Admission to Arts and Specialized High Schools in Toronto Will Change

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The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) hopes to change the rules for admission to arts and public special secondary schools in Toronto.

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This causes consternation in some circles.

A change.org online petition, signed by more than 3,700 people, asks everyone to fight for these specialized programs and allow them to “retain their unique identity”.

The TDSB wants special auditions, entrance exams, admission fees and report card results to be set aside as criteria for admission to special high school programs that allow students to major in the arts, science or athletics.

As research clearly demonstrates, the children most often entering these competitive entry schools are from high-income families.

Trying to broaden the field of candidates will now depend on a student’s ability to express interest or passion for a pursuit.

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This does not mean that admission standards are ignored.

“It won’t change the education involved, just how students access it,” TDSB spokesman Ryan Bird said. “It opens up more programs to more kids.”

Specialized education will be maintained, he added.

“It is the students who demand access to this education who will be expanded. And it is already in place in some schools.

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Some Toronto arts schools have already opened the admissions process and no longer require auditions to enter. But other schools have pretty strict admission criteria into very specific programs, and it’s unclear how that can be changed.

Bird explained that each school will go through an admissions process, and then a centralized TDSB admissions committee would make final decisions through a random selection process.

The finer details are still being worked out and will be submitted to the board for review at the end of May.

A lifelong educator who preferred to remain anonymous said it doesn’t have to be a gold standard of inclusion.

The TDSB admissions changes, she said, “will allow for a wider range of students, which is commendable, but how will they support teachers who now have to cover a wider variety of teaching needs?

“What changes will be made to the system to allow for flexibility? What changes will be made to support teachers so they can teach a new population?

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