What Was Wrong With the TDSBs Attempt to Close Specialized Programs

By Josh Blatt

The TDSB previously announced in their Equity Task Force’s report that they would be planning for “optional attendance and specialized schools [to] be phased out.” This would mean the closing of programs such as advanced placement, gifted, cyberarts, MaCS, TOPS as well as many others. For obvious reasons, there was a large community uproar, as the school board threatened to close many of the programs that people are currently enrolled in or are passionate about. As a result, the taskforce amended their report and removed this clause. However, to many including myself, it is not clear what would have led them to believe that this would be beneficial. Are there reasons that specialized programs should be closed despite the Equity Task Force’s decision discard this idea? Or, was this an example of equity being stretched too far?

Toronto District School Board (TDSB)


Equity can be defined as the equality of outcome, rather than the equality of opportunity. For instance, giving every student the same amount of time to complete a test is an example of equality. In contrast, giving specific students who have been professionally determined to require extra time on tests is an example of equity. The objective of both equality and equity is to create fairness, but they evidently each do so in a slightly different manner.

Nevertheless, it seems as though the taskforce felt they could achieve equity by closing many of the specialized programs and redistributing the funds that were previously allocated for them amongst many of the less fortunate schools to improve them. Given that the objectives of extra time on tests and closing specialized programs are the same, why is the latter so much more controversial?

TDSB Education Office – Toronto, ON


The main distinction that must be made is that equity (generally speaking) is fairer than equality if it does not negatively affect the general population. For example, giving students who require it extra time on tests does not negatively impact the rest of the class. However, the situation becomes far more complex as soon as you take resources away from one group to give it another. In the case of the Equity Task Force’s initial recommendation of closing specialized programs, the students aspiring to attend and attending these programs would undoubtedly be negatively impacted. The question that should be asked to determine if this should be done is: would the benefits of the additional funding at worse off schools outweigh the benefits these specialized programs offer to the students? If this were to be the case, then the equity task force should have explained these to the public. But since this was not done and a blanket statement saying that specialized programs would be phased out, it is no surprise that the community responded as they did.

Josh Blatt is the Head Social Issues Editor for The Golden Falcon newspaper. Write a letter to the editor via email at FHCIGoldenFalcon@gmail.com.

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