Toronto school board cancels auditions and exams for special programs and schools

The Toronto District School Board plans to do away with entrance exams, grade evaluations, and auditions as a way to decide who gets accepted into dozens of highly sought-after specialty schools and programs.

The staff has developed a new admissions policy for the TDSB’s specialized programs, which will be submitted to the board of trustees for final approval later this month.

The board says the new policy will enable schools to “move from a model that only accepts those with proven strength and/or ability” to one that gives all students who show an interest an equal opportunity to enroll for one of the programs.

“The proposed policy aims to address a decade of data consistently showing that not all students have benefited equally from TDSB’s specialized programs,” notes a post on the TDSB’s website. “While these programs have provided incredible opportunities, benefits, and experiences for some students, barriers to entry – including admissions processes, admission 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 council special programs starting this fall. That policy, in turn, would apply to students applying for special programs for September 2023 and beyond.

Staff say students may still be asked to share their “passion, interest, and motivation” in the field as part of the application and, in some circumstances, be asked to submit “reflections or demonstrations of creativity.”

But they say academic grades will no longer be taken into account and executives will not be allowed to use entrance exams and formal auditions to evaluate candidates.

They are also prohibited from collecting registration fees.

“Students who meet the basic application requirements will be considered for a random selection process if demand exceeds available places,” notes the staff report. “Priority access will be given to students who self-identify as representatives of today’s and historically disadvantaged communities and students living 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 educational experiences and/or requirements.”

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