Miami-Dade Debacle Leaves Teachers Scrambling
- By Dian Schaffhauser
School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho attempted to calm his district
community after a chaotic start-of-school week that included distance
learning outages and an about-face on usage of a new learning
last week, a midweek school board meeting with some 400 public
speakers and lasting 13 hours resulted in a decision to stop using My
a virtual learning system produced by K12.
sells online classes and curriculum. The district had signed a $15.3
million no-bid contract with the company during the summer to provide
a distance learning option for students in K-12 after numerous staff
and parents pleaded for adoption of a single learning system to
simplify access. That deal excluded input from the school board. The
platform would deliver course content selected by individual
educators and maintained in the program and facilitate real-time
interaction between teachers and students with its own form of web
morning after the school board vote, the district notified teachers
to shift to Microsoft Teams or Zoom to teach their classes. And K12
immediately shut off access, leaving many educators scrambling to
come up with replacements for lessons now stuck in the My School
to the Miami-Herald, Carvalho denied that he ever personally signed
the contract with K12, adding that the company had never received a
single payment in spite of three weeks of training sessions provided
to teachers, a week of practice access for families and a donation of
$1.57 million to Carvalho's "Foundation
for New Education Initiatives."
his statement to the community, the superintendent noted that K12
"had acknowledged the shortcomings of the product." Those
included technical challenges and connectivity issues unrelated to
one person tweeted,
"I say this with no sarcasm, I swear. The @K12Learn
system for @MDCPS
was much better today. Only took 15 minutes of refreshing, logging
off and ultimately restarting the computer but it worked. So it is
getting better." Said a parent,
"After a couple of attempts finally able get in. Now teacher's
audio not working. This is not sustainable." Another parent
"My child has had the same error message (Error 401) since
SATURDAY and has not been able to access her K-12 platform for school
classes. I have spoken to K-12 eight times since Monday and we have
exhausted all possible issues."
to the struggles experienced by users, the district was hit with a
number of distributed denial-of-service attacks. A 16-year-old
student attending a South Miami high school admitted
to setting off at least eight of those.
with announcing the suspension of K12 software, Carvalho also said he
would be hiring a temporary "senior executive chief information
officer" to focus on "security procedures and practices."
The contractor would also do "an assessment of existing
technology, critical processes, and current infrastructure."
said he would back up any recommendations with a $5 million emergency
appropriation "to support ITS infrastructure enhancements."
are doing all we can to protect this district, our data security, and
give teachers and students a good experience," Carvalho wrote.
"We must also recognize that distance learning will always have
some limited connectivity issues, regardless of platform. This is
true in our own daily lives and experiences in our homes, and we must
recognize that personal Internet connectivity, individual device
functionality, and other unknown variables may affect a certain
percentage of users on any given day. But the overall experience must
be much better than what has been experienced, and we will deliver
that. Our community deserves no less."
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.