Los Angeles Unified School District

The following entry is a record in the “Catalogue of Catastrophe” – a list of failed or troubled projects from around the world.


Los Angeles Unified School District – USA
Project type : e-Enabled learning tools
Project name : Instructional Technology Initiative
Date : Apr 2015  Cost : $1.3B

Synopsis :
Bringing equal opportunity to students from all economic backgrounds is a noble and justifiable goal, but having a noble goal doesn’t make a project any easier. The Los Angeles Unified School District’s efforts to provide every student, every teacher and every administrator with a iPad turned into a debacle that has fingers pointing and red faces across the board. Launched in 2013, the initial plan called for more than 100,000 iPads to be purchased. Some were to be loaded with apps containing curriculum that would be used for instructional purposes while others were to be used for standardized testing.

From the initial rollout the problems were clear. Students were quickly able to bypass the built in security to access non-authorized content while the authorized content that was provided suffered its own quality problems. Reports indicate that the authorized content was not written in accordance with applicable teaching standards and those problems were compounded by the fact that the system suffered reliability problems that frequently rendered the content inaccessible anyway.  The project’s Director publicly criticized the system saying “Making the materials ‘usable’ has required extraordinary, unsustainable, and un-scalable resources.” Publishing an open correspondence the Director reports that only 2 of 69 schools in the initial pilot were still attempting to use the tool. The remaining schools had given up. Noting that less than 5% of the target student body had reliable access to the content, the letter also noted that even when used, the content failed to meet all appropriate requirements.

Contributing factors as reported in the press:

Failure to gain stakeholder support, missing requirements, quality related issues, failure to fully recognize the transformational shift in learning that e-enabled learning represents.

Other related projects :

  1. LAUSD Pay-role system failure 2007 – The Los Angeles School District has the somewhat dubious distinction of appearing in the Catalogue of Catastrophe twice!

Reference links :

  1. Los Angeles Unified School District – Inter-Office Correspondence-  Instructional Technology Initiative
  2. What Schools Must Learn From LA’s iPad Debacle
  3. US schools seek refund over $1.3bn iPad project
  4. L.A. school district demands iPad refund from Apple