This is what we at K12NN do: we prod traditional corporate-owned media to rise to a higher level of investigative journalism when it comes to putting the public good and the well-being of public education front and center.
Last fall, when the iPad story was first reported in the major Los Angeles-area news outlets, the coverage was shallow, reactive, and uncritical. (This Howard Blume LA Times piece, for example.) News reports were dominated by the undigested story of how LAUSD’s top administrator, Superintendent John Deasy, planned to make good on a “civil rights issue of our time” by giving low income children access to iPads and thus bridge the digital divide.
In late September/early October of 2013, K12 News Network received documents containing the school district’s RFP (call for proposals), the various vendor proposals (all but two), and the July 2013 contract outlining the terms of the deal between LAUSD and Apple Inc. and Pearson, the curriculum software provider. (The actual terms of the contract between Apple and Pearson regarding specifications and delivery were not made public as the two private corporations argued that the agreement was proprietary and therefore not a part of the public record despite being a key part of the nation’s second largest school district’s plan to enact a vast new shift in tech-driven instruction.)
We made the primary documents available to key reporters and education activists in the Los Angeles area. (See below for our October 13, 2013 email.)
The coverage noticeably improved. Angelenos discovered that software had not yet been written, keyboards were unexpectedly required under an unplanned-for purchase in order to make the iPads useable for Common Core testing purposes, bond money intended for school facilities were being used to pay for tablets and not school repairs, and there were no user agreements in place for families to outline responsibility in case of loss, theft, or breakage of the iPads. Many more problems arose having to do with a lack of training for teachers who wanted to use them and teachers who weren’t planning to base their instruction on a tablet anyway.
Just recently, on August 22, 2014 information from new public records requests by the Southern California public radio station KPCC shows LAUSD top staff, including Superintendent John Deasy, were in close discussions with the CEO of Apple and Pearson executives and the district seems to have given these companies the impression that they were favored to win the bid. Which Apple did of course, ultimately. Recall that the contract with Apple/Pearson was signed in July of 2013. Conversations among Apple and Pearson executives date back as early as 2011.
You Can Sift Through the Other Companies’ Bids
Now that the RFPs are back in the news, it’s time to put all the documents forward and see what you, the public, think. Should LAUSD have chosen a different vendor? What would the cost have been? Would there have been any loss in opportunities for kids to incorporate technology into their learning? Would teachers have chosen different hardware/software combinations — this inquiry into the apps used in classrooms seems to indicate many vendors other than Apple supply good quality software. When surveyed, most teachers said they would not have continued the iPad rollout.
Would parents and community members have wanted ANY funds from money earmarked for school repairs to go to computers, or would they have insisted that other priorities like broken toilets and leaking ceilings be met first as the group Repairs Not iPads has documented through photos?
Take a look at the RFPs, and comment. If you sign into crocodoc.com, you can annotate the documents. (These will be moderated for civility, relevance, and profanity.)
Contains: the LAUSD RFP, Apple RFP, A+ Interactive RFP, AT&T RFP, IBM RFP, Arey Jones RFP, Technology Integration Group RFP, and the Apple Final Contract (July 16, 2013). Tell us what you think LAUSD should have done — and could still do — in the comments or log in to make notes on the pdf files of the vendor submissions.