Massachusetts education group says vocational school admissions discriminatory, calls for change

Vocational school admission policies based on attendance, grades, discipline and guidance counselor recommendations discriminate, says coalition of Massachusetts education advocates, and should be replaced by a system lottery.

“Vocational schools are public schools… these discriminatory practices in our public schools must end,” said Jack Livramento, member of the New Bedford school committee and leader of the Massachusetts Communities Action Network in a briefing Thursday.

The Vocational Education Justice Coalition, made up of more than a dozen community groups, civil rights groups and labor unions, calls on state officials to replace admission requirements to vocational schools with a system lottery, which they believe will increase equity and access for all students. .

The group highlighted 2019 data from the Ministry of Elementary and Secondary Education which shows that the acceptance rate for students of color was around 60% compared to 73% for white students.

About 51% of English language learners were accepted into vocational schools versus 69% of their English speaking counterparts, and economically disadvantaged students were accepted at a rate of 58% versus 75% for non-economically disadvantaged students.

Gladys Vega, executive director of La Colaborativa de Chelsea, said vocational school is just a dream for many young children who might not meet the admission criteria: “We have to make it a lottery because otherwise, we will continue to create generational poverty.

Vocational schools have the option of using a lottery or a first-come, first-served system, but the group said none do.

Beth Kontos, president of the American Federation of Teachers in Massachusetts, said, “We are leaving many comprehensive high school students languishing just because their career goal is not met. “

Admission decisions also have an impact on the economy, said Nina Hackel, who owns a renovation company, “I have an extreme labor shortage. I have no one… instead of growing by 30% this year, I will either stay the same as last year or 5% less.

Mayors and other stakeholders across the state signed a letter to DESE commissioner Jeff Riley calling for major policy changes.

Riley is expected to present a proposal on admissions policy changes before the board next month, but a DESE spokeswoman said no recommendations have yet been made and the agenda for the meeting had to be determined.

Following any recommendation, Council will vote on whether to send the proposal for public comment.

DESE is working with communities and schools to increase applications from under-represented students, according to a spokesperson.

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