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Student Interest Programs Policy – Questions and Answers

What is the timeline for the Special Interest Programs Policy?

  • The draft policy – the overarching direction of the work – went to the Governance and Policy Committee Meeting on April 27
  • The draft policy will be discussed at the Regular Board Meeting on May 25
  • If approved, on June 16, related procedures, which lay out the finer details of how the policy is implemented, will be presented at the Governance and Policy Committee Meeting 
  • Fall 2022 the new centralized application process will be in place for students applying for the 2023-2024 school year

The changes that have been outlined in the final draft of the policy would be put in place in the fall of 2022 and would only impact cohorts of students applying for September 2023 and in future years.

What impact will this have on students who are currently enrolled in specialized schools and programs?
Students currently registered in Specialized Programs would continue in their current programs until graduation / program completion. The TDSB is committed to offering specialized programs and is working to ensure that these valuable programs are accessible and available to all students.

Does this policy impact all specialized schools and programs or just the Arts-based programs? 
The Policy puts in place changes to the admissions practices in all TDSB Centralized Programs and Schools which includes nearly 40 programs such as High Performing Athletes, Arts, Africentric, Math, Science & Technology, Integrated Technology, Leadership Pathway and Cyber Arts. Please note that French Immersion and Special Education Intensive Support Programs do not fall under the purview of this Policy. The International Baccalaureate program is an external program. A review will be conducted in the 2022-2023 school year to determine the most equitable admissions processes that align with the mandate of the International Baccalaureate Organization.
 
What data or evidence informed this change in policy? 

The Student Interest Programs Policy was developed following extensive consultation and feedback from students, parents/guardians, staff, TDSB Community Advisory Committees, and the broader community, as well as a review of best practices, system data, and TDSB enrollment trends. More information can be found here.

How will students express/demonstrate interest in a program?
Expressions of interest will be dependent on the program:

  • In the Arts, students may express how their involvement in the Arts has played an important part of their development. It could include samples of work and/or written submissions, etc. 
  • In the area of Math, Science and Technology, a student may be asked to share how their passion for math or science has shaped their learning, or an area of inquiry that they would like to pursue.
  • In some programs, students might express why attending a Centralized program/school would be important to them and their education.

Will the removal of auditions and a random selection process impact the quality of the program?
No. We have every confidence that educators will continue, with support where needed, to deliver high-quality programming to all students. 
A random selection process will only be used where interest exceeds the spaces available and would value the talent and passion of all applicants equitably. Each eligible student is equally deserving of consideration.
 
Can someone who is “interested” in a specialized program experience success in these programs?
Yes. TDSB schools offer programs that are challenging and support the success of all students. Centralized programs must be designed to do the same. Students with different experiences, who are equally deserving, can be just as successful. All students with interest and passion have the ability to grow, thrive and experience success with the support of dedicated teachers.

Will the removal of majors and a lack of specialization impact the quality of Arts programs?
No. Broadening the program structure and allowing interested students the flexibility to explore multiple areas of the arts helps to support better access to programs. Students can still elect to focus on one arts area, but can also have the flexibility of exploring other areas of the arts. 
 
Do any other TDSB schools or programs use this proposed admissions process?
Yes. A number of specialized schools/programs have already taken steps to make their admissions process more accessible, prior to the writing of this new policy. At Rosedale Heights School For the Arts for example, auditions are not used. Students share expressions of interest and are selected for the program. Students are given the opportunity to “experience” the arts in grades 9 and 10 and then focus on a major in grades 11 and 12. At Ursula Franklin Academy, students have always been selected from an eligible pool using a random selection process and just last year shifted from an entrance exam,  written essay, and a review of report cards to a random selection process without any criteria.
 
Is the TDSB reducing Arts programming?
No. While the Policy addresses changes to the admissions practices in Centralized Programs in the Arts, there are no proposed reductions in funding or staffing. In fact, we strongly believe that centralized programs should be expanded in areas of the city where programs are not currently available. Additionally, we are committed to building diverse course options through the implementation of the Secondary Program Review that expands students’ choices in local secondary schools to include learning opportunities in music, arts, sciences, technology and leadership.
 
What is the Arts Task Force?
The creation of a TDSB Arts Task Force was a recommendation to the Board and has not yet been approved by the Board or established. Once plans are made for it, more information will be shared widely with the system.

How is the TDSB operationalizing the Student Interest Programs Policy?
Student Interest Programs are operating in nearly 40 schools across the TDSB. Our new online application system will be managed centrally through the new School Information System, PowerSchool.

How are Student Interest Programs funded?
Student Interest Programs are funded by each school. Schools receive individual budgets linked to student enrollment to support the educational programming offered in the school. Part of the plan to improve access and further meet students’ needs, includes expanding programs, which is supported through the work of the Secondary Program Review. Additionally, plans are underway to strengthen local programs, many of which do not cost additional funding.

Why are the 2020 Specialized Schools Programs document and the 2022 Student Interest Programs Policy different?
As is the case with policy consultations, public input and feedback was sought to help better inform the policy decisions that are being made. The draft policy was updated and changed in response to the feedback that the TDSB received from the public, as well as TDSB staff. 
 

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