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Feds find lack of leadership, vision, planning on iPads, MiSiS

Craig Clough | January 13, 2015

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students use ipadsA report from the U.S. Education Department on the district’s troubled $1.3 billion iPad program and gitchy MiSiS computer system had few positive things to say, as it found problems in both efforts with their planning, execution and metrics for success.

The report, which was requested by LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines, found that the iPad program suffered from a lack of a grand vision as to how the devices were to used, that it was deficient in providing enough field support, that it did not have any overall metrics to evaluate its success and that it was overly-dependent on the iPad while ignoring the possibilities of other devices.

“There is no district educational technology plan, goals, or metrics for success for how technology will support learning at the district level,” the report, which was first publicly released on the blog 4LAKids, stated.

The iPad program was conceived and touted by John Deasy, the district’s former superintendent who resigned in October under heavy criticism that included the iPad program.

The report is not the first to criticize the iPad program. An internal report by LA Unified board member Monica Ratliff found similar problems, and an independent report by the American Institute for Research found problems with the planning and execution of its pilot program.

Deasy halted the iPad program in August when emails were publicly released showing a high level of communication Deasy and a former deputy had with Apple and Pearson. Considering that a federal grand jury is now investigating the bidding process of the program, the report’s criticism of the district’s overemphasis on the iPad is sure to receive a lot of attention.

“The district is heavily dependent on a single commercial product for providing digital learning resources, which has plagued the project since the initial rollout,” the report stated.

The report also found a lack of district-wide instructional leadership and no way to measure the success or failure of the program. “It is difficult to show the impact of the investment or know which pilot practices should be scaled across the district more widely or shared as examples to the field at large. Conversely it is not clear which practices may be less effective and therefore should be improved upon,” the report stated.

Echoing an independent report that was made public in the fall, the federal report found a myriad of problems with the MiSiS computer system that has caused scheduling and transcript problems at district schools this year.

MiSiS was at least partly responsible for a scheduling nightmare at Jefferson High School, a superior court judge found, which led to the a state intervention at the school. It has also cost the district millions of dollars to fix, and it may not be fully functional until next school year, Cortines has said.

Among the problems cited by the federal report was no clear “owner” of the program, which led to a lack of accountability as to who was responsible for the it. It also found a lack of proper support and no established effectiveness metrics.

The report offers a number of possible solutions to the problems it citied, but the district has yet to publicly respond to the report so it is unknown to what level efforts will be made to address the issues.

MiSiS problems have been largely stable since the district started school again on Monday, the district announced in a press release yesterday, and Cortines halted the iPad program altogether after the grand jury investigation came to light in December.


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