Response to HB 751 Lottery for Vocational Schools

Dear ENSATS Community,

On behalf of the Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators (MAVA), I write to urge you to oppose Senate Budget Amendment #751.  This untested would mandate a one-size-fits-all admissions lottery for every school with a vocational program in the state.  MAVA opposes Amendment #751 for a host of reasons, including these:

  1. The budget is not the place to decide a highly contentious public policy debate.  There is no widespread public or legislative consensus on this issue.
  2. This is not a systemic, statewide issue.  In the aggregate, schools with vocational programs already largely mirror the demographics in their sending communities.
  3. DESE is already taking action.  After analyzing the latest data, DESE has flagged 4 schools (out of 92) for additional help and/or scrutiny of their admissions systems:  Bay Path, Greater Lowell, Greater New Bedford, and Monty Tech.  We applaud DESE and the Executive Office of Education for taking this thoughtful, surgical approach.
  4. Amendment #751 continues to ignore local agreements (in our case, by-laws) on minimum slots for member communities, something which likely would cause turmoil in regional vocational districts that have been working well for many decades.
  5. Amendment #751 prohibits our schools from using a student’s interest in vocational education as part of the application process.  Determining a student’s interest – either through a visit to the school, a personal interview, or a letter of recommendation – is a time-tested gauge of future success in this unique learning environment.  
  6. There’s absolutely no objective research to prove that a lottery would increase diversity.  Some lottery attempts have shown hopeful signs, only to falter in subsequent years.  Others have failed miserably from the start.  There is no clear evidence in support of a lottery of any type.    
  7. The Amendment fails to address the real issue:  lack of vocational seats in our vocational, agricultural, and comprehensive high schools.

At Essex North Shore Agricultural & Technical School:

  1. Students can sit on two waitlists. Agricultural students on our waitlist can be actively enrolled at their home regional vocational technical schools as we have no knowledge of their enrollment to remove from our waitlist. This did happen with my cousin’s twins (one waitlisted but enrolled at Greater Lawrence Technical School and one enrolled at Essex Tech).
  2. We continue to take students off of our waitlist through the fall. On average, 110 students decline their offer which removes that same amount from the waitlist initially. The waitlist will continue to decline as more students decide to decline.
  3. Those students on the waitlist may have applied but had no intention of coming to Essex North Shore. There is no way to tell.
  4. We have a lottery for our agricultural students and have not yet changed the diversity of the school in relation to non white students.
  5. We interview our students which we believe is an important aspect of the process to determine their true interest in a vocational school.
  6. Our School Committee, made up of 17 communities (four cities and 13 towns) reviewed the data with a Admissions Subcommittee for three years and all members but one (Danvers) voted against a lottery or minimum students enrolled.
  7. Our school has by-laws which are not a regional agreement. 
  8. Within our district, there are three cities that have Chapter 74 programs (Peabody, Salem, Gloucester) and may be enrolled in their home district but sit on our waitlist.
  9. Our district increased non-white students from 3% to 19% through a thoughtful effort of family engagement series, multilingual staff, and multilingual support throughout the application process.
  10. A unique partnership with Salem Public Schools to include 20 multilingual acceptances.
  11. We have After-Dark programming for Beverly, Marblehead, Swampscott, and Gloucester (we are talking to Danvers now). We had After Dark for Peabody and Salem but they opted out four years ago.
  12. We have expanded enrollment by the hard work of our staff, competitive and private funding, and utilizing every inch of campus buildings. This has resulted in the increase of 135 seats each year since 2018.

Thank you for your consideration.


Heidi T. Riccio, Ed.D.
Superintendent Director
Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School

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