David Ferreira & Chris Sinacola on MA’s Nation-Leading Voc-Tech Schools

This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Chris Sinacola and David Ferreira, co-editors of Pioneer’s new book, Hands-On Achievement: Massachusetts’s National Model Vocational-Technical Schools. They share information from their new book on the story of the Bay State’s nation-leading voc-tech schools, and how accountability tools from the state’s 1993 education reform law propelled their success. They talk about the pivot from the singular focus on occupational education, to a more balanced approach that required a solid grounding in high-quality reading and math skills. They review Massachusetts’s voc-tech schools’ status as high schools of choice, and how this impacts these schools’ remarkable graduation rates, and high demand. They discuss voc-tech schools’ success at educating special needs students, who enroll in these schools at disproportionately high rates. They explore how best to close racial achievement gaps, and how voc-techs have partnered with businesses and unions alike to help place their students in careers. The interview concludes with a reading from their new book.

Stories of the Week: In New Mexico, the Governor has submitted an education reform plan, after a 2018 court order requiring statewide education reforms to address inequities impacting students with disabilities, English language learners English, Native Americans, low-income students. Has the focus on raising academic achievement pushed out physical education from K-12 schools?

The next episode will air on Weds., June 15th, with Dr. Margaret “Macke” Raymond, the founder and director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University.


Chris Sinacola has more than 35 years of experience in journalism, marketing, health care, and freelance writing. He was a reporter and editor at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette from 1987 until 2015. He is the author of Images of America: Sutton (2004) and Images of America: Millbury (2013) and editor of Pioneer Institute’s The Fight for the Best Charter Public Schools in the Nation (2018) and A Vision of Hope: Catholic Schooling in Massachusetts (2021). Sinacola holds a bachelor’s degree in Italian Studies from Wesleyan University.

David Ferreira spent his professional career as a vocational-technical teacher, coordinator, and principal, 16 years as superintendent of a regional school district, and was inducted into the Diman Regional Voc-Tech Hall of Fame. As Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators, he advocated for high-quality programming for voc-tech districts and collaborated with postsecondary institutions and apprenticeship programs. Mr. Ferreira received his master’s degree in Secondary School Administration from Providence College. He served on the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) Commission on Technical and Career Institutions and the state’s Vocational Technical Advisory Council and was an adjunct faculty member at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and Fitchburg State University.

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News Links:

Jay Mathews: What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement.


New Mexico’s education reform plan presented to tribal leaders


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