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Spotlight on the Statehouse: Nov. 19, 2015

East Side protests

Mayor Jorge Elorza attended a forum Monday to address crime on the East Side of Providence, but members of the “STEP UP” Coalition and residents from other areas in Providence interrupted the meeting with protests, WPRI reported.

The protesters held that Elorza cares more about crime on the East Side than in other parts of the city. Protesters also claimed that for the past 11 months, they have tried to set up a meeting with Elorza, but he would not meet with them.

The forum — organized by the College Hill Neighborhood Association — was intended to confront house and car break-ins on the East Side.

Refugees in Rhode Island

Gov. Gina Raimondo said in September that she would be willing to accept Syrian refugees if President Obama asked Rhode Island to do so. Rep. Robert Nardolillo, R-Coventry, and Rep. Doreen Costa, R-Exeter and North Kingstown, called on Raimondo Monday to reverse her stance, the Providence Journal reported.

These calls to refuse refugees from Syria come after the terrorist attacks in Paris Friday. Both representatives expressed concerns that accepting refugees would put the state at higher risk for a terrorist attack. “We need to protect our citizens,” Costa tweeted.

The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement Monday expressing concern regarding Nardolillo’s and Costa’s statements. “We urge Governor Raimondo not to lend credence to this message of intolerance,” the RIACLU statement reads.

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence, Thomas Tobin, also issued a statement Monday saying “it would be wrong for our nation and our state to refuse to accept refugees simply because they are Syrian or Muslim,” WPRI reported.

Rep. Aaron Regunberg, D-Providence, also issued a statement Monday urging Raimondo to maintain her stance, Turn to 10 reported.

Sen. Joshua Miller, D-Cranston and Providence, and Sen. Gayle Goldin, D-Providence, will host a rally at the State House Thursday at 1:30 p.m. to demonstrate support for Syrian refugees, according to a Nov. 18 press release.

Not a walk in the PARCC

Only one in three students met state standards in English, while only one in four did so in math, according to standardized test results released Tuesday by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls and Woonsocket emerged as the districts with the lowest percentage of students who passed both the math and English tests, the Journal reported.

Though urban school districts generally performed worse than others, some schools in urban school districts — such as Blackstone Valley Prep charter schools and Varieur Elementary School in Pawtucket and Classical High School in Providence — performed well. Chris Maher, Providence interim superintendent, highlighted William D’Abate Elementary School, saying that it showed “promising results.”

The tests “are not an indication of failure on the part of our students or teachers. This is a call to action,” R.I. Education Commissioner Ken Wagner told the Journal.

“Too many of our children do not have the skills they need to succeed in today’s economy. Our kids deserve better,” Raimondo wrote to the Journal.

Maher also highlighted the performance gaps for English language learners and students with disabilities. “We must do more to address the unique challenges faced by these students. This is especially true in our urban core communities, where the concentration of these students is the highest,” he said.

The results also showed gaps across race and class: Black and Latino students were less than half as likely to have met or exceeded the standard in English compared to white students, and less than one third as likely in math. Students from low-income families were half and one third as likely as students from middle- and upper-income families to pass the English and math exams, respectively.

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