TDSB to change process for admissions to specialized programs, schools based on ‘interest’

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WATCH: The Toronto District School Board is looking to make its specialized programs more inclusive by removing some of the barriers that hinder some children's opportunities to apply to such schools The goal is to provide equitable access to all. Morganne Campbell has more in this report – May 3, 2022

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) says it is looking at changing the way students are accepted into specialized programs and schools such as those tailored to arts, athletics and skilled trades.

A report by the TDSB details that admissions will move away from demonstrated strength and/or ability of the skill and will prioritize a student’s interest in a particular program or school.

Typically, students who want to go to a specialized school or get into a specialized program need to audition, submit certain materials, do entrance examinations, or have certain report card marks.

Instead, the report indicates a change of criteria such as statements or expressions of interest, as well as reflections or demonstrations of creativity will be required. For athletic programs, they suggest practice schedules and coach letters.

Read more: TDSB chair expresses concerns about effects of COVID-related isolation on kindergarten students

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“All students will have equitable access to both local and centralized programs that support their interest and success,” the report read.

“The changes and decisions outlined in the policy are intended to address the decade-worth of data that consistently shows that not all students have benefited equitably from our specialized programs.”

The report indicated, based on feedback and research, that some of the previous screening tool processes had excluded some students from certain programs. It used arts programs as an example that some of those programs may not recognize all forms of dance under the current admissions criteria.

The implementation of the new policy is scheduled for September 2023 school year, subject to approval, the report noted.

To prepare for the implementation, the TDSB laid out new policies and procedures. For example, enrollment limits for centralized programs/schools needs to be in place by October 2022.

In addition, applications would need “standard, interest-based admissions criteria and a centralized online application” by November or December 2022.

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