By Max Bowenfirstname.lastname@example.org
Citing an increased need for vocational opportunities, State Rep. Adam Scanlon has filed a bill which would allow for such programs to be launched in towns without state approval.
H.699 amends section 14B of chapter 71 of the General Laws, according to a statement from Scanlon’s office. The
existing language states that communities which are part of vocation regional and any other type of regional district may not offer the same educational programs as the vocational district without approval by the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education.
H.699 amends the language to allow towns to offer similar vocational programs without the commissioner’s approval. North Attleborough has among the largest number of students that attend Tri-County Vocational High School among area communities.
“With these changes, cities and towns would be permitted to offer their pupils vocational education programs in supplement to their existing comprehensive programs,” the statement read. “Vocational programs have state frameworks and standards that local schools would need to meet like any other program.”
In his testimony before the Joint Committee on Education, Scanlon spoke of the impact of his father’s vocational education on his upbringing. Mark Scanlon attended Tri-County Voc-Tech and built a business in masonry serving the community for over 30 years.
“That is what vocational education can and should be, a promise of American opportunity and a door to intergenerational wealth for all,” said Scanlon.
State report shows need for more programs, gaps in student populations
In the Massachusetts Career Vocational Technical Education Waitlist Report posted this February, it was seen of the 58 schools that took part, many did not have enough seats to meet the number of applicants.
The report showed that statewide, there were 1.75 completed student applications for every vocational program seat. In some communities, that number rose to twice as many applications as available seats. A total of 12,454 students (62.5 percent of those who applied) for Grade 9 received an admission offer.
“It is therefore clear that demand for vocational education in Massachusetts remains high,” the report stated.
The report also showed gaps in student awareness and opportunity. Awareness gaps occurred where vocational schools received fewer applications from students who might otherwise be expected to apply. Gaps for students of color, English Learners, and students whose first language is not English in Massachusetts vocational schools and programs were noted in the report.
The report analyzed 18,560 Grade 9 students who completed vocational applications. As an example, more than 10,000 of those that applied were white and only 1,009 were English Learners.
“This disparity in application submission rates indicates an awareness gap for these student subgroups,” the report stated.
The report observed opportunity gaps in data submitted for students of color, economically-disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, English Learners, and students whose first language is not English in several state vocational schools and programs. Of the 12,454 students who received an admission offer, 3,606 were students of color and 473 were English Learners.
However, the data shows that students in these groups have a strong desire for vocational learning. Students of color accepted offers at a 2 percent higher rate than white students and economically disadvantaged students at a 3.5 percent higher rate.
“Despite being offered admissions at a rate far lower than their counterparts and the average acceptance rate, students of these subgroups are accepting admissions at higher rates,” wrote Scanlon in a letter to the Joint Committee on Education. “This demonstrates that the equity and access gaps are originating at the pre-admissions and admissions evaluation periods.”
In his letter, Scanlon wrote that waitlists have been a deterrent to students, especially those who may not have strong academic records. He added that many go unexposed to the promise of vocational education or never have an opportunity to consider it as an educational path.
“The expansion of this career-oriented education into our comprehensive high schools will provide students with a broader education and expose them to the skills necessary to practice trades,” Scanlon wrote. “Our local economies depend upon men and women in trades and there is consistently high demand for this type of skilled labor. The pandemic has dramatically constrained these labor markets and local economies are feeling it.”