NBA star LeBron James’ I Promise School in Akron, Ohio, is doing great things.
Their academic results opened eyes as the students exceeded expectations on their first district assessment — 90 percent met or exceeded individual growth goals in reading and math.
The school, which opened in July 2018 and had 240 students in the inaugural class, is “helping close the achievement gap in Akron,” according to The New York Times.
In July, James said opening the school would be one of the greatest moments in his life:
The jitters before the first day of school are real right now!!! Tomorrow is going to be one of the greatest moments (if not the greatest) of my life when we open the #IPROMISE School. This skinny kid from Akron who missed 83 days of school in the 4th grade had big dreams… https://t.co/PwmRaHRfng
— LeBron James (@KingJames) July 29, 2018
Upon hearing the news about the students doing exceeding well, James told the Times, “These kids are doing an unbelievable job, better than we all expected. When we first started, people knew I was opening a school for kids. Now people are going to really understand the lack of education they had before they came to our school. People are going to finally understand what goes on behind our doors.”
What is this school doing that most other schools aren’t?
Students at the school are aware that they are part of something special. As students walk in the door, they are greeted with a buffet breakfast. As they stroll down the hall, staff embraces them with hugs and high fives. This is all going on as everyone dances to “We Are Family.”
I Promise is actually a public school funded by the district but James’ foundation has contributed around $600,000 for additional teaching staff and after-school programs and tutors. I Promise does not just service its students, it provides families with a resource center funded by James.
Parents are given G.E.D. preparation classes, work advice, health and legal services and even a quarterly barbershop. There is a room filled with bins of clothing and shelves of food. At any time, parents can come and take what they need.
I Promise is taking students who were once considered irredeemable and turning their lives around. “We are reigniting dreams that were extinguished — already in third and fourth grade,” said Brandi Davis, the school’s principal. “We want to change the face of urban education.”
While 9 out of 10 I Promise students met their goals, the odds are still stacked against them. The reality is the hill to being middle of the pack is steep.
Keith Liechty, an Office of School Improvement coordinator within the Akron public schools system, told the Times, the I Promise students are not “out of the woods” and may have more challenges in comparison to non-urban education students. But he added, “your percentile doesn’t move that much unless something extraordinary is happening.”