Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze & Observer 09-05-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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10 OPINION SEPTEMBER 5-11, 2019 | VALLEY BREEZE & OBSERVER | SMITHFIELD SCITUATE FOSTER GLOCESTER Amid much fanfare, the Providence Pedestrian Bridge opened this summer. While the politicians were giddy, the originally planned $3 million bridge actually cost the taxpayers a hair under $22 million, despite being a scaled down version. Now, history is about to repeat itself. The price tag on the planned Pawtucket com- muter rail station is now pegged at $51 million from an initial cost of $40 million and a shovelful of dirt hasn't been disturbed yet. This project, too, is supposedly a scaled down version with the elimination of a second set of tracks from the station. But, wait! There's more! The project actually could curtail Amtrak's service on the Northeast corridor. With this proposal to eliminate the second track intercity and express trains couldn't overtake the trains stopping in Pawtucket, thereby jam- ming the sole electric rail track like Route 95 at peak time. Nor could the trains turn around in Pawtucket without continuing into Boston anyway. A Rhode Island-only system would never happen. In effect, the whole rationalization for the Pawtucket station was to run a local rail system and establish express rail system between Providence and Boston. This aspiration of Gov. Gina Raimondo to open a Pawtucket station raises an important question: Why? A stone's throw away is the South Attleboro station on the border of Pawtucket which now provides park- ing for commuters travel- ing into Boston and back. Why would Rhode Island spend this kind of money for a speculative, marginal improvement which, none- theless, could slow down Amtrak, particularly its Acela service, in the future? The state is on the toe line of another "oops!" moment. Keep in mind the fiasco of the Wickford Train Station. Hailed as a project that would bring folks into Rhode Island and stimulate economic development, the station is a ghost town. This $44 million project with a 1,100-space parking garage has never seen the ridership touted as a justification for its construction. As noted in the Hummel Report (Providence Journal Aug. 23, 2019) while state leaders projected a ridership of 1,500 passengers a day, in July 2019 it was 657 during the "busy" summer time. The average number of vehicles using the garage is one-quarter of the estimate. For July 2019 there was an average of 302 parked cars, many vehicles of which belonged to URI day hop- pers who are shuttled back and forth to the Kingstown campus and not train pas- sengers. The fact is that Rhode Island political leaders have a serious disease: "Edifice complex." They cannot rest without constructing something during their tenure with their names on the edifice. Of course, their money isn't at risk. Each folly carries a price tag for the taxpayers. Other than pipe dreams and fairy dust rhetoric from state and Pawtucket leaders, no compelling argument has been made for this train station, particularly as pres- ently configured. If they build it they shall come can no longer be the standard by which these projects are selected. So, in 2019, what real evidence exists to sub- stantiate that this station is the economic boon which is projected? Just why isn't the So. Attleboro station which is seven minutes away, insufficient to promote such growth if this argument holds water? Without solid proof the state is headed for another train wreck. Violet is an attorney and for- mer state attorney general. History is about to repeat itself Parents receive multiple report cards for their chil- dren during the course of the school year and the informa- tion is valuable, but limited. We get a sense of our child's performance in each school subject and an indication of the number of days they've been tardy or absent, but this snapshot tells of how our own student is doing but tells us nothing about the overall performance of the school they attend. In a packed room at a Providence elementary school on a Saturday morn- ing in July, Lt. Gov. Dan McKee stepped to the micro- phone and said, "we are not being honest with parents." It was the final community forum hosted by new state education commissioner Angélica Infante-Green and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza in the wake of the Johns Hopkins damning report on the Providence Schools. McKee went on to propose, for the first time publicly, annual report cards for schools. The idea is simple but potentially game- changing. The basic gist is that every parent in the state would receive an annual report about how well their child's specific school is doing — not the district as a whole but their individual school. The information would be presented in simple form, free of education jargon, and include the following: • The percentage of stu- dents in the school who read and write on grade level • The percentage of stu- dents in the school who do math on grade level • The absenteeism rates for students and teachers There is other important information — perhaps about special education or school safety — that could also potentially be included. Part of McKee's proposal is that parents would have to sign off on having seen the report, whether at a presentation at the school or through tar- geted outreach. There is a well-documented disconnect between parents' perceptions of their children's school and what the data says. Learning Heroes co- founder Cindi Williams captures it perfectly when she says, "There is a Grand Canyon-size gap between what parents are told about their children's learning and what the school knows to be true." She further illustrates this point when she lays out the following contradictory statements: • Only 37 percent of 4th- graders are proficient in read- ing, and 40 percent in math. • Almost 90 percent of all parents, irrespective of race, income, geography or educa- tion level, are confident that their child is at or above grade level in reading and math. • 84 percent of parents rate their child's school as excel- lent or pretty good. In Rhode Island, 34 per- cent of students read and write on grade level. That number drops to 27 percent in math. Five states have already begun providing school report cards to parents — Rhode Island is not one of them. On the contrary, we have zero direct account- ability to families built into our state education system. Parents do not have easy access to the full picture and that has led, at least in part, to the persistent misconcep- tion that high marks on a child's report card are an indication that the child is meeting state benchmarks in math and reading, even though most are not. McKee was right when he said, "We aren't being honest with parents." His proposal for school report cards is a smart and meaningful way to change that. Erika Sanzi is a former educa- tor and school committee member who writes about education and blogs at Good School Hunting. Parents deserve information about the performance of their child's school Poli-Ticks ARLENE VIOLET Schools of Thought ERIKA SANZI Founded in 1956 by The Burgess Family Volume LXIV, Number 27 September 5, 2019 @ Observer THE VALLEY BREEZE & ABOUT US The Valley Breeze Newspapers are a locally operated group of free weekly newspapers serving the people of Cumberland, Lincoln, North Smithfield, Woonsocket, Smithfield, Scituate, Foster, Glocester, North Providence, Pawtucket, R.I., and Blackstone, Mass. Each Thursday, 58,500+ copies are distributed to retailers, banks, offices, and restaurants and other busy spots. Circulation is audited by the Circulation Verification Council of St. Louis, Mo. and has earned its "Gold Standard Award." OUR MISSION It is the Mission of The Valley Breeze to facilitate a positive sense of community among the res- idents of Northern Rhode Island by providing a forum for the free exchange of ideas, and to provide information of local events and neighbors. It is our further Mission to provide the highest quality advertising at the lowest possible cost to retailers, professionals, tradespersons, and other service providers in order to enhance the economic well-being of our community. Thomas V. Ward, Publisher James Quinn, Deputy Publisher Jack Birolini, Director of Sales Ethan Shorey, Managing Editor Barbara Phinney, Controller

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