Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

L.A. Schools to Drop Pearson Products Under Ambitious Technology Plan

Ohanian Comment: Maybe this dumping of Pearson Common Core materials should go under "good news," but this "back away" is a complaint about technology, not about the substance the technology failed to deliver. The Los Angles school district is complaining about the color of the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Here is the NPR version of the story.

And the Los Angeles Times.

Here's the Apple Insider scoop:

Pearson, not Apple, to blame for failed L.A. schools technology program

By Sam Oliver
April 16, 2015

Though the Los Angeles Unified School District's demand for a multi-million dollar refund from Apple has grabbed headlines, the failure of the $1.3 billion program to create a new digital curriculum for Los Angles students appears to lie primarily with educational publishing company Pearson.

In addition to threatening litigation against Apple and Pearson -- the two primary contractors on the project -- the district has also asked for refunds from Chinese PC manufacturer Lenovo and California computer distributor Arey Jones, according to the Los Angeles Times. Pearson's unusable software was cited in those requests as well.

In March, project director Bernadette Lucas told LAUSD staff in an internal memorandum that just 2 of 69 schools use Pearson's materials regularly, thanks to technical or other issues. The balance "have given up on attempting regular use of the app," she wrote.

Under the terms of Apple's contract with the district, the company was responsible for provisioning one iPad per student with a number of apps, including Pearson's digital curriculum, on board. Pearson acted as a subcontractor for Apple, and was slated to deliver the new curriculum in three phases.

According to a Pearson scope-of-work document attached to the project, the curriculum was to be a "unique digital design created expressly to make use of the Apple iPad."

Critically -- and despite being listed in workflow documents as a prerequisite -- Pearson's software was not ready prior to the start of the project. District administrators were only provided with samples.

This means that in effect, the district bought iPads to run software that did not yet exist.

"I believe that it is time for Pearson to either deliver on its promises immediately or provide us with a refund so that we can purchase curriculum that actually works for our students," board member Monica Ratliff said.

Separately, LAUSD counsel indicated that the district is "extremely dissatisfied with the work of Pearson," and is prepared to meet with Apple, Lenovo and others to discuss "the dissociation from Pearson and recoup the costs of Pearson licenses that we paid for but have been unable to use."

Apple still bears some blame as the primary contractor for the project, but appears to have handled the hardware rollout well. While the situation remains fluid, it seems unlikely that Apple will contract with Pearson again, regardless of the outcome in Los Angeles.

Reader Comment: WSJ should do some more in-depth investigation into this. There were allegations of pay-to-play and kickbacks between former school board member(s) and Pearson.

by Caroline Porter

LOS ANGELES--The country's second-largest school district is taking another step to back away from an ambitious school technology project, ending its use of content produced by Pearson PLC that was planned for the district's personal devices.

The effort, which was known as the Common Core Technology Project and projected to cost at least $1.3 billion, aimed to outfit every student in the school district with an iPad or laptop computer using voter-approved bonds. Apple Inc. provided iPads to the district and provided curriculum through subcontractor Pearson.

In a letter to Apple dated April 13, the Los Angeles Unified School District spelled out its aims to halt new deliveries of Pearson Education Inc. curriculum and to stop the use of Pearson products by June 30. The letter also asks for a meeting this month to discuss a refund for some products that were deemed unusable.

The district hasn't said how much money they are asking for, and it is unclear whether Pearson or Apple would pay, according to a district spokeswoman. The district has spent about $103 million on the project so far.

"Pearson is proud of our long history working with LAUSD and our significant investment in this groundbreaking initiative to transform instructional practices and raise expectations for all students," said Pearson's Stacy Skelly, vice president of corporate affairs. " This was a large-scale implementation of new technologies and there have been challenges with the initial adoption, but we stand by the quality of our performance."

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Former Superintendent John Deasy pushed the program, which blends online instruction with brick-and-mortar schools, and hailed it as a modern way to improve equity in schooling. Tablets were first distributed in the summer of 2013, and various controversies have cropped up since then, including an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that began last year.

Students removed security measures in the devices, allowing greater access to the Internet, teachers initially reported confusion about teaching with the technology and a school board committee investigation raised questions about its implementation.

"LAUSD is extremely dissatisfied with the work of Pearson," said the letter, which was signed by David R. Holmquist, general counsel for the school district.

Recently, Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines formed a committee to strategize a new plan for technology in the classroom.

News Corp, which owns Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires, competes with Pearson's book-publishing, business-news and education divisions.

Write to Caroline Porter at caroline.porter@wsj.com

— Caroline Porter
Wall Street Journal





This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.