LA Unified Promotes CS Education; Conflicted on 1-to-1 Devices

At the same time that Los Angeles Unified School District voted to promote computer science education and reduce the "digital divide," the country's largest school system also is trying to bring back 1-to-1 computing devices in a big way almost four years after it canceled its last major attempt. However, the latest effort has hit a funding obstacle.

Last month LA's board of education passed a resolution affirming its commitment to increasing student access to digital tools and media, along with promoting instruction on safe and responsible technology usage and providing access to CS courses for all students.

"When I visit schools across my district, the number one request principals make is for more digital access," said Board Member Ref Rodriguez in a prepared statement. "Because our educators know that their students' potential is impaired without it. As part of the district's efforts to achieve digital equity, I am confident that we will continue to integrate technology thoughtfully into quality instruction, in service of our greater goals of improved graduation rates and student success beyond their time in the L.A. Unified system."

The latest decision was begun in April 2015, when the district convened a task force to develop a district-wide vision for instructional technology. That was less than a year after the district had canceled its infamous multi-million-dollar contracts with Apple and Pearson, which promised to put an iPad and software into the hands of every student. The task force work resulted in a set of recommendations founded on International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards to support the preparation of 21st century "learners and leaders." By June 2016, the board had adopted the ISTE standards, which address the "essential conditions" necessary for "systems readiness."

The new plan was to allocate $150 million of bond funding to "upgrade and equip schools with 21st century technology" as part of an "empowered learner program." This time around, the devices would be varied and less expensive than the iPads in the initial program and the district would contract with multiple software companies for digital resources.

However, device plans have run into a hurdle among some school officials. While a district bond oversite committee approved funding related to school technology infrastructure and system upgrades, it unanimously rejected the device proposal at the end of May 2018. While the education board can overrule the committee's decision, the previous debacle may still be "too fresh," as one news program put it.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.