In the early 2000s, the team at Sylvan Learning began brainstorming ways they could reach students that weren’t in the Sylvan system but were struggling to succeed and could benefit from the brand’s services. It was through that desire to help at-risk youth that the Ace It! program was born. The group reading and mathematics intervention program officially got its start in 2004 as part of the No Child Left Behind Act. The act said that schools that were not meeting their benchmarks were required to offer supplemental education services to students in poverty who were struggling to keep up in school, both academically and socially.
As part of the Ace It! program, Sylvan Learning teachers take education outside of the four walls of the centers and travel to schools and Boys & Girls Clubs across the country to provide approximately 30 hours of focused group education for students in kindergarten through 8th grade with rigorous curricula. An initial assessment helps teachers gauge each student’s individual needs and is used to measure growth.
“Our primary goal in education is making sure students are proficient in reading and math. Education in the Ace It! program is mostly focused on those two subjects. Our goal is to build confidence among students who are struggling in school,” said Tabatha Sweeney, senior director of contract programs at Sylvan Learning. “These are kids that were performing at the bottom of the class that are stepping up to the plate and finding they had the power to ‘ace tests’ all along, they just needed that extra push. A lot of these kids walk into Ace It! hating school and not feeling confident in their work but after a few sessions, all of a sudden they begin to feel on par with their peers.
The students aren’t the only ones who benefit from this program. Sylvan Learning teachers form strong bonds with the students and get to enjoy the emotional rewards of watching children learn and grow.
“I’ll never forget when I met a 4th grader in my group of students named Alicia. She was having a harder time understanding the concepts and was beginning to notice that other kids were going faster,” said Christopher Pittner, Sylvan Learning franchisee in McKinney, Texas. “I spent time with her one-on-one, and by the time we finished, she was so proud of what she had accomplished. She walked out of the Ace It! program with her head held high and the confidence to know she could do anything she put her mind to.”
In 2014, more than 30,000 Texas students dropped out of school, but a 2016 study shows Pittner is making a dent in that statistic through the Ace It! program. Ace It! teamed up with a local Texas mentoring program and helped more than 16,000 Texas kids bring their math and reading test scores up by an average of 10 to 15 points. The 2016 Rockman study shows that after going through the Ace It! Program, students not only performed at levels expected of grade-level peers, but often exceeded expectations based on assessment norms. More than 96 percent of students improved their reading and math scores and have more confidence in their academic abilities.
“When we first meet kids in the program, they’re confident when it comes to talking about basketball and music but clam up when I ask about subjects like math and reading. By the time they leave, they’ve built up that confidence in education and walk so much taller. It’s the most rewarding feeling because education is the most powerful tool to set them up for success,” Pittner said.
Sylvan Learning’s commitment to one-on-one individualized attention is what helps the Ace It! program succeed. With more than 750 locations through North America, Sylvan learning is the leading provider of personal learning for students in grades K-12. Through Ace It! and in Sylvan centers across the country, Sylvan is helping to inspire students to succeed in school and life.