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LeBron James’ I Promise School is Winning in Education

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LeBron James

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:

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.” 

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4 Comments

  1. Amanda April 16, 2019

    I love that LeBron is supporting PUBLIC schools rather than recreating the wheel. He is providing the enveloping support to do more – more with the kids, more with the families, and more with the stability of the community. It all adds up!

    Reply
  2. EMM April 16, 2019

    It’s so good to hear positive news anytime but it’s particularly relevant in and for the Black community where so many of us are “at risk”. Marginalized children sometimes turn into marginalized adults and that’s not good. Standard and traditional education methodologies doesn’t work for everyone. Revitalizing and revamping our education system is critical. And if it takes food, high-fives and dancing to reach and raise up the most vulnerable (and their families by extension), then so be it. I hope that the school will be able to remain positive and keep up this good and very important work.

    Reply
  3. Dallas Crumpley April 16, 2019

    When Tiger Woods opened his TGR Foundation in 1996 when he was 20 years old, his emotional state was the same as Lebron’s was when Lebron opened his school last year: Jitters before the first day of school! I sincerely hope that Mr. James is able to achieve the same level of astounding success that Tiger has with his educational organization that has improved the lives of more than 165,000 young people the overwhelming majority of whom are minorities.

    Reply
  4. grannybunny April 16, 2019

    The Promise School — and all the support it provides the students and their entire families — may end up being LeBron’s greatest legacy. Hopefully, others will follow his lead and give back to their communities in such a substantial way.

    Reply

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