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With state math scores lagging, Sylvan Learning completes first free summer tutoring program

Maryland’s latest state test scores have unveiled persistent struggles in math among students, particularly when compared to pre-pandemic levels. In Baltimore City, a mere 9.1% of third through eighth graders achieved proficiency in math during the last school year. However, a glimmer of hope emerged as 60 students from Baltimore recently completed a revolutionary summer learning initiative that stemmed from a Fox45 report.

The graduation ceremony for Sylvan Learning’s pioneering free summer tutoring program was attended by Project Baltimore. Students, including individuals like Kayden Thompson, gathered at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, location. Across three city sites, a total of 60 students enrolled in this program, which spanned 90 minutes a day, four days a week, over five weeks. With a core focus on mathematics, this program was offered without any charges.

Brian Pinkney, Kayden Thompson’s great uncle, expressed enthusiasm about the initiative. He noted, “It’s a great program… Tutoring at no cost, you can’t pass something like that up. It’s a great opportunity for him to learn math.”

The inception of this opportunity was catalyzed by a mother’s urgent plea for assistance. In a February interview with Project Baltimore, Nichelle Watkins emphasized the dire situation many students faced in Baltimore City, especially her son. She highlighted the stark reality that a black male child in the city might seemingly have only two paths ahead: incarceration or death. Her son was considerably behind in his education, attending Johnston Square Elementary, one of the 23 schools where Project Baltimore’s investigation discovered that not a single student achieved proficiency in math in 2022.

Watkins’s impassioned call for help resonated, and Sylvan Learning and the University of Maryland, Baltimore, joined forces. The university provided the space, and Sylvan offered the tutoring services. The program began by assessing the students and concluded with a reassessment to measure their progress.

Nick Kouwenhoven, Executive Director of the Academy of Lifelong Learning at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, highlighted the significance of community programs. He remarked, “If you look at the enormity of the statistics you described, it could be something that is daunting or depressing. Or, you can build programs and begin to deliver in the community and invite families and help the kids.”

Sylvan Learning’s George Beck underlined the importance of foundational skills. He stated, “You could be in pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, but if you don’t know your multiplication tables, that’s gonna be hard for you… We want to go back and build those foundational skills so you could build and grow and take it any direction that you really want to.”

By the end of the program, each child had received approximately $1,500 worth of free tutoring. The overarching aim was to mitigate the summer learning loss, ensuring that the love for learning remained active throughout the break and to better prepare the students for the forthcoming school year.

Sylvan Learning’s success with this program has prompted them to expand their efforts to more Baltimore locations next summer. Their commitment to offering free opportunities arises from the realization that certain families might be priced out of such services, thus restricting their children’s access to quality education. The program’s triumph has ignited discussions about its potential replication in other cities.

Ultimately, the impact of initiatives like this extends beyond the classroom. They represent the rallying spirit of communities, educators, and organizations to uplift and empower the younger generation, underscoring the transformative power of education.

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