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Pittsburgh School Superintendent Accused Of Spending Millions On Unnecessary Tech Tools

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LIVE FROM THE KDKA BROADCAST CENTER IN DOWNTOWN PITTSBURGH, THIS IS KDKA TV NEWS AT 6:00 RIGHT NOW A SPECIAL INVESTIGATIVE REPORT THAT EVERY PARENT AND TAXPAYER SHOULD SEE

KDKA INVESTIGATOR ANDY SHEEHAN HAS LEARNED THAT PITTSBURGH SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT ANTHONY HAMLET HAS SPENT MILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF DISTRICT FUNDS ON DOZENS OF HI-TECH EDUCATIONAL TOOLS OF QUESTIONABLE WORTH TEACHERS AND STAFF SAY THE NO BID CONTRACTS ARE HURTING STUDENTS RATHER THAN HELPING HERE'S ANDY'S REPORT YOU WILL SEE ONLY ON KDKA Reporter: IT'S CALLED ED TECH, EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY, DIGITAL CURRICULUM PLATFORMS AND STUDENT ASSESSMENT TOOLS DESIGNED TO TURN TRADITIONAL CLASSROOMS INTO HI-TECH LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS ACROSS THE COUNTRY SCHOOL DISTRICTS INCLUDING PITTSBURGH PUBLIC ARE BUYING EVEN THOUGH CRITICS SAY ED TECH ISN'T MAKING ANY MEASURABLE IMPACT ON STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT

THESE ED TECH COMPANIES ARE SELLING THEIR PRODUCT TO DISTRICT AS A SORT OF MAGIC BULLET WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE RESULTS, YOU AREN'T GETTING A WHOLE LOT OF BANG FOR YOUR BUCK Reporter: A KDKA INVESTIGATION HAS FOUND UNDER SUPERINTENDENT ANTHONY HAMLET THE PITTSBURGH PUBLIC SCHOOLS HAVE BEEN ON A TECHNOLOGICAL BUYING SPREE IN ADDITION TO COSTING MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, IT APPEARS TO HAVE HURT RATHER THAN HELPED STUDENT PERFORMANCE WE HAVE FOUND THAT IN THE PAST THREE YEARS THE DISTRICT HAS ENTERED INTO MORE THAN 50 NEW HIGH PRICED CONTRACTS WITH ED TECH COMPANIES AT A COST OF MORE THAN $14 MILLION

THOUGH WITH ASSOCIATED COSTS AND AUTOMATIC RENEWALS, THE NUMBER COULD BE MUCH HIGHER WE HAVE ALSO FOUND NO EVIDENCE THAT THESE CONTRACTS WERE BID OUT COMPETITIVELY INSTEAD MANY HAVE GONE TO VENDORS THAT HAMLET OR HIS TOP ADMINISTRATORS HAVE USED IN THE PAST OR TO FRIENDS LIKE BARRINGTON IRVING OF THE FLYING CLASSROOM WITH WHOM THEY TRAVELED TO CUBA MOST IMPORTANTLY, INSTEAD OF IMPROVING EDUCATIONAL OUTCOMES, A DOZEN TEACHERS AND STAFF WHO SPOKE TO KDKA ON THE CONDITION OF ANONYMITY SAY ALL THIS BUYING HAS HURT THEIR ABILITY TO EDUCATE KIDS AND COMPLAIN THEY'RE GETTING SNOWED UNDER BY THE SHEER NUMBER OF TECH TOOLS IT'S A LOT OF MONEY

YEAH, IT'S A LOT OF MONEY Reporter: OUR INVESTIGATION FOUND PRIOR TO HAMLET'S ARRIVAL PITTSBURGH PUBLIC SCHOOLTEACHERS HAD TWO COMPUTER ASSESSMENT TOOLS TO MEASURE STUDENT PROGRESS NOW THEY HAVE SIX IN INTERVIEWS TEACHERS SAY THE PROGRAMS ARE PRETTY MUCH THE SAME AND GO LARGELY UNUSED TEACHERS DON'T NEED ANOTHER ASSESSMENT SYSTEM ON THEIR PLATE

THEIR PLATE IS FULL OF ASSESSMENTS SO IF YOU'RE ASKING THEM TO DO ONE MORE ASSESSMENT, IT'S JUST ONE MORE DATA POINT, ONE MORE PIECE THAT'S ADDED TO THEIR ALREADY VERY FULL PLATE Reporter: TEACHERS AND STAFF SAY THEY'RE SHUT OUT OF THE CONTRACT SELECTION PROCESS OR WHEN THEY CAN WEIGH IN, THEY'RE OVERRIDDEN IN ONE CASE TO DISASTROUS EFFECT A TEACHER ADVISORY COMMITTEE RECOMMENDED AGAINST USING A READING TOOL CALLED READY GEN, BUT HAMLET AND THE DISTRICT PURCHASED IT ANYWAY FROM PIERSON EDUCATION FOR $4

4 MILLION TEACHERS SAY THE PROGRAM LACKS A FOUNDATION IN PHONICS AND IS FAILING TO IMPROVE READING SCORES IN SOME OF THE ALL AFRICAN AMERICAN SCHOOLS WHERE MORE THAN 80% OF THE STUDENTS AREN'T READING PROFICIENTLY WE HAVE A LOT OF KIDS IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS WHO CAN'T READ AND INSTEAD OF ADDRESSING THAT PROBLEM WE'RE WORRIED ABOUT MAKING SURE THAT FAVORED CONTRACTORS GET THE RIGHT CONTRACT THAT'S REALLY NOT THE WAY TO RUN A SCHOOL DISTRICT Reporter: AS WE'VE REPORTED IN THE PAST, THE SUPERINTENDENT TAKES FREQUENT TRIPS OUT OF THE STATE TO ATTEND VARIOUS CONFERENCES WHERE HE ENGAGES WITH VENDORS

IN OCTOBER HE APPEARED AT THIS CONFERENCE IN CHICAGO SPONSORED BY RETHINK ED AND JUST LAST MONTH THE PITTSBURGH SCHOOL BOARD APPROVED A $135,000 CONTRACT WITH THE COMPANY WHICH IMMEDIATELY ISSUED A PRESS RELEASE IN WHICH HAMLET PRAISED THE PROGRAM WHEN YOU LOOK AT WHAT'S GOING ON, IT DOESN'T TAKE MUCH TO UNDERSTAND THAT CONTRACTS ARE BEING AWARDED TO COMPANIES AND INDIVIDUALS WHO HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH THE SUPERINTENDENT Reporter: MOST OF THESE CONTRACTS HAVE BEEN APPROVED BY THE BOARD WITHOUT OBJECTION UNTIL THIS JANUARY AFTER SHOWING THIS SLICK VIDEO SUPPLIED BY THE VENDOR, THE ADMINISTRATION ASKED FOR THE APPROVAL OF A $58 MILLION ED TECH CURRICULUM CONTRACT WITH DISCOVERY EDUCATION WHOSE PRODUCTS WERE USED EXTENSIVELY IN HAMLET'S OLD SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA

BOARD MEMBER HOUDIN AND EDWARDS FINALLY RAISED OBJECTIONS WE HAD REQUESTED FURTHER INFORMATION, FOR EXAMPLE, WHERE THE PROGRAM WAS WORKING, WHAT MODEL WE WERE MODELING AFTER, WHERE DO WE GO TO SEE THE BENEFITS OF IT BEFORE WE PAY THE MONEY? Reporter: STILL THE BOARD DID APPROVE A $934,000 PILOT PROGRAM WITH DISCOVERY NOW I REQUESTED AN INTERVIEW WITH THE SUPERINTENDENT OR ONE OF HIS TOP ADMINISTRATORS TO DISCUSS THESE CONTRACTS, BUT MY REQUEST WAS TURNED DOWN THE DISTRICT ASKED ME TO SEND THEM MY FINDINGS AND THEY WOULD PROVIDE ME A WRITTEN RESPONSE, BUT YESTERDAY THEY TOLD ME THEY WOULDN'T COMMENT AT ALL NOW CONTROLLER LAMB REFERRED MY FINDINGS TO THE STATE AUDITOR GENERAL WHO AGREED TO TALK TO ME TOMORROW ABOUT HIS CONCERNS OF ALL THIS MONEY GOING TO THESE NO BID NO PROCESS CONTRACTS

YOU'VE OPENED A BOX THAT HAS A LOT OF QUESTIONS UNANSWERED I WANT TO GO BACK TO ONE OF THE POINTS OF YOUR STORY TONIGHT, THE REPETITION NOW SIX OF THESE ASSESSMENT TOOLS? THAT'S RIGHT THIS HAS JUST BEEN A BUYING SPREE THERE'S BEEN LITTLE JUSTIFICATION FOR ALL THIS STUFF AND THE TEACHERS ARE TELLING ME OFF THE RECORD WITH THEIR ANONYMITY THAT THEY'RE JUST INUNDATED WITH THESE TOOLS AND THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH IT AND IT'S ACTUALLY DISTRACTING THEM FROM THEIR PRIMARY JOB OF EDUCATING KIDS

THE OTHER PRIME QUESTION IS YOU SAY A LOT OF THESE ARE NO BID CONTRACTS WHERE IS THE BOARD IN THIS? WELL, THE BOARD MAY HAVE BEEN ASLEEP AT THE SWITCH, FRANKLY, OVER THE LAST COUPLE YEARS THEY DID GET THEIR BACK UP A LITTLE BIT IN JANUARY WHEN THIS DISCOVERY EDUCATION CONTRACT CAME DOWN SIGHT UNSEEN, $58 MILLION, RIGHT? $58MILLION AND THEY STARTED TO ASK QUESTIONS, BUT THEN THEY DID APPROVE A PILOT PROGRAM FOR ABOUT A MILLION

SO A LOT OF THIS STUFF IS UNTESTED THERE'S NOT ANY EVIDENCE OF STUDENT PERFORMANCE BEING IMPROVED AND YET WE'RE SHELLING OUT ALL THIS MONEY WITH VERY LITTLE PROCESS YOU WILL TELL US WHAT THE AUDITOR GENERAL — I'M SPEAKING WITH GENE

Source: Youtube

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