Another Sylvan Learning Center to open in Saratoga County

Audrey Waterfield, who is a co-owner of a Sylvan Learning Center in Wilton, is pictured with learning supplies at the new location on Mountain Ledge Drive on Tuesday.
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Audrey Waterfield, who is a co-owner of a Sylvan Learning Center in Wilton, is pictured with learning supplies at the new location on Mountain Ledge Drive on Tuesday.

WILTON — A Sylvan Learning Center set to open Saturday in Wilton is aiming to teach students various skills they need to excel in learning.

After three years of planning, Audrey and John Waterfield and Kim IaIa will be opening the center at 14 Mountain Ledge Drive inside the McGregor Village Office Park. They join 600 other franchise locations across the country and Canada. 

“One of the biggest things we’re excited about is being able to have this place established,” she said. “We have two little boys, they’re four and two and we’re so very excited to have them watch us build this from the ground up.”

Other centers are located in Clifton Park and Albany, with a satellite location in Saratoga Springs, according to the company’s website. 

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Audrey Waterfield has worked for Sylvan for seven years and her husband John has worked for the company at the Albany location for five years. 

While working at the Albany location, Audrey said she started doing market research and realized there was no center for families north of Clifton Park. 

There were talks of expanding into the market but then the Albany location owner passed away suddenly early this year, she said.

So, the Waterfields decided to open a center themselves. 

News of the opening comes as a recent report showed historically low test scores among students nationwide. The National Assessment of Education Progress showed that reading scores dropped to 1992 levels and nearly four in 10 eighth-graders couldn’t grasp basic math skills, according to an Associated Press article published Oct. 24. 

The assessment looked at fourth and eighth grades, which are key transitional years for students. 

It was the first comprehensive look at the impact the COVID pandemic had on education, said Emily Levitt, the vice president of education for Sylvan Learning Center. 

“Math fared worse than reading but both across the board [were] pretty bad,” Levitt said. “They’ve lost 20 years of progress in the scores, which was kind of shocking considering the disruption lasted a year and a half.” 

She said while schools have known that COVID affected learning, the recent report created a renewed urgency to get students back up to speed. 

“The kids that fared the worst are the kids who are usually the ones that get short-changed anyway — they’re kids of low socio-economic background, kids of color, so on,” she said. 

Levitt said opening another center gives parents and schools a way to help students who are struggling in school. 

Students that come to Sylvan are first given an assessment to determine the areas they most need help and then a program is structured around that. 

“So, say for example you have a kid who’s a year and half behind in reading, they probably don’t need every single reading skill for that year and half,” Levitt said. “They would’ve picked some up in school. Some will click as you’re working on other skills. So, we want to make sure that kids catch up as soon as humanly possible, so we don’t spend time on skills that they already know.”

Levitt said it’s a way of learning that can’t necessarily be done in a classroom where the number of students’ needs outmatched the number of available teachers. 

The tailored programs also allow students to work at their own pace, whereas in a classroom the teacher typically would need to move on to the next topic after a period of time. 

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But the program also focuses on building students’ confidence, which Levitt said is half the battle. 

She said when students build up their confidence their growth speeds up and they come to enjoy learning more. 

Audrey Waterfield said prior to opening they already had students come in to get help. Many people have signed up for the assessment as well, she said. 

Those looking at tutoring for their students can expect to pay anywhere from $48 to $62 per hour and there are financing options available. 

During the grand opening from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday people can sign up to have an initial assessment done for free. 

Schools also can contract with the center to provide programs to students, Levitt and Waterfield said. 

Waterfield said she currently has two schools — Maimonides Hebrew Day School in Albany and Vanderheyden Hall in Wynantskill — that are contracting for services and is in talks with additional school districts. 

Levitt said there is money available to schools to help pay for such services as well. She said federal funding for COVID relief in schools earmarks 20% for academic recovery.

“The U.S. Department of Education’s main recommendation is that it goes toward high dosage tutoring,” she said.

Waterfield said she is looking to hire more teachers. Currently she and her husband have degrees to teach secondary education, so from seventh to 12th grade, and IaIa is an elementary-level teacher. 

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“Until we have a massive number of students the three of us can actually handle instruction for the beginning,” she said. 

Levitt, who is a parent of two elementary-age boys, said parents should really start tracking their children’s education level to determine if they need extra help.

I would just say as a parent pay close attention to how your child is performing in school and if you think you have any questions about where your child stands in relation to where they should be I would say start asking a lot of questions to make sure you have good information,” she said. “There’s also I think a pervasive attitude out there that well my kids behind but all kids are behind right now.”

She also said some students already were behind and COVID exacerbated it. 

“The earlier you investigate the better off your child will be,” she said. 

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Categories: News, News, Saratoga County, Saratoga Springs

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