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Eject! LA Bails On iPads For All Contract

Los Angeles public schools will be suspending its much-criticized experiment in supplying all students with iPads, Superintendent John Deasy announced Monday night.

The announcement was made in a memo Deasy sent to the city’s Board of Education.

“Moving forward, we will no longer utilize our current contract with Apple Inc.,” Deasy said. Fifty-two schools that already purchased iPads in the first phase of the contract will continue to have them rolled out, but the process will not continue to the rest of LA’s schools.

The decision comes in the wake of several fresh blows to the program’s legitimacy. An internal report by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) which was obtained by the Los Angeles Times highlighted severe problems with the implementation of the iPads-for-all plan, including the use of a bidding process that seemed to deliberately favor Apple’s products. The Times also discovered interactions between several school officials, including Deasy, and Apple which appeared to create a conflict of interest.

LA’s decision to provide iPads to every student, which would ultimately have cost over $1 billion (though significantly less was actually spent), was intended to improve technical literacy for pupils in an economy where such skills are increasingly important. It was also hoped that it would help minimize class differences between wealthier students and those from low-income homes that lack home computers or other modern tech trappings.

However, from the outset the program was beset by problems that made it a subject of ridicule. At a handful of schools used as testing grounds for the program last fall, students almost immediately bypassed security features designed to prevent them from freely browing the Internet in class, while other iPads quickly began to break or go missing. Even when the iPads were used properly, both teachers and students complained about the quality of the curriculum offered by Pearson.

Deasy cited “concerns” about the endeavor as a major factor behind the decision to suspend the contract, but he also defended the decision by saying it would allow LAUSD to take advantage of continually changing market conditions.

Even before Monday’s announcement, LAUSD had begun to modify its plans, announcing earlier this summer that it would be allowing some schools to choose from a variety of laptops rather than be restricted to a single tablet computer.

Deasy said that despite the failures of the iPad endeavor, he still hoped that every student in Los Angeles would eventually have some kind of computer at school.

“We look forward to refining our processes and ultimately achieve our vision to equip every one of our students with a personal computing device,” he wrote.

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