The county school board voted last Wednesday to order an evaluation study by the University of Georgia to decide whether the county should spend $100.8 million to give laptop computers to every high school student in the suburban county.
Cobb Superintendent Joe Redden pitched the study, but left out one detail: a computer company arranged for UGA to conduct the study and not the school district. The Marietta Daily Journal reported the Apple financing in today’s edition.
“For Apple to pay for it, that would be questionable,” said board member Curt Johnston, who voted for the study but learned of Apple’s involvement later from the newspaper. “It has the appearance of being tainted.”
The school board voted 4-2 to start buying laptops in phases. At first, according to the plan, 7,100 teachers and 8,700 students at four of Cobb’s 14 high schools would get Apple G4 iBooks at an estimated cost of $25 million.
Redden told the board that no more students or teachers would get laptops until the UGA College of Education studied the effectiveness of the laptops.
At last Wednesday’s meeting, Redden told board members, “Cobb has asked the University of Georgia to study the program as it gets under way.” He also said UGA will analyze “academics, discipline and attendance.”
Redden did not mention that Apple contracted the study.
An Apple bid sheet obtained by the newspaper showed that Apple proposed to pay the UGA research team up to $214,540 for the study. Apple salesman Jim Dudenhoefer did not comment for the story.
One of the school board members who voted against the laptop plan, Lindsey Tippins, said it was “pretty reliable” that a study funded by Apple would give high marks to the computers.
“It’s like a teacher who let’s you grade your own paper. I’ll tell you, my grades in school would have been a lot better if that’s how they did it,” he said.
The newspaper asked Redden via e-mail Friday whether he thought his statements to the board during Wednesday’s meeting were misleading. Redden did not respond.
On the Net:
Cobb County Board of Education: http://www.cobb.k12.ga.us/board/meetboard.htm
Information from: Marietta Daily Journal, http://mdjonline.com