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The innovative program is having real results for its 240 students, with many more to come

By Jason Duaine Hahn
April 12, 2019 04:14 PM
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LeBron James Opens "I PROMISE" School
Credit: Allison Farrand/NBAE/Getty

In the short time since Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James opened his innovative I Promise School in Ohio, its at-risk students have already exceeded expectations.

According to a new report from the New York Times, children at the Akron-based school have seen their math and reading scores skyrocket since its opening in July 2018. After participating in the Measures of Academic Progress assessment, which scores efficiency in reading and math, 216 of 240 students were found to have met or exceeded their expected growth at the mid-year mark.

Coming into the school, reading comprehension scores for third- and fourth-grade students were in the lowest percentile, the Times reported. Today, third graders have advanced to the ninth percentile, while fourth graders rose to the 16th. In math, third graders were in the first percentile and have since jumped to 18th. Fourth graders went to the 30th percentile after being in the second.

“These kids are doing an unbelievable job, better than we all expected,” James, 34, told the newspaper of the children’s progress. “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,” he continued.

While the students — who were among the worst performers in the city’s public schools before joining I Promise — are still far behind when compared to normal grade levels. Their improvement in just one year shows James’ promise is steadily being fulfilled, even if there is far more work ahead.

“It’s encouraging to see growth, but by no means are we out of the woods,” Keith Liechty, a coordinator in Akron public school system’s Office of School Improvement, told the Times. “The goal is for these students to be at grade level, and we’re not there yet. This just tells us we’re going in the right direction.”

Liechty, who has been with the district for two decades, said it was apparent the I Promise School is doing something special, as this type of improvement would not have been expected even after an entire school year.

“For the average student, your percentile doesn’t move that much unless something extraordinary is happening,” he said.

LeBron James Opens "I PROMISE" School
Large inspirational murals at the I Promise School
| Credit: Allison Farrand/NBAE/Getty

James has poured millions of dollars into the school, which took nearly 10 years to create, according to ESPN.

While the school was built to serve at-risk children, it also offers parents an opportunity to finish high school, and even promises free tuition to the University of Akron upon graduation, ESPN said.

In addition, attendees receive free breakfast, lunch and snacks, as well as a free bike, reported Time. Students also have access to a fitness trainer.

The school’s first year will wrap up in May, and STEM-based camps will be offered in the summer. The school is expected to serve all grades from first to eighth in the next four years.

Now, I Promise’s inaugural students are readying to take the state’s standardized tests, according to Yahoo, with results expected in the summer.