REVIEW OF Toronto STEM School BY parent, Beth Herst
- Date of Review
May 28, 2019
Gr. 9 - 11
(5) Student Experience
Both my sons have struggled with the math teaching in the public system. They were frustrated and demoralized. OAT offered them the chance to master their challenges, gain confidence, truly understand the principles underlying the work they were being asked to complete, and overcome their conviction that they simply "couldn't do math". Both my sons began with supplementary tutoring and enjoyed the experience so much they asked to take their full math credits with OAT. The program was rigorous but they were supported every step of the way. This was an excellent learning environment and experience for them both. Pursuing a credit in a private class setting is not for all students, but for those able to sustain the intensity it can be a very rewarding experience.
(5) School Leadership
We have never had a single problem with OAT's administration. Mr. Bahadour is always eager to address issues as soon as they arise. He is open to working with students and families on any concerns, always has positive solutions to offer, and treats students as equal partners in the learning experience. He expects students to do their part and always does much more than his own. When issues have arisen, he has been very patient and generous with his time in responding to student concerns.
I can comment on both the math and science instruction at OAT and believe both to be excellent. The teachers are highly qualified. They are also adept at providing the appropriate type of instruction to accommodate students' learning styles. This is not "one size fits all" teaching. I particularly like the fact that students are expected to meet a high standard of achievement and are given the support they need to do so through their own efforts. The workload is significant, but not unreasonable. There are very few "slow periods," however, so students should expect to be putting in time on the subject virtually every day, whatever the frequency of their scheduled classes. The frequency of tests feels appropriate, as does the pace at which the courses move.
As the name suggests, OAT focuses on STEM-related fields. I can only comment on the grades 9-11 science and math curriculum and teaching and I feel both are excellent. My sons learned a great deal more from their time at OAT than they were able to do within the public system or at previous, larger private schools. The high standards that my sons were expected to meet were a stretch for them, but the support they received enabled them to make the effort and succeed. The consistency of effort required was very good training for them. It would be great if OAT expanded the fields it focuses on, while still retaining the high standards of instruction. My sons would particularly have appreciated the opportunity for supplementary French tutoring and/or pursuing a French credit.
This question is not applicable to my sons' experience as part-time students at OAT. They did not seek extracurricular activities here. OAT seems to offer a variety of supplementary type activities relating to STEM, but I have no first-hand knowledge regarding them. I have given a mid-range numerical score for this section only because I have no knowledge, one way or the other, of this aspect of OAT's program.
Please see my answer for the preceding question. Both my sons were taking private or semi-private credit courses. They had almost no interaction with fellow students. I would point out that in semi-private learning the learning style and personality of the fellow student is clearly a factor in determining the nature of the learning experience. A successful shared (semi-private) credit course will match students who are not just at the same grade level, but who share a similar work ethic and whose learning styles are compatible. It may be preferable to opt for a private lesson format rather than compromise in this regard. I assume that any family that is considering a small, tightly focused school like OAT is not looking for a typical school experience.
(5) School Life
Again, I am commenting based on my sons' attendance as part-time students. They first attended OAT to receive supplementary tutoring, then as students for a full-year math credit (Grades 10 and 11). They were and are completely positive about the experience, have enormous personal liking and gratitude for their instructors, and were/are always perfectly happy with the quality of the instruction and the supportive and welcoming atmosphere. As I noted in my previous answer, OAT is a small and focused school. It will not provide a typical school experience with all of the supplementary social and athletic opportunities of a large school. If you are looking for a learning environment that allows students to learn a subject at a pace and in an environment that is responsive to them, OAT can provide that very well.
This question is not applicable for my family. Again, these are criteria that simply do not apply to the type of educational experience OAT aims to provide. As a parent, I have grown increasingly tired of the demands made on me by various other schools my sons have attended, whether in terms of my time or additional financial contributions. I am very grateful that my sons could attend classes at OAT, achieve the credits they needed, succeed in subject areas that had been difficult and frustrating for them previously. That is what we turned to OAT for and the school has provided (and continues to provide) precisely that. I do not feel any need to join a "community" beyond this or to be a more active participant in the life of the school. Please note the numerical score simply reflects the irrelevance of this criteria to our experience at OAT.
(5) School Location
OAT is conveniently located near a major intersection that is well served by public transportation. The space itself is clean, well-organized, and comfortable. My sons enjoyed the "urban vibe" of the location and the availability of a wide variety of cafes and shops. There are no "school grounds" as such given OAT's location. Once again, this was not a priority for my family at all.
The application process is very straightforward and not at all time-consuming. I had several discussions with OAT regarding the best approach to meeting my sons' needs. The opportunity to schedule supplementary tutoring at OAT before committing to full courses was particularly welcome. Mr. Bahadour responds very quickly to any questions and is very flexible in terms of scheduling. He understands the challenges of fitting private credit courses into a regular TDSB schedule. OAT has been very prompt and thorough in forwarding marks and credits and ensuring that the proper documentation is provided. Billing and tuition payments can all be managed through a simple and convenient online system. Once again, the nature of OAT means that the admissions process will vary depending on the type of educational need that is being met. I would strongly advise scheduling an appointment to speak to Mr. Bahadour to determine the right choices.