Regents Core Task Force Meets in Secret in Violation of Open Meeting Laws, Breaches Public Trust


Amid heavy criticism of the state’s implementation of the new Common Core learning standards, Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch has appointed a task force to review those complaints and report back by February with recommendations for improvement.

Please recall, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said he expects the state Board of Regents to form a plan for improving and possibly delaying implementation of the rigorous Common Core curriculum standards.

“I think the case has been made, if nothing else, for a delay and a reevaluation of the implementation of Common Core,” Silver said. “The problem with it is … No. 1, it was suddenly put upon teachers and students and administrators and schools. The support for it was not forthcoming as quickly as the rigors of Common Core, and the training wasn’t there for a lot of the teachers that are charged with using it as the basis for their education.”

Silver charged  Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch to form a subcommittee to explore ways to improve implementation, and the smaller group is scheduled to report back to the Regents “on a small timeline.”

Silver said he would wait to see what “remedial actions” the Regents come up with before attempting to intervene with legislation.

It is my understanding that the Task Force was cherry picked by Regent Chancellor Tisch. Appointed to the Task Force were:  Chancellor Emeritus Robert Bennett, Regents Kathleen Cashin, James Dawson, James Tallon, Roger Tilles and Wade Norwood.

Just this weekend, NYSED Commissioner King was bestowed the honor of a vote of no confidence by the NYSUT. Such an illustrious and historical accomplishment, according Richard Iannuzzi NYSUT President, a vote of no confidence in a NYSED official has never been issued before.

Education Commissioner John King and state Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch issued a statement Saturday afternoon in response to the NYSUT vote. Regent Chancellor Tisch made no apologies when she backed her protege choosing to summarily dismiss the concerns of parents and educators across the State. The statement follows, in its entirety:

“Every year more than 140,000 New York students leave high school without the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in college or the workplace. Many are essentially trapped in a lifetime of economic despair. Together with the Board of Regents, the Governor, and legislature, we will make necessary adjustments and modifications to the implementation of the Common Core, but now is not the time to weaken standards for teaching and learning. Our students are counting on us to help them develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in life. The higher standards the Common Core sets will help them do just that.”

Asked if he backed Education Commissioner John King, Silver said he did, adding he also “has confidence” in Regents Chancellor Meryl Tisch.

Parents and educators breathed a momentary sigh of relief to hear that this Task Force  on Common Core was set to convene. But any comfort and trust is clearly short lived. Despite several advanced degrees and Ivy League educations among them, the Task Force members were apparently ignorant of Open Meeting Laws when they decided to meet in secret holding these sessions in private violating NYS Open Meeting Laws not to mention ethics.

Thankfully, a concerned parent stepped in.

Allison Breidbart-White contacted the Regents for information about the dates and times of the Task Force meetings, was given the run around and eventually she was stonewalled. Not content with that, she contacted the Committee on Open Government to challenge the Task Force meetings that were being held in secret.

Her persistence paid off.

Robert Freeman, Director of COOG agreed with parent Allison White finding that the Regents were acting in violation of the Open Meeting Laws.

According to Robert Freeman, Director of the Committee on Open Government, the Regents absolutely should have held their sessions in public. Freeman is responsible for overseeing and advising with regard to the Freedom of Information, Open Meetings and Personal Privacy Protection Laws. The Freedom of Information Law pertains to the public’s right to government records; the Open Meetings Law concerns the public’s right to attend meetings of public bodies. Both of these statutes are based upon a presumption of access and, since their initial enactment, have undergone significant changes based largely upon recommendations made by the Committee.

Gary Stern, Lo-Hud journalist and author of the Lo-Hud piece below asked so I shall answer: Would the Task Force be willing to share their research and conclusions openly? Of course not. Much like the entire Common Core process, the evidence to suport this policy is lacking and therefore much of the work that has been done to get the measure into schools has been cloaked with manipulation and veiled in secrecy.

Despite Commissioner King’s apathetic claim that Core is “widely accepted”, truth be told, even the Regents themselves do not all agree that Common Core amounts to sound educational policy in New York. Regent Betty A. Rosa wants people to know that her board of 17 members aren’t all in agreement about the public education reform agenda that’s currently upsetting many parents, teachers and school administrators statewide. In fact, she thinks the Common Core program is based on incomplete, manipulated data.

“They are using false information to create a crisis, to take the state test and turn it on its head to make sure the suburbs experience what the urban centers experience: failure,” said Rosa, a former teacher, principal and superintendent from the Bronx.

Rosa said the program is built on data from incoming freshman at public two-year and four-year colleges in New York, which suggests only 24 percent are ready for work or higher education. But it doesn’t consider data from private colleges, which are getting college-ready students — particularly from the suburbs, Rosa said.
“The conversation is (that) kids are not ready; it’s really the black and brown children in urban centers,” said Rosa, who spent her first 10 years growing up in Puerto Rico before attending public schools and colleges in New York. She earned a doctorate in education from Harvard Universityin 1995.

Rosa said SED disregards data from successful schools to bolster its message that public education isn’t working.

“I’m not saying it’s a fraud, but there’s a lack of understanding … of what’s behind the Common Core,” she said. “Do I believe that the purpose, the agenda is to create a sense of urgency around failure? Yes.”

Regents Chancellor Tisch alleges that it’s a statewide problem with community colleges in the suburbs and rural areas experiencing the same alarming remediation rates that schools in the urban areas are experienxing.

But Tisch doesn’t address the most important point Rosa makes – that SED ignores the statistics from the private colleges, which would lower the rates of students needing remediation greatly, in order to bolster their case that NY State schools and teachers are failures and disruptive reform is needed to fix the problems.

See also:

As if the Task Force operating in secret isnt bad enough, the fact that Regent Chancellor Tisch summarily dismisses facts laid out by Regent Rosa and, presumably, did not appoint Regent Rosa to serve on this committee is equally disturbing. Gives rise to question the integrity of a committee who chooses to meet outside the public eye and then refuses to validate and address legitimate concerns from its own team members.

In as much as the Task Force operating in secret is a breach of public trust, Gov. Cuomo’s plan to address Common Core by creating yet another panel to “improve” implementation is not the answer. I find this approach both disingenuous and fatally flawed.

The problem is that the standards dont measure up to student success. A host of professionals and experts agree that Core is not the answer.

“Dont let the ferocity of oncoming debate fool you. The empirical evidence suggests that Common Core will have little affect on American students achievement. The nation will have to look elsewhere to improve its schools” said Dr. Thomas Loveless, Director of the Brown Center on Education Policy and Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. Here is his report:

See my Dr. Loveless blog piece here:

Additionally, In 2011, a UPENN research team headed by Dr. Andrew Porter, Dean of UPENN GSE and a former Common Core supporter, benchmarked the Common Core against international education standards. The researchers were surprised to find that the Common Core’s emphasis on higher-level thinking skills is NOT consistent with curricular standards in countries that currently outshine the U.S. in educational assessments. Nations like Finland, Japan and Singapore do not focus as much on the higher-order skills as does the Common Core. The teams findings? That Core is much ado about nothing! Dr. Porter no longer supports Core.

See my Dr. Porter blog piece here:

Indeed, these are just two examples but truth be told there is a large body of evidence against Core because there is no emperical evidence to back up the claims being advanced by officials and proponents. No field testing was done, there are no pilot studies.

More arguments to support why Common Core amounts to a slowly sinking ship, much like the Titanic,  can be found here

Common Core rests on conclusory assertions, not fact based evidence.

If Gov. Cuomo is truly interested in being a “lobbyist for students” and the Regents are truly interestef in implementing sound educatiojnal policy in New York public chools, then NY should repeal Core and find an academic solution that is reasonable, well thought out and supported by the evidence. Protecting the personal investments of some should not be a public policy concern.

As set forth in the article above, violating OML to effectuate the purpose of the Task Force hardly seems like good public policy to me. The short time frame bestowed upon them is no excuse. Despite Silver’s assurances and faith in the Regents, the public “trust” has been broken which is no surprise given the lack of accountability and shenanigans of NYSEDs Commissioner King.

The apple does not fall far from the tree, does it?

Here is the LoHud story:

As expectations are rising for a state Board of Regents committee charged with reviewing feedback on the Common Core implementation, some are saying that the so-called “work group” should be meeting in public.

Robert Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, was recently asked by a Long Island parent to review whether the committee should be subject to the state’s Open Meetings Law. He concluded that it should, without question.

Freeman said the law was amended in 1979 to cover gatherings of committees and subcommittees consisting of two or more members of a governing body.

“There would be no basis for closing the doors,” he told The Journal News. “They have to give notice of meetings. These meetings are presumptively open to the public.”

Chancellor Merryl Tisch, who heads the 17-member Board of Regents, appointed six regents in December to a committee charged with reviewing feedback on the Common Core roll-out and proposing adjustments. The group is scheduled to report to the full board next month.

The committee, referred to as a “work group” by the state Education Department, began meeting in private on Jan. 6 in Albany. Alison Bianchi, deputy counsel for the department, wrote in a Jan. 24 letter that the committee is not a public body under the Open Meetings Law because it is an advisory body “not empowered to make decisions or take independent action for which a quorum is required to conduct public business.”

Bianchi wrote the letter to Allison White of Port Washington, Long Island, who contacted both the Education Department and Freeman’s office in an effort to have the committee’s meetings made public.

Freeman said it was irrelevant whether the committee was making policy.

“When an entity consists solely of members of a governing body, it doesn’t matter,” he said.

Harry Phillips of Hartsdale, the Lower Hudson Valley’s representative on the Regents, when told of Freeman’s opinion, said, “I would go by the law.”

White is a parent who co-authored an online petition calling for the Education Department to stop plans to send identifiable student data to the inBloom data-cloud. She contacted state officials because she wanted to know whether the Regents’ committee would address her concerns.

“It’s appalling to me that the same people who want to put our children’s data in a cloud, where it could be exposed to public viewing, are not willing to make their business public,” White said. “They’re for parent engagement except when it comes to something they don’t want to discuss.”

Heidi Garner, president of the South Orangetown Community Elementary Schools PTA, which is asking legislators to slow the state’s reform agenda, said a lack of transparency has been one of the state’s main faults.

“I would have hoped that they — state officials — would have learned from this,” she said.

On Thursday, Sen. John Flanagan, R-Long Island, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, told Education Commissioner John King that he was expecting the Regents committee to deliver proposals that will satisfy parents, teachers and other critics.

“If we don’t see something tangible, coherent and succinct that we can embrace or debate, it’s going to be a problem,” he said.

Regent Wade Norwood, chairman of the committee, did not respond to a request for comment.


Allison Bredibart-White, the parent who broke this story, is the co-author of petition to protect student privacy. Please read and sign it here:

Are you wondering if your BOE has been abusing its “Executive Session” powers under the Public Officer’s Law? See Public Officers Law, Article 7, section 105 (thanks Deborah Abramson Brooks).

Based on the ongoing concerns and this most recent incident involving violation of the OML and breach of public trust, it is clear that the Regents need  new blood. 4 seats are set to to open this year. Here is NYSAPE’s alert and action plan to replace the 4 Regents presently serving on the Board:

More information contact:
Eric Mihelbergel (716) 553-1123;
Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190;
NYS Allies for Public Education

NYS Allies for Public Education Endorses New Candidates for the Board of Regents

New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE), a coalition of 45 organizations from around the state, is endorsing three candidates for the New York State Board of Regents: Helen “Regina” Rose, Audrey Marie Baker, and Michael Reilly. The Board of Regents set education policy for the state and appoint the State Education Commissioner. Four Regents will be selected by the State Legislature in March.

“At a time of unprecedented public opposition to the agenda pursued by Commissioner King, we are confident that these three candidates will thoughtfully respond to and address the concerns of parents and educators. These highly qualified candidates will steer the state in a new direction — to strengthen our schools, rather than undermine them,” said Jeanette Deutermann, Nassau County public school parent and founder of Long Island Opt-Out (of tests) group.

The candidates, if approved, would replace three of the four incumbents whose tenure expires this March- Regents Wade Norwood, James Jackson, James Cottrell, and Christine Cea. All four incumbents have been unresponsive to the concerns of parents and have expressed little or no opposition to the policies pursued by Commissioner King.

Helen “Regina” Rose is applying to represent District III Region (Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, Schoharie, Sullivan, Ulster Counties). Ms. Rose is a former special education teacher with over twenty years of experience, and was a member of the Kinderhook school board for six years. She has a grandchild in the public schools and has been a strong and vocal advocate for all students, especially those with disabilities. In response to the NYSAPE survey, Rose wrote, “I cannot understand how our entire public education system is being treated as an experiment – they are building the plane in the air. We cannot allow a generation of children to be used as guinea pigs.” Ms. Rose’s resume and survey responses can be viewed here

Mike Reilly is applying to fill the District XII seat on Staten Island. Mr. Reilly, a former police officer, has been a respected community leader for many years. His three children attend the Staten Island public schools. Since 2009, Reilly has served as a member of the district’s Community Education Council and sits on the Board of Managers of the Staten Island YMCA. He supports a moratorium on high-stakes, Common Core testing and opposes the disclosure of personal student data to inBloom Inc. or other vendors without parental consent. Presently, no member of the Board of Regents has a child in our public schools. Mr. Reilly would bring a needed parent perspective. Mr. Reilly’s resume and survey responses can be viewed here

Audrey Marie Baker was a teacher, principal and administrator in the NYC public school system for over 35 years, with expertise in the area of special education. Ms. Baker is applying for the other open at-large seats on the Regents. She holds over 14 licenses and certifications in education. In response to our survey she wrote, “As a career educator, I hold myself accountable to the parents of NYS.” She pledges to survey parents to ascertain their concerns, and to meet regularly with key community stakeholders. She supports a moratorium on high stakes Common Core exams, and an independent study of the standards by a panel of experts in education and developmental psychology. Ms. Baker’s resume and survey responses can be viewed here

In a spirit of transparency, NYS Allies for Public Education sent its survey via certified mail and emailed to Regents Jackson, Cottrell, Cea and Norwood in early December 2013, asking them to clarify their positions on a variety of key education issues. To date, not one of the incumbents completed the survey or responded in any way to this request.

Upon hearing about the current Regents failure to respond, Chris Tanis, a New Paltz parent said, “Clearly, the four incumbents do not understand that they have an obligation to be accountable to the public and to clearly express their views on the current policies that have aroused such opposition among parents and other community members. The fact that they refused to respond to the NYSAPE survey – and more importantly have ignored the public outrage over the policies pursued by the State Education Department — makes a strong case for the need for new leadership.”

Although members of the Board of Regents are selected by the Legislature, they have traditionally kept their seats on the board until they choose to resign or retire. While the appointment process has escaped public scrutiny in the past, this year NYSAPE will be urging parents, educators and concerned constituents to call on their Assembly members and State Senators to nominate and vote for candidates who will work to reverse the current, disastrous reforms.

In February, the chairs of the Assembly Education and Higher Education Committees, Cathy Nolan and Deborah Glick, will conduct in-person interviews of the candidates. In March, the full Legislature will vote on candidates pre-selected by its members, predominantly those in the Assembly.

According to Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters: “In recent months, there has been an unprecedented outpouring of concern and criticism directed at the agenda being implemented by Commissioner King – including the sharing of personal student data with inBloom Inc., without parental consent. Eight states have pulled out of inBloom or put their data-sharing plans on hold because of parent protest and opposition –but not New York. We need new Regents who will be responsive to the need to protect student privacy.”

In a recent editorial in Newsday, principals Carol Burris and John Murphy noted “The time has come for the public to insist that the appointment of Regents be more than pro forma. The fate of a generation of students is at stake.”

NYSAPE Action Alert:

Disturbed or concerned about the state of public education and/or the Regents Reform agenda? Contact your Regents here:

Robert Freeman discusses OML in light of Advisory Committees here:

Committee on Open Government website here:

LoHud Article:

OML Video Logs with Robert Freeman, Director of COOG here:


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