TDSB planning to do away with auditions and entrance exams for specialty programs and schools

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The Toronto District School Board is planning to do away with entrance exams, grade evaluations and auditions, as a means of deciding who gets admitted to dozens of highly sought after specialty schools and programs.

Staff have developed a new admissions policy for the TDSB’s specialized programs, which will go before the board of trustees for final approval later this month.

The board says that the new policy will allow schools to “move away from a model that only accepts those with demonstrated strength and/or ability” towards a model that will provide all students who express an interest with an equal chance to enroll in one of the programs.

“The proposed policy is intended to address a decade-worth of data that consistently shows that not all students have benefited equitably from TDSB’s specialized programs,” a post on the TDSB’s website notes. “While these programs have provided incredible opportunities, benefits, and experiences for some students, barriers to access – including admission processes, entrance criteria and geography – have limited these opportunities for a significant number of students.”

The TDSB’s new policy would create a centralized application for all of the board’s specialty programs as of this fall. That policy would, in turn, apply to students applying for acceptance to speciality programs for September 2023 and beyond.

Staff say that students could still be asked to share their “passion, interest and motivation” in the subject area as part of the application.

But they say that academic marks will no longer be considered, and administrators will not be allowed to use entrance exams and auditions as a means of evaluating candidates.

They will also be prohibited from collecting application fees.

“Students meeting the base requirements of application will be considered for a random selection process if demand exceeds available spaces,” the staff report notes. “Priority access will be given to students self-identifying as representing currently and historically underserved communities and students who are residing in the City of Toronto.”

The TDSB says that as part of the new policy schools will have flexibility “to accommodate all students, including English Language Learners and those with Special Education experiences and/or requirements.”