The proposed new state education regulations are a major step towards reforming a discriminatory vocational school admissions policy, according to a coalition of student advocates, but a lottery system would always be fairer.
âA lottery system would be fairer for all 8th grade students who apply to vocational schools,â said Jack Livramento, New Bedford school committee member and leader of the Massachusetts Communities Action Network.
In a memo last week, Jeffrey Riley, Commissioner of the Ministry of Elementary and Secondary Education, outlined the proposed changes to the regulations for admission to technical vocational / career education.
The goal, said Riley, is to provide districts offering CVTE programs the flexibility to develop local admission policies that promote equitable access, comply with state and federal laws and regulations, and receive approval. annual school committee or district administration board.
In particular, the proposed changes allow admission policies to use selective criteria only when there are more applicants than places available.
The proposals would remove the requirement to use four criteria – grades, attendance, disciplinary record and counselor recommendation – and prohibit the consideration of excused absences and minor behavior or disciplinary violations.
These criteria result in racial discrimination and higher proportions of students of color, English learners, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students are rendered ineligible, the Vocational Education Justice Coalition said.
Data from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in 2019 shows that the acceptance rate for students of color was around 60%, compared to 73% for white students.
In total, according to the coalition, some 20,000 students attend state vocational public schools, but no other public school in Massachusetts has admission requirements except for three examination schools in Boston.
Vocational schools are allowed to operate a lottery system, the coalition said, but none of them do. Instead, they use the ranking system that Riley proposes to eliminate.
Coalition member Dan French of the Center for Collaborative Education said while he applauds the proposed change, he should define âminorâ when he mentions disciplinary behavior or violations.
There must also be strict oversight and enforcement of the proposed new regulations with respect to the new admissions policies that each CVTE school is due to submit in August, the coalition said.
A DESE spokesperson did not return the calls on Wednesday.
In his memo, Riley said he would make the proposed changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Council this month.
With board approval at its April 20 meeting, the department will seek public comment on the proposals and incorporate comments, with the goal of bringing the changes back to the board for a final vote in June.