In the article “State officials OK admissions changes for vocational schools” (Metro, April 21), Cliff Chuang, an associate education commissioner, states that there are “regional urban schools that have no gaps for students of color.” Actually, a review by the Vocational Education Justice Coalition found that, using state data, not one of 24 regional vocational schools had an equal or better rate of offering seats to applicants of color as compared with white students. Differences ranged from 1 percentage point to 50 points lower. Similar results were found, with a couple of exceptions, when comparing low-income students, students with disabilities, and English learners with their more privileged peers.
Chuang goes on to say, “There’s also a danger for setting lower expectations for students of color in terms of reaching standards.” What he doesn’t acknowledge is that the state-approved selection criteria used by vocational schools are racially biased. Black and Latinx students are suspended far more often than white students for committing the same offense; low-income students can have attendance problems due to life circumstances; and grades, recommendations, and interviews are influenced by biases of a largely white teaching and guidance counselor force.
It is an insult to suggest that eliminating the discriminatory selection criteria in the admissions process would be setting low expectations for students of color. This suggestion perpetuates racism.
It is time for the state to join the racial equity movement occurring nationwide. The only way to move toward a level playing field in a society stratified by race and class is through a lottery system.
Juan M. Cofield
New England Area Conference of the NAACP
The writer also serves as a member of the NAACP board of directors.