By Barbara Jones, Los Angeles Daily News |http://bit.ly/1faCk2E
Posted: 10/31/13, 6:46 PM PDT :: The Los Angeles Unified board will delve into the district’s controversial iPad project — everything from curriculum and keyboards to infrastructure and electricity — during a special meeting on the $1 billion plan set for Tuesday.
Beginning at 8:30 a.m., the board will hear from officials including Bernadette Lucas, director of the Common Core Technology Project, about the lessons learned during the first phase of the iPad program and the district’s long-range plans for equipping all 600,000 students with computer tablets.
“We look forward to working with board members to develop a path forward to provide our students with the technology they need to excel in the classroom and succeed in their careers,” Lucas said Thursday.
Lucas and others will take the board through the iPad project with the help of a 99-page report posted at lausd.net.
With little discussion, the board approved a $30 million contract in June to buy iPads for kids and teachers at 47 schools. But the creation of a technology committee — and stubborn questions about security, cost, instructional materials and parental responsibility — have prompted a more thorough review as the board prepares to award contracts for the next phase of the project.
Officials in the technology project worry about any delay in the timetable since the tablet computers will be needed for the new Common Core math and English standards taking effect next fall, and an online system of state assessments that will be required in spring 2015.
Already, criticism that the district’s distribution plan was too ambitious prompted Superintendent John Deasy to propose extending the completion deadline by one year, to December 2015.
Officials have previously said the district is paying $767 for each iPad, although it turns out that’s the price after LAUSD buys 500,000 of the tablets and gets a volume discount. That price, and the selection of Pearson Education Inc., to provide the instructional software for the project, are among the areas board member Steve Zimmer plans to explore.
“I believe in this concept absolutely,” Zimmer said Thursday. “But I draw a bright line between the concept and the contract. The questions I’ll be asking will be to make sure we have the best contract to match the aspiration of the concept.”
According to a five-year plan that will be part of Tuesday’s discussion, the district anticipates spending about $14 million on iPad keyboards, which officials have said were not part of the original purchase because the devices cost too much.
Officials also estimate they’ll have to spend more than $366 million to install Wi-Fi networks at 1,000 schools and that electric bills will jump $400,000 to $600,000 annually beginning next year in order to power the networks.
And anticipating that the iPads will wear out after three years, there’s a plan to “refresh” the devices beginning in 2016-17. There’s a schedule to replace one-third of the iPads each year at a cost of $200 to $400 each, although that price doesn’t include the cost of educational software.
The district hopes to use bond revenue to pay for those replacements, but also suggests setting aside $100 per student every year to pay for new technology.
Tuesday’s meeting is expected to include a discussion of the project’s first phase, including an informal survey of administrators and teachers at the 47 schools that was conducted by their labor unions. The poll was taken in conjunction with board member Monica Ratliff, who chairs the committee studying the iPad issue.
According to the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles survey, 76 percent of principals thought the rollout had gone very or moderately well, and 40 percent felt very prepared to integrate iPads into their lesson plans.
Results of the United Teachers Los Angeles poll will be released on Tuesday, a spokeswoman said.
Security has been one of the primary concerns in the first phase. Some 300 high school students erased security filters on their iPads so they could access Facebook and other unauthorized websites.
There are also worries about storing the iPads overnight at school, and about the loss or theft of the devices.
According to the district, none of the 25,000 iPads distributed during the rollout have been lost, although four teachers and two teachers have reported their devices stolen. A management system installed on the iPads enables officials to track the tablets and make them inoperable.
That technology was not installed on iPads used during pilot tests conducted last year.
Los Angeles Unified Police Chief Steve Zipperman said Thursday that 61 iPads issued last year remain unaccounted for — 59 at the Valley Academy of the Arts and Sciences in Granada Hills and two at Cesar Chavez Learning Academy in San Fernando. Zipperman said the units are considered lost, not stolen, as there was no evidence of a break-in or other crime. The iPads were checked out by students during the day and stored on carts overnight, he said.