, it was great. A few months ago I heard a talk radio show on putting iPads in school. The guest was from a public school system that got teaching apps and taught teachers how to use iPads before giving them to the kids. He talk about how great the students were doing with them. A caller, who was a teacher, said her school just got iWork and gave the students iPads without any instructions to the teachers. It was a compleat disaster. Putting new tech in schools and making it work is nothing new. It just requires learning some history and copying success.

  4. “but since this is U.S. public education we’re talking about, they’ll likely get awards and raises instead.”

    …because the solution to all of society’s problems is to privatize everything, right MDN? Just like Rush Limbaugh said?

  5. I agree that the roll out was bad, but you’re ignorant comment about public education was totally unnecessary. I would guess that many of your readers are skilled educators who work very hard at their profession.

  6. It appears that a lot of the problems lie with the Pearson curriculum, though the article doesn’t explain exactly how the problems occurred.
    My kid’s school uses the Pearson math curriculum and I’m not that impressed. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t allow enough customization. The homework assignments are too long and I am not sure that can be changed. And I did find an error in one of the problem sets.

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