With minimal discussion, Los Angeles school officials this week authorized contracts for the purchase of six different laptop computers to determine which device and curriculum works best for high school students.
The approach is a marked contrast to a year ago, when the L.A. Unified Board of Education voted to provide every district student with an iPad, made by Apple, and curriculum that is being developed by the firm Pearson.
The prices were not disclosed at Tuesday's school board meeting because negotiations were still underway, officials said. The effort at 27 schools is budgeted at no more than $40 million. Three higher-end laptops being tested are expected to cost more than the iPad. Three Chromebooks are expected to cost less.
Principals selected which device to test for an extended period after getting input from students, parents and teachers — some of whom were part of a review panel that met with vendors and briefly tried out the different computers.
The principals had to choose a computer for their school by last Friday, but no devices could be purchased until the school board agreed to move ahead. Tuesday's vote by the Board of Education was unanimous.
The higher-end laptops are the Lenovo Yoga Touch, the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 and a Dell Latitude E7240. The Chromebook choices are a Samsung XE303C12, an Acer C720-2103 and a Dell Chromebook 11. The Chromebooks have a much smaller hard drive and are designed mainly to provide fast Web access to applications and curriculum that are housed on the Internet rather than loaded onto a student's computer.
After students and teachers use the devices in classes next fall, evaluators will advise L.A. Unified about future purchases.
At Tuesday's meeting, board member Tamar Galatzan expressed concern that the extended trial would unnecessarily delay the distribution of computers. She wanted to expedite handing out iPads to elementary and middle school students — who are not involved with the high school laptop trial.
Board member Monica Ratliff defended a slower approach, saying that she also wanted to see evaluations for how well the iPads were working at the lower grade levels.
No decision was made on that issue.