These are not your father's vocational schools.

Back when I was in high school, if you went to a vocational school, it was probably because you were a motorhead or you were a misfit. With some exceptions, vocational schools were for those who couldn't handle the college-bound or business curriculum offered at the traditional high school.

Times have changed.

Admission to the Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School is a highly sought-after prize for many students. There are a limited number of slots available and an ever-growing list of students who want them. There are several reasons for this.

Many students today are turned off to the high cost and political correctness of today's higher education system and instead would prefer to learn a trade that has tremendous earning potential. Still others look to avoid the public school system, which has become a dumping ground for all of society's ills.

Vocational and technical schools such as GNB Voc-Tech are results-oriented. Better than 90 percent of GNB Voc-Tech students pass MCAS and continue their education or training upon graduating. A contributing factor to the success of these schools is a rigid discipline policy. You screw up, and you're out. Public schools are no longer allowed to deal with discipline issues.

When you are competing for a limited number of seats at a school such as GNB Voc-Tech, you've got to behave yourself. You have to show up every day, work hard, be a good citizen, and earn a spot on the roster. Selecting students based on their race or gender or because they've won a lottery will weaken and eventually undermine the school's success.

Politicians, faced with sagging MCAS scores and soaring discipline and social issues, would love to share their load with the vocational schools. Instead, public school systems should commit to retooling to provide options such as vocational and technical training for students and support a school voucher program that would allow parents to send their kids to the school of their choice.

State education officials plan to discuss vocational admissions at their December meeting. Rather than weaken an already successful system, the state should examine ways to expand that system to include public schools across Massachusetts.

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.

Enter your number to get our free mobile app