LA Schools: Millions for iPads, But Not One Cent for Math Textbooks


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Remember when Los Angeles Unified Schools spent $1 billion trying to buy iPads for every kid in the district—and then, when that became a fiasco, considered even more expensive options?

Well, Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times reported this week that some LA schools don't even have math textbooks for all grades:

With the conversion to Common Core standards, L.A. Unified purchased new math books for eighth grade, but not for sixth or seventh. The reason was lack of funding.

"We're left to fend for ourselves," said Kravets, who, like other math teachers has scoured the Internet for materials and made copies for students.

"We're chained to the copy machines," said Larry Rubin, another Palms Middle School math teacher. Rubin said he spends more than an hour on lesson plans in the evening and as much as 45 minutes at the copy machine the next day.

Talk about putting the cart before the horse. Superintendent John Deasy had money to burn on boondoggle after boondoggle, but couldn't be bothered to make sure that the classrooms he oversees are minimally equipped for basic instruction? Lopez takes him to task for this and other mistakes, including a failed tracking system that caused some students to never receive class assignments:

And by the way, what's L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy doing on a tour of South Korea when he should be on a tour of Jefferson with a clipboard and a bullhorn, directing student traffic while a fix is made, and finally taking the blame for rolling out the ill-fated system despite warnings that it wasn't ready?

Deasy just announced his retirement; hopefully his successor will dare to dream a little smaller, albeit more competently.

Incidentally, the situation at Palms Middle School is an indictment of Common Core as well. The new standards rearrange the levels at which students learn certain concepts, and the approach requires entirely new teaching methods and materials. It's not possible to half-and-half it between the old way and the Common Core way: This will generate both gaps and overlaps in a child's education—as well as massive confusion. I would like to see the kids put through that experience try to pass one of the rigorous Core-required standardized tests.

Schools have to be fully Core-aligned, or stick with what they already got. But given the significant cost of being Core-aligned, this reality can be a major problem, as Palms Middle School's case illustrates. Of course, it's possible for administrators to navigate such difficulties with more finesse than Deasy evidently did.