L.A. Schools to Drop Pearson Products Under Ambitious Technology Plan
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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