After iPad Acquisition Program Fails Spectacularly, LA School District Seeks Multimillion Dollar Refund From Apple

In June of 2013, the Los Angeles Unified School District approved a deal with Apple and Pearson that would see curriculum filled iPad tablets in the hands of every student regardless of income level, along with every teacher and administrator. However, the $1.3 billion effort (around $500 million for the iPads with curriculum and $800 million to improve Internet access at schools) hasn't come close to expectations, and now the school district is threatening legal action.

Let's backtrack a moment. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, L.A. Unified was sold on the idea after seeing samples of Pearson's curriculum on iPad devices. As part of the contract, Pearson would provide English and math curriculum, which would come pre-loaded on the tablets. A three-year license to use the curriculum added $200 to the $768 cost of each iPad, of which L.A. Unified bought 43,261 units, plus another 77,175 without the Pearson curriculum.

A costly initiative, but one that L.A. Unified hoped would pay off for its students. Instead, problems with the Pearson app arose that made continuing with the program unfeasible. Project director Bernadette Lucas stated in an internal March report that "any given glass typically experiences one problem or more daily."

iPad Book
Image Source: Flickr (Anthony DiLaura)

Lucas also stated that the students enjoy the interactive content, though obviously only when it's available. "When it's not, teachers and students try to roll with the interruptions to teaching and learning as best they can," Lucas added.

As it stands, just two of the 69 schools participating in the Instructional Technology Initiative use Pearson regularly. The remaining schools with more than 35,000 students have called it quits, not only because of the app's buggy behavior, but also due to materials not being readily adaptable for students who aren't proficient in English. On top of it all, there are no online guides to help with instruction, nor has Pearson made available data or tools that allow an analysis of how often the curriculum is used and how well it's functioning.

Pearson spokeswoman Stacy Skelly admitted to the Los Angeles Times that there have been challenges with rolling out the program on a large scale, but that "we stand by the quality of our performance."

Lawyers for L.A. Unified have threatened Apple and Pearson with legal action, noting that the two companies have failed to deliver on their promise of a state of the art technological solution. In addition, L.A. Unified is also threatening to sue Lenovo and Arey Jones, a computer distributor, both of which have bundled Pearson curriculum on devices it purchased.