In Mass., vocational success – and admissions debate
THE STATE’S VOCATIONAL-TECHNICAL schools have long stood as one of the unheralded success stories of the education reform efforts begun in the early 1990s. A new book, published by Pioneer Institute, gives the schools their much-deserved due.
Hands-On Achievement: Massachusetts’s National Model Vocational-Technical Schools chronicles the history of vocational education and documents how schools that were initially wary of the new standards and accountability imposed by the Education Reform Act of 1993 rose to meet the challenge, becoming centers of academic excellence as well as quality hands-on instruction in vocational fields. But the book is also giving new fuel to the recent debate over admission policies at voc schools by suggesting the state should roll back recent changes to admission regulations.
For several years, local elected officials and a coalition of community groups railed against state regulations that allow vocational schools to use selective admissions criteria in enrolling students. They argued that letting the schools rank applicants based on grades, attendance, and their discipline record was cutting off access to voc schools for some students who struggled in middle school and might benefit most from a more hands-on approach to learning. What’s more, they said, the policies were disproportionately cutting off voc-tech access for students of color, English learners, and low-income applicants.
After years of pressure, the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted new regulations last June that prohibit voc schools from using admission criteria that have a disproportionate impact on any groups protected by state and federal law unless they can show such standards are “essential to participation” in the school’s program. The state also changed regulations so that schools could no longer count excused absences or minor discipline issues in their admissions rubric.
But the new book on the state’s vocational schools says the changes already put in place threaten the schools’ success, and it sounds a warning about the possibility of the state going further and requiring admission lotteries.
“This recent replacement of voc-tech schools’ longstanding admissions process with the potential threat of a lottery system chips away at the autonomy voc-tech schools have earned and that has been a key ingredient in their success,” says the book. “State policy makers should reverse the changes [they recently made] and restore full autonomy over admissions policies to voc-tech districts and schools.”
David Ferreira, co-editor of the book, said there are concerns with an open admission policy that voc schools would end up with students not as committed to their programs who could end up leaving after a year and going back to the district high school. He said there are also safety reasons for screening students based on their discipline record. “You’ve got 15 kids with welding torches and somebody starts horsing around, you’ve got major issues,” he said.
But Lew Finfer, an organizer of the coalition fighting for admission changes, slammed the idea that the admission changes are a threat to the schools and said it’s unfair to have “life opportunities for students determined by what they did in 8th grade.”
“Some people can change and blossom and do better in a voc setting than in a classroom setting, but they don’t get the chance,” said Finfer. “They’re public schools and they’re using a private college admissions policy.”
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FROM AROUND THE WEB
The sports betting conference committee begins negotiating and hopes to get a final bill to Gov. Charlie Baker quickly. (MassLive)
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu released more internal affairs records related to disgraced former police officer Patrick Rose, but the released documents still leave unanswered the question of who authorized Rose’s return to active duty after a department investigation concluded he likely sexually molested a child. (Boston Globe)
Chicopee city officials anger the Indian community with a proclamation made at a flag raising in honor of Sikh independence, which supported the creation of a Sikh state in Indian-controlled Punjab. (MassLive)
Vivian Lere, whose dog was killed by a coyote, is circulating a petition in Nahant demanding town officials do something about coyote overpopulation. (Daily Item)
Newmarket Square businesses in the troubled Mass. and Cass area have hired a private security firm to patrol the area. (Boston Herald)
A street in Springfield will be named after former state representative Ben Swan. (MassLive)
The House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol holds a prime-time televised hearing in which the committee chair and co-chair say former president Donald Trump was at the center of events leading to the violent rampage. (New York Times)
Republican gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl, who filed paperwork to opt into the state’s public campaign financing system, now says he won’t follow through and actually take any public money and that he only filed the application to try to limit outside money in the race, though it’s not clear how his actions would do that. (Boston Globe)
David Long announced plans to step down at the end of the year as CEO of Liberty Mutual, with the insurance company’s No. 2 executive, Tim Sweeney, slated to assume the top job. (Boston Globe)
Remote work is a threat to downtowns and the housing sector, says Gov. Charlie Baker said in remarks to the New England Council. (State House News Service)
LGBTQ and non-traditional gender families find new ways to celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. (Standard-Times)
Police departments are facing a hiring crunch with a shortage of available new recruits. (Eagle-Tribune)
Two Boy Scout camps in Western Massachusetts are sold to pay settlements from abuse-related lawsuits. (MassLive)
Axios Local arrives on Monday with reporters Mike Deehan, formerly of GBH, and Stephanie Solis, formerly of the Boston Business Journal, handling the reporting duties. (Western Mass Politics & Insight)In continuing fallout from a Twitter feud among Washington Post reporters, the paper fired reporter Felicia Somnez “for misconduct that includes insubordination, maligning your co-workers online and violating The Post’s standards on workplace collegiality and inclusivity.” (New York Times)