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An educational voilà: Merge the best of academics, voc-tech in single schools

Christopher Alcimbert in cosmetology  class at Blue Hills Regional Technical School in Canton in September 2020.
Christopher Alcimbert in cosmetology class at Blue Hills Regional Technical School in Canton in September 2020.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Naomi Martin’s article on admissions to vocational-technical schools was revealing (“Voc-tech schools’ admission criticized: Civil rights groups say policies discriminatory, call for a lottery system,” Page A1, March 19). However, this story is bigger than admissions criteria. The construct of separating eighth-graders entering high school into future tradespeople vs. professionals is both antiquated and limiting to young people and society.

The workplace is not one or the other; 21st-century skills require hands-on, analytic, problem-solving, and communications skills at the highest levels across all careers. Students, regardless of socioeconomic status or ethnicity, are naturally curious to find themselves, and they deserve exposure to all possible paths through meaningful curriculum and exploration.


Eighth grade is a good age for exploration but perhaps not for such a life decision. Maybe this is the time to combine the best that these models of education offer. Let’s merge these schools’ missions and curriculum to permit students to learn from offerings at both voc-tech and academic high schools. Let’s eliminate the boundaries and (gasp) make no application necessary.

Imagine the level of student preparation and the money that could be saved if laws and funding changed to allow students to explore both calculus and carpentry, AP physics and car maintenance, HVAC and performing arts, child development and business entrepreneurship. Add in more opportunity to take college courses during high school, and you have a very differently prepared high school graduate, with students’ choices steering their career paths and eliminating the needless divide.

Kathleen Woods


The writer is a career and college counselor and a retired guidance counselor.