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Los Angeles Superintendent Proposes to Slow iPad Rollout

After a slew of security and logistical snafus during the first phase of the Los Angeles Unified School District's ambitious plan to provide all 660,000 of its students with iPads, the district's superintendent has proposed to slow down the initiative, delaying the deployment of hundreds of thousands of devices until next summer.

The announcement comes two weeks before a special session of the Los Angeles School Board, at which supeintendent John Deasy is expected to face tough questions about the high-profile problems that have plagued his headline-grabbing initiative.

"I'm hopeful that this revised plan meets the concerns of board members over how best to provide our students with the technology they need to excel in the classroom and succeed in their careers," Deasy said in a statement released Tuesday.

In an interview, board member Monica Ratliff, who called the special meeting, called it an "opportunity to ask questions and have them answered publicly on the record."

"My sense with the whole project is that its intention is admirable, but the execution has left something to be desired," said Ratliff, who joined the board after it had already approved a $30 million contract with Apple to provide 30,000 iPads to students in 47 schools in the project's first phase.

Los Angeles Unified officials have been clear that their intent is to expand the contract to include all schools and students in the district by the 2015-16 school year, at an eventual cost projected to be roughly $500 million.  Additional infrastructure upgrades to support the so-called Common Core Technology Project are expected to bring the total price tag to roughly $1 billion, almost all of which will be financed with bonds.

For our recent special report on Managing the Digital District, I spoke with Mark Hovatter, the facilities executive at Los Angeles Unified who helped broker the deal with Apple. We've also been keeping tabs on the problems that have surfaced with the initial rollout of the tablets, including security breaches when hundreds of students quickly hacked the devices' filters and reports that dozens of the iPads had gone missing.

Earlier this week, four Los Angeles schools opted to delay their acceptance of iPads for students.

In Tuesday's statement from Los Angeles Unified, superintendent Deasy expressed hope that his slowed-down deployment would win board approval in December and expressed urgency that the board "act expeditiously" in order to be ready for "the introduction of computer-adaptive state assessments in the spring of 2015."

Follow @BenjaminBHerold and @EdWeekEdTech for the latest news on ed-tech policies, practices, and trends. 

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