Sylvan wins pact to expand city tutoring


Sylvan Learning Systems Inc. yesterday won approval from the Board of Estimates for its $9 million expansion this fall in Baltimore schools.

With Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke absent and Council President Mary Pat Clarke abstaining, the board approved a set of three-year contracts for new school-based tutoring centers.

With related contracts approved last month, the decision allows Sylvan to expand from 14 centers to 29 centers serving about 4,000 Baltimore students in 25 schools, most of them middle schools.

"This moves us to the point where Sylvan is becoming a regular part of the middle school experience in Baltimore," said Doug Becker, company president.

The request passed yesterday despite criticism by Mrs. Clarke, the board president, of the dearth of detail available to document the effectiveness of the tutoring programs in the city schools. The board had postponed making a decision last month, demanding proof that students benefited from Sylvan's services.

"I can't vote for this, because I don't know what to make of it," Mrs. Clarke said. She voiced support for the company's efforts, but asked for test scores and an accounting of Sylvan's guarantee to give schools free hours of tutoring when its students' test scores do not improve.

Sylvan spokesmen did not present data at the meeting. Mr. Becker said the company will deliver performance results to Mrs. Clarke.

Yesterday, Sylvan submitted only a chart comparing an experimental group of Sylvan students from Pimlico Middle to a control group of students from three other schools.

According to the chart, 89 percent of the experimental group passed the Maryland Functional Test of math in fall 1994, more than at the three control schools. It says 49 percent of all Baltimore students who took the test passed.

"Students that received the Sylvan program treatment scored significantly higher than non-Sylvan students," reported L'Tanya Sloan, chief of accountability and curriculum for the school system.

Mr. Schmoke was in Washington and not available to comment.

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