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Opinion
School & District Management Opinion

Los Angeles iPad Story Keeps Growing; Critics More Pointed

By Charles Taylor Kerchner — September 04, 2014 2 min read
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The iPad story in Los Angeles grows, as we had predicted. On Tuesday, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy sent the school board a six-page memo defending his actions. Meanwhile, a Los Angeles Times editorial called for greater transparency, for release of the district inspector general’s reports, and for a new investigation.

“No violations of any legal requirements took place,” Deasy said in his statement. In addition to a stout defense of his interactions with Apple and Pearson, Deasy’s logic of urgency continued to show through. He decried the loss of opportunity to spread the program because it has been sidetracked by “insinuations, innuendoes, and misleading statements.” And he continued his defense of rapid, large-scale technology adoption saying, “We should not do any more pilots where some youths would have an advantage over others and instead we should provide content and technology for all LAUSD youth.”

The Times editorialized that it was time for the district to get transparent about the process, even if that required amending state laws governing the district’s inspector general.

On Thursday, Times reporters Howard Blume and James Rainey continued the story, questioning Deasy’s rush to purchase with the promise that technology would be an antidote for inequality.

I provided one of the quotes for the story, saying, “Once you have played the civil rights card ... it trumps whatever else is on the table. It makes it impossible to have a nuanced conversation about what is best for students.” To expand a bit: I hope that the parties in this, and many other conversations about education reform, would moderate their moralizing. It trivializes the monumental decision in Brown v. Board of Education, to compare it to the relatively small problem of producing an equitable technology application.

A more measured conversation might suggest that, while important, technology should not be the first purchase a huge, financially-battered school district might make. (I’d look at adding high school counselors to better light the pathway to college for city kids.) And maybe there is a better way to introduce technology than a massive iPad purchase, as I suggested earlier.

Thursday’s story was tinged with regret by at least one school board member, Steve Zimmer, who the Times quoted as saying, “The notion of the constantly ticking inequity clock” fueled the fervor of iPads for all. “It’s my job to balance that urgency with scrutiny. And never have I failed more at that balance.”

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