Brief notes on PIE network ambitions

Looking at Mike Petrilli’s summary this morning of the PIE network summit, I have a few thoughts:

  • Parent trigger appears nowhere on the priority list. I had guessed earlier this year that whatever reformy support of the parent trigger existed was primarily caving to pressure from the few who really believed in this latest silver-bullet idea, sort of like the way I’ve bought my friends’ not-quite-professional CDs on occasion. If Petrilli’s read is correct, the parent trigger may have passed its high-water mark last Thursday, before Won’t Back Down opened. We’ll see if this spring’s supporters of parent triggers back down to pursue other priorities.
  • “Pension reform” is going to be a test of whether reformy advocates are a monolith or pay attention to state realities. As Petrilli hints, many of the last two years’ pension attacks/reforms1 made portable pension systems even more difficult than had existed before the Leser Depression, precisely at a time people from different political positions agreed that teachers should not be locked into a particular district or state and be penalized for moving. Why did the portability problem get worse? Politics: the easiest way to reduce pension liabilities on paper is to lengthen the vesting period. So here’s an additional chunk of reality: Some states have healthy pension systems, some don’t. In some states, teachers are exempt from Social Security, while they’re in Social Security in others. Those differences matter in fundamental ways, and proposals for a specific state need to address whatever is on the ground. If all we see next spring is a cookie-cutter approach to public-employee pensions, you know that the reformy folks are not serious, or that ALEC has taken control of this issue.
  • Proposals for changing teacher preparation frequently have multiple-personality disorder. The same people who are salivating for an expected report on teacher education by NCTQ (see my comments on their pilot here) can easily ignore NCTQ’s input-only approach when they also want substantial decisions to be driven by the value-added statistics of graduates from teacher education programs. It is also magic-wand-waving when policymakers simultaneously call for more STEM education at the undergraduate level, higher standards for entering teacher education programs, more graduates in general, and then cut state funding of higher education — since teacher education is often treated as a cash cow within public colleges and universities, has anybody tried to do the math on this one?
  • Apparently PIE has bought into weakly-regulated, poorly-performing online charters. As Paul Tsongas would say, it’s pander-bear time!2 At the risk of being labeled a concern troll, pushing virtual charters undermines the credibility of everyone involved; Digital Learning Now is the most foolish thing Jeb Bush has been involved in since he hooked up with Lehman Brothers in 2007.


  1. If you can tell the difference, you’re doing better than I. []
  2. See Marjorie Arons-Barron’s blog for an example. []

One response to “Brief notes on PIE network ambitions”

  1. Eric

    Dr. Dorn,

    May I tempt you to critique my expansion of your Frankenstein metaphor?

    BTW: Happy fifth anniversary! (So much time, so little public policy enlightenment…)