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Los Angeles Invites Proposals for Major Ed-Tech Contract

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The Los Angeles Unified School District recently approved plans to spend $50 million initially—and up to $500 million over time—to provide all students in the nation's second-largest school system with a computer device. It's the kind of business opportunity that the leaders of many of the nation's educational technology companies surely dream about.

Those companies were recently given a clearer sense of what would be expected of them, when the district released a request for proposal for the initial phase of the project.

The project begins with what the district is calling a pilot program, phase one, which will provide roughly 31,000 students and teachers in 47 schools with their own personal computing devices. But assuming the district is satisfied with initial work, the intent is to use the same contract for the much larger, and more lucrative, second and third phases of the project, to provide devices for all teachers and students in the 660,000-student system, said Mark Hovatter, the district's chief facilities executive.

The district could issue up to three awards to do the work, and the anticipated length of the contract is five years. Potential bidders do not have to provide any kind of notice of intent to apply, but 36 separate companies have told the district they will be attending a pre-proposal meeting scheduled for this week, district officials told Education Week.

Los Angeles' request isn't the only big-money ed-tech proposal on the landscape. Maine and a group of states recently banded together to put forward an unusual, multi-state invitation to technology companies to provide school technology. Maine, as many readers know, has taken some of the most dramatic steps of any state in the country in promoting educational technology, having implemented a 1-to-1 computing policy about a decade ago. While only three states are currently involved in that partnership, several others have shown an interest in signing up.

That process resulted in three companies having been tentatively awarded contracts to do that work: Apple, CTL, and Hewlett-Packard. Final deals with those companies have yet to be negotiated. One of the distinctive features of that multi-state proposal is its breadth: The participating states asked tech companies to provide them with an unusually comprehensive array of devices, services, and forms of support. (We'll be exploring the multi-state ed-tech plan, and its implications for schools, in a story in this week's Education Week.)

The Los Angeles RFP is similarly broad in some respects. It's meant to encourage various bidders to provide relatively wide-ranging and integrated services to the district, Hovatter said. Companies could end up partnering with each other or forming joint ventures to meet hardware, software, and other requirements, he said.

Los Angeles officials were aware of the multi-state tech proposal, Hovatter said. They ended up incorporating about 20 percent of the concepts in the Maine-led project into the city school district's RFP, and building it from there.

"We used it as a starting point," he said.

The Los Angeles RFP shares something else with the Maine multi-state request: The school district's solictation was written with the Common Core State Standards in mind. The district's request says that any company's proposal must "meet, and ideally exceed" the tech guidelines put forward by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. California is a member of that consortium, one of two groups creating online tests aligned with the standards—exams that are expected to test districts' tech capabilities.

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