TDSB votes in favour of making admissions process to specialized programs based on ‘interest’

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TDSB looks to change admission policy requirements for specialized school programming
WATCH ABOVE: TDSB looks to change admission policy requirements for specialized school programming. Morganne Campbell reports – May 3, 2022

The Toronto District School Board says it has voted in favour of changing its acceptance process for students applying to specialized programs and schools to an “interest” based application over an ability based one.

In a vote of 17 to 3, the board voted to amend the admissions process into programs tailored to arts, athletics, science, math and skilled trades.

Earlier, a report by the TDSB proposed that admissions should move away from demonstrated strength and/or ability of the skill and will prioritize a student’s interest in a particular program or school in order to remove systematic barriers such as geography, socio-economic background and race.

“It is our responsibility to take action to improve access for all students where we identify systemic barriers,” TDSB Chair Alexandra Brown said. “This new policy will ensure a greater number of students have access to these high-quality programs and schools while reducing barriers that have long-prevented many students from even applying.”

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Typically, students who want to go to a specialized school or get into a specialized program need to audition, submit certain materials for a portfolio, 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.

The TDSB also said it would use a random selection process, or a “lottery,” if the interest exceeds available space.

It also will create a “unified and consistent” application to streamline the process and promote fairness, the TDSB said.

“Every student with an interest, passion and motivation should have the opportunity to reach their full potential in local and central student interest programs at the TDSB. Our focus is on maintaining excellence and equity,” said Colleen Russell-Rawlins, director of education. “There is immense talent and brilliance among students who will benefit from these programs.”

Russell-Rawlins said feedback on making this new change occurred over two years from 7,800 people alongside an equity task force.

The implementation of the new policy is scheduled for the September 2023 school year, affecting those applying this upcoming fall.

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To prepare for the implementation, the TDSB laid out new policies and procedures. For example, enrollment limits for centralized programs/schools need 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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