Largest school district in Florida cuts ties with troubled online platform

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Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ superintendent Alberto Carvalho glances towards student Emily Acosta as she does school work in her mother’s class at Bob Graham Education Center in Miami Lakes, Fla. on Aug. 31. (Carl Juste/Miami Herald via AP, File)

MIAMI (AP) — Florida’s largest school district is severing ties with an online platform many blame for failures as the county tries to get kids back to school.

Following a 13-hour meeting, the Miami-Dade County School Board unanimously voted early Thursday to stop using My School Online. Teachers can now begin using other platforms, the Miami Herald reported.

The meeting stretched into the middle of the night because the board had to finish public comment on Vice Chair Steve Gallon’s proposal to get to the bottom of what went wrong. Some 400 teachers and parents submitted comments, most of them negative, about the online platform.

Miami-Dade began a delayed school year on Aug. 31, but it was marred by network outages and a series of cyberattacks. A teenager was arrested last week and accused of the cyberattacks.

The Herald reported tensions ran high throughout the night.

Board member Marta Perez, who will have served 22 years on the board in November, called it “one of the worst meetings, in all due respect, we’ve ever had at the school district.”

My School Online is run by the for-profit tech education company K12. Its investors have included Michael Milken, the convicted junk-bond king who President Donald Trump pardoned earlier this year, and current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, the Herald reported.

“This was not our finest moment. It did not begin the way we expected.”

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho

In 2016, former California Attorney General and current Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris oversaw a $168.5 million settlement with K12 over alleged violations of the state’s laws against false claims, false advertising and unfair competition.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools is the fourth largest school district in the United States, comprised of 392 schools, 345,000 students and over 40,000 employees.

The district chose the My School Online platform through K12 because it wanted a one-stop shop for all students and teachers. After school abruptly shut down in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, teachers used any learning platform they felt comfortable with. Parents complained that it was difficult to keep track of assignments.

Last week, the district told teachers and students in grades 6 through 12 to use Microsoft Teams and Zoom because of national glitches with the K12 program. Since then, many elementary schools and teachers also have moved to Teams and Zooms even though they were told to continue with the K12 platform.

The Herald reported that many parents and teachers said they felt that K12’s curriculum was not appropriate for younger students.

A sullen Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said before the vote that the School Board would have a final say on K12 and that no further announcements will come from the district. He said no money had been paid to K12.

He also reminded the board that the district has used K12 for virtual learning opportunities for a decade.

“This was a low point for me, a low point for our school system,” he said. “This was not our finest moment. It did not begin the way we expected.”

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