"If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Someone a hell of a lot smarter than me once said that. It applies to a pending decision from state education officials that could change how we select students for vocational schools in Massachusetts, including Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School.

Education Commissioner Jeff Riley could recommend changes to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education as soon as next week. Riley is keeping the details close to his vest.

Groups such as Massachusetts Community Action Network say an admission policy that relies upon grades, attendance, and behavior is "discriminatory." They suggest a lottery system is the fairest way to select students to be admitted to the Commonwealth's 37 vocational schools.

The Salem News reports Riley singled out six such schools in November that he says have "enrollment discrepancies between their student demographics and those of the traditional high schools in their communities." GNB Voc-Tech and Diman Vocational in Fall River were among them. Incidentally, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell supports the concept of a lottery system.

Proponents of the lottery system don't believe that grades, attendance, and behavior should matter in selecting candidates to fill coveted but limited slots at the vocational schools. They do, as liberals often do, place people into groups based on race, gender, and economic status, among other things. Unless there is an equal representation based on those criteria, the system is discriminatory.

Grades, attendance, and behavior do matter. That should be taught to all students regardless of their situation. To suggest that students of color or economic disadvantage cannot work hard, get good grades, attend school regularly and behave themselves is insulting to them and their families.

Candidates for admission to a vocational school in Massachusetts should be considered based upon their record of achievement and nothing else. To do it any other way is a disservice to all students and the system itself.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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