Baltimore is expanding the role of a private tutoring firm in an effort to help another 500 schoolchildren who have fallen as much as three grades behind in reading and math.
Sylvan Learning Centers will bring its individualized tutoring to students at two middle schools -- Pimlico and Greenspring, the mayor announced yesterday.
The Columbia-based company already took over remedial tutoring at six city elementary schools last spring.
"Sylvan has really shown themselves to be effective with the remedial education," Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said at his weekly press briefing. "I think the state has been convinced by their effectiveness."
The state gave Baltimore a series of grants for poor children, of which $1.3 million has been targeted for the tutoring expansion.
Sylvan will re-create classrooms at the two schools in the image of the 500 private tutoring centers it runs across the United States and Canada.
Parents pay nothing for the individualized teaching, which otherwise would cost $30 an hour. The company transforms classrooms with fresh paint, new carpets and horseshoe-shaped tables at which teachers work with just a few students. Computers, games and machines that talk to students supplement the one-on-one traditional exercises and textbooks.
Sylvan already is providing its professional tutoring methods for 800 children in the city. The program has been highly praised by parents and teachers alike.
There's been almost no criticism of the tutoring in contrast to the controversial Tesseract initiative. The Baltimore Teachers Union has vehemently opposed the pioneering experiment in privatization in which a Minneapolis firm took over the operation of nine faltering schools.
In December, the union sued to challenge the legality of the five-year contract with Education Alternatives Inc.