Wednesday, August 27, 2014

LA Daily News on iPadGate: DEASY SHOOTS HIS iPAD OUT (2 stories)

LAUSD’S John Deasy shoots his iPad out

By Doug McIntyre, Los Angeles Daily News |

8/26/14, 6:46 PM PDT  ::  In the holiday classic “A Christmas Story,” little Ralphie Parker is obsessed by his dream gift: a Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock.

Ralph’s hopes are dashed at every turn by the adults in his life — even Santa Claus, who warns, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.”

Undeterred, Ralphie plots and schemes and sees his dream come true on Christmas morning when Ralph Sr., aka “The Old Man,” presents his son with the object of his heart’s desire.

Ralphie immediately shoots himself in the eye.

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy has his own obsession: a billion dollar dream to put a brand-new iPad in the hands of every public school student in Los Angeles.

And now he’s shot his iPad out.

The initial rollout of iPads to 47 select schools was plagued with problems from software issues to fire wall breaches. Public scolds like yours truly continue to question the wisdom and even the legality of using construction bond money to purchase electronic equipment, paying interest for 20 years on tablets that might last 3 years to 5 years, if we’re lucky.

Like millions around the world, Deasy is an Apple junkie, even appearing in a promotional video for Apple to help hawk their products.

Competing tablet manufacturers howled they were being frozen out of the bidding process because the technical requirements for the contract issued by the LAUSD might as well have been written by Apple Inc. and software provider, Pearson.

The superintendent’s harshest critics have even implied Deasy’s ownership of Apple stock colored his judgment, a notion I reject, but an objection that resulted in Deasy recusing himself when the School Board voted to approve the deal.

Now the issue has exploded in ugly new headlines after an internal draft report by the district’s own Technology Committee was obtained by the L.A. Times, raising serious concerns about the integrity of the bidding process and the judgment of the superintendent and board members who OK’d the deal despite a host of red flags, not least of which include the $768 price tag for each tablet and the dubious belief digital devices are an educational panacea.

Among other revelations is an email exchange between then-Deputy Superintendent Jamie Aquino and software developer Pearson that appears to show Aquino coaching the company on the best way to win the contract. Aquino left the LAUSD last year. He is also a former Pearson executive.

Like so many problems in California, this one has its roots in Sacramento.

The stampede for digital devices was created by lawmakers who decided to require California students to put down their pencils permanently. Standardized tests will soon only be available in digital form; no more filling in the bubbles with No. 2 lead pencils.

But this giant leap forward for technology creates a huge problem for children of the poor.

While middle-class and upper-middle class students are likely to have access to digital devices, the poor are much less likely, putting them at a huge competitive disadvantage when it comes to standardized tests. An extraordinarily high percentage of LAUSD students — more than 80 percent live at or below the poverty line.

Sacramento has widened the digital divide.

I’ve been a fan of Deasy throughout much of his tenure at the LAUSD. Running the nation’s second largest school district is not for the timid. The myriad problems confronting the superintendent of LAUSD are guaranteed to make enemies. Deasy’s brusque manner doesn’t help. Yet, despite all that, the schools have improved on his watch, needed reforms have been implemented and most importantly of all, the graduation rate is up.

Still, from Day One, Deasy has been tap dancing in a minefield with his iPad deal.

In response to these new revelations, Deasy has put the Apple and Pearson contracts on hold, calling this “an opportunity to refine our processes and ultimately achieve our vision to equip every one of our students with a personal computing device to help them succeed in the 21st century.”

When it comes to iPads, John Deasy is man obsessed. Just like Captain Ahab obsessed with his great white nemesis. How’d that work out for Ahab?

Doug McIntyre’s column appears Sunday and Wednesday. He can be reached at:

Los Angeles Unified’s iPad contract to be re-bid among favoritism concerns

By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News |

8/26/14, 8:59 PM PDT | Updated: 8/27 6:46 AM  :: Los Angeles Unified School Superintendent John Deasy has ordered a contract to buy iPads and digital curriculum be re-bid amid concerns about favoritism.

After spending $61 million to buy 47,000 devices for testing at schools across the district and devices with curriculum for learning at 58 schools, Deasy stated Tuesday he would send the contract back out to bid. The program was once described as a $1 billion iPad program.

“We will incorporate the lessons learned from the original procurement process, including the initial phases and the laptop pilot,” Deasy stated. “Specifically, we will be re-visiting the criteria on which original specifications were based, as well as review vendor responses and student feedback from the tablet deployment and laptop pilot.”

Recently released emails between district administrators and Pearson representatives — an Apple subcontractor that was picked to create curriculum for LAUSD’s iPads — have raised questions about whether there was favoritism.

The emails indicate Pearson’s pitches were later made as part of the bidding criteria, a practice that can eliminate competitors.

Additionally, a draft audit by a school board committee has found issues with the process used to pick Pearson, a popular supplier of educational material for U.S. schools.

Board member Tamar Galatzan said the decision to re-bid the contract is designed to eliminate distractions so the district can return to focusing on important issues.

“As the only parent with a kid in LAUSD schools on the board, it’s discouraging to me that this is going to delay getting technology in the hands of students for another one to two years,” Galatzan said.

After reviewing a report from the district’s inspector general, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office decided there was no wrongdoing.

While some critics question whether Los Angeles Unified received the best price, there has not been information presented to suggest other districts have paid less for the same Apple devices.

The $768 per device price paid was well below the more than $1,000 retail value, according to the draft audit released Tuesday.

United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl said he thinks the district attorney should team up with education and technology experts to take another look at the case.

“We’re calling for a full and through investigation of what happened with the iPad procurement process,” Caputo-Pearl said.

The emails, an instruction video Deasy participated in for Apple and his former second-in-command’s previous employment with Pearson raise the question “if things were being set up to privilege a particular company,” Caputo-Pearl said.

Leadership of the 35,000-member teachers union, Caputo-Pearl said, also questions the overall education value of the iPad program, including its curriculum, which doesn’t promote critical thinking.

Former school board member David Tokofsky, who heads state and federal issues for Associated Administrators, said the focus should not be on the iPads, but on the quality of the software educational material.

“Whether you reboot on the iPads and redo the RFP (request for proposals), you still have to deal with a mediocre curriculum that is incomplete,” Tokofsky said.

Staff Writer Rick Orlov contributed to this report.


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