BOSTON, Mass. (SHNS)–State education officials this spring will evaluate admissions and waitlist data from vocational-technical high schools and “begin the process of intervening if necessary,” Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley said this week.

Seven months after the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved new regulations requiring vocational-technical schools to develop their own admissions policies “that promote equitable access,” board members heard Tuesday from advocates urging them to make sure that goal is achieved. “While I think there has been, as one of the speakers said, some progress, we need to see that there’s more progress made, so we will be actively looking at that data and will continue to keep you updated,” Riley said later in the meeting.

Dan French of the Vocational Education Justice Coalition called for the state to take “bolder steps to rectify a vastly inequitable system.” “Essentially, student acceptance data shows that the demand for seats for less-privileged students outstrips the willingness of regional vocational schools to accept them, while more-privileged students may feel that they have more viable options,” he said during the public comment period.

Another coalition member, Lew Finfer of the Massachusetts Communities Action Network, recalled Riley’s comments from the day the new policy was adopted, when the commissioner said the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education planned “to be very forceful” in cases of non-compliance and could in those cases “order changes to admission policies that may include requiring a lottery.” “If you don’t move, DESE has taken a position that we’re going to wait and see until what happens next year,” Finfer said. “If you continue to do this, you are kissing goodbye the chance of students who are applying this year to get in.”