Voc School Administrators Push Back on Destructive Lottery Proposal


Above, the Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators (MAVA) named Ashley Marcelino, a tenth-grade graphic design student from Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School, the winner of its first ever logo contest for its annual Connecting for Success (CFS) conference.

May 3, 2024

Members of the 193rd General Court of the Commonwealth

Massachusetts State House

Boston, MA 02108

Dear Friends of Vocational Education:

On behalf of the Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators (MAVA), I am writing to update you on the recently released School Year 2024 data from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). This data once again affirms that there is no systemic, statewide issue with underrepresentation of students from the four protected classes in Chapter 74 programs.

On April 5, 2024, DESE released School Year 2024 data for: 1) Career Technical School Population Trends of Eligible & Attending Students(1) and 2) CTE Chapter 74 Admissions & Waitlist Analysis. (2)

While there are 92 schools with Chapter 74 programs in Massachusetts, lottery proponents continue to limit their review of the data to the smaller subset of those with waitlists (only 27 of these schools). Looking across these subgroups over multiple years, trends continue to show that, on a statewide basis, our schools generally mirror our sending community demographics.

Even using the lottery proponents’ smaller subset of schools with waitlists for comparison, our schools outperform in the enrollment of low-income students (+2.6%) and students with disabilities (+.01%), while coming close on both students of color (-2.4%) and English language learners (-1.3%). Many individual schools continue to outperform in one or multiple categories.

MAVA has stated from day one that we support a surgical approach to address issues with individual schools where the Commissioner deems intervention is necessary. We continue to assert that a one-sized-fits-all, blind lottery is exactly the wrong approach. The Executive Office of Education and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education – which oversee education in Massachusetts – carefully analyzed the admissions data and came to the same conclusion.

The state is a neutral party in this debate. It collected the data, analyzed the data, and identified only four schools that demonstrated a multi-year statistical gap in the enrollment of students in one or more protected classes. For three of those schools – Bay Path, Greater Lowell, and Monty Tech – DESE is providing technical assistance in the form of state-provided professional development to help improve their recruitment and enrollment of those students.

For the fourth school, Greater New Bedford Voc-Tech, DESE will conduct an onsite compliance review of its admissions criteria, admissions policies, and recruitment practices. This surgical approach uses both carrots and sticks to encourage and assist schools in their efforts to diversify their student bodies.

This approach recognizes that many of the challenges faced by these schools are not the result of deliberate discrimination, but rather of unique circumstances in individual school districts (lack of access to sending schools, lack of resources for additional personnel, etc.). This data, and DESE’s actions clearly demonstrate that there is no need for the Legislature to intervene in a matter that is being addressed administratively in a thoughtful and intentional manner.

There is one other item we would like to highlight from this year’s data. Lottery proponents have consistently focused on the rate of acceptance of students in protected classes into Chapter 74 programs, while MAVA has held that the only accurate measure of a school’s success is how a school’s enrollment compares to the demographics of the sending district’s eligible students.

DESE has clearly come down on the side of MAVA in this debate. Its analysis and identification of the four schools with multi-year enrollment gaps used a comparison index “…that compares a CTE school's population to students residing in its region…”(3 )DESE checked for “a comparable demographic profile.” In a letter to one of the four schools, DESE explained that “the comparison index is what we would expect the 9th grade enrollment to be at the CTE school, using data from the region and adjusting for grades served and size of the school. When the difference between the attending 9th grade students and comparison index is negative, it indicates a 99% confidence level that the enrollment is under representative of that school's region.”

For these reasons, we continue to urge legislators to heed the evidence provided by DESE’s data analysis and support the ongoing efforts of vocational schools to address diversity and equity through targeted interventions. We also ask you to help us address the primary issue facing our schools: demand for vocational education exceeds supply. We need more vocational seats. For these reasons, we urge you to oppose S. 257 and any legislative attempts to mandate a statewide lottery and instead support efforts to expand our capacity to serve more kids.

We thank you for your leadership and for your support of vocational education. If you have any questions, you may reach me by email at stevesharek@MAVA.us or by cell at 508-965-7757.

Very truly,

Steven C. Sharek, Esq. 

Executive Director

Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators (MAVA





3 Excerpted from a letter dated March 27, 2024 from Elizabeth L. Bennett, Associate Commissioner, College, Career and Technical Education, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, to Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School.

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