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Publishing giant Pearson says LA school officials emails part of pilot project


Pearson broke its weekend silence Monday and responded to emails obtained by KPCC showing LA Unified and Pearson officials discussing a software purchase ahead of a public bid for the district's massive technology program.

Pearson, the makers of an iPad learning software called "Common Core System of Courses", supported statements reportedly made by Superintendent John Deasy over the weekend claiming the email discussions were limited to a small pilot program. (Deasy has not returned repeated calls by KPCC.)

"Throughout the R&D process, Pearson works closely with subject matter experts, educators, and students from diverse communities," Pearson spokesman Brandon Pinette wrote in a statement. "During the early development of the System of Courses, six schools participated in pilot studies of the curriculum, 2 in Los Angeles, and 4 in Texas."

Pinette said a total of eight classrooms were involved in L.A. Unified's pilot: four at Mulhollland Middle School and four at Plummer Elementary.

However,  May 24, Deasy, his deputy Jaime Aquino and Pearson sales representative Judy Codding discussed the sale of 25 courses - about two courses for every grade level, not just elementary and middle school.

"I cannot imagine any one else able to do this as cheaply with all the PD [professional development] and all the materials for 25 courses for the price we discussed," Codding wrote.

Aquino questioned whether the district could afford to pay 2,000 teachers for the training schedule proposed by Pearson - many more than the eight teachers that would be involved in a pilot the size Pinette said Monday they were discussing.

"Is it realistic to pull 2,000 teachers for five days of training," Aquino wrote, "this could range from $2 to $4 million for the five day training, which we do not have the funding for."

As previously reported by KPCC, other internal emails show Pearson and L.A. Unified staff discussed working with Apple and five years of tech support - much longer than would be needed for a pilot.

Emails also show Pearson offered to hire four, full-time staff members to help train teachers – which would be an extraordinary expense for an eight-classroom pilot.

"In addition, we would hire one elementary math and one elementary ELA and one secondary math and one secondary ELA to provide on site coaching," Codding wrote. "These people would be a LAUSD full time, 180 days per year for 5 years."

Pearson's service and content offerings resemble language used a year later by the district in a request for proposal for public bid for the district-wide initiative to supply every student with an iPad loaded with education software, a review of emails and other public documents shows.

Other vendors complained it limited competition, but Pinette said the bid process was "open and competitive."

Monday evening, representatives of the teacher's union, United Teachers Los Angeles, demanded the school board push for an immediate investigation into the email communication.

"UTLA calls on LAUSD’s Board of Education to take swift action to uncover the truth behind John Deasy’s iPad deals—as the media continues to uncover alleged improprieties in the way the District awarded contracts to Apple to provide iPads for all students, and to Pearson to provide curriculum on those iPads," spokeswoman Suzanne Surgeon said. 

The school board meets Tuesday at 4 pm.