LAUSD says concerns cited in iPad report were expected
Vanessa Romo | September 18, 2014
LA Unified officials said today they anticipated the concerns raised by an independent report on the district’s one-to-one iPad program, which found that schools are not using the devices to teach the new Common Core curriculum.
What’s more, said Bernadette Lucas, director of the District’s technology project, they were thrilled to get the bad news.
“I couldn’t tell you the exuberance that our team had over this,” she said in a briefing with reporters.
The problems identified in the report by American Institutes for Research (AIR), mirror those the district is now tackling, and that validates the district’s plan moving into the next phase of the rollout, Lucas said.
“The vast majority of the challenges outlined in the report have have been worked on for quite a long time,” she added.
Conducted in spring, the report surveyed the 47 schools involved Phase 1 of the program. And although the district is now in Phase 2, planned for 58 schools, only a dozen have received the tablets this year. The remaining 46 schools will get devices by November — an exact date has not been determined.
Among the report’s key findings is that only 30 out of 245 classrooms built daily lessons on the Common Core curriculum from the Pearson software loaded onto devices. Teachers told the researchers that full implementation was hindered by delays in access to the curriculum and by problems with logging in. The report also determined the district spent too much time and focus on the deployment of the devices and not enough time on training teachers how to use them effectively in the classroom.
“That was because of the challenges in staffing,” Lucas said.
The district has since boosted professional development training for school leadership teams, made up of teachers, principals, parents and students. Throughout the spring semester and over the summer, Apple and Pearson trainers led the groups through training sessions, focusing on technical and curriculum instruction. These teams then began training other staff members at the local school site level.
Lucas said these training sessions are open to all district teachers, regardless of whether they are participating in the iPad/Pearson program because many schools have purchased similar technology out of their own budgets.
“The ed tech movement is about creativity and innovation…and that goes beyond just Pearson,” she said. “It’s just one of many doorways to the Common Core.”
In response to another issue, support staff has been ramped up. Curriculum and instruction specialists focusing on best practices for integrating technology in alignment with the Common Core standards have increased to 27 from 14. The district has also added the same number of technical support assistants who configure devices and wireless connectivity and fix hardware or software malfunctions.
One board member suggested that moving the program from the district’s Facilities division to Procurement for the new bidding process might alleviate future stress.
“We should structure the next phase so that people who have the expertise are doing the work they do best,” board member Tamar Galatzan said in a statement. “Leave the technical issues to our Information Technology Division, let the Office of Instruction train our educators, and have Procurement rather than Facilities handle the new contracts.”
Previously, Pearson lessons were loaded onto devices in a piecemeal fashion — as the year progressed lessons would be downloaded and added to the iPads. It was a slow and frustrating process for many teachers.
“This year we did something different,” said Gerardo Loera, the district’s director of curriculum and interaction. Now, the tablets are loaded with three years worth of curriculum, bookending a student’s current grade level.
“This to help the teacher have scope and sequence,” he said, adding that it allows teachers to assess students’ academic progress as they move along at their own pace.
As for the Pearson curriculum, which AIR concluded was not robust enough at the time of the study, Loera argued that it is intended as a “map and guide” for teachers and that it should be supplemented with other materials.
“The curricular guides are not dictating to teachers what part of concepts or lessons they should be on on a particular date,” he said. “We are shifting away from that as a practice.”