When LeBron James opened his “I Promise” school in the summer of 2018, a public school in Akron that is operated by the school district and serves children from low-income families who were at risk of not even graduating grade school, there was a mix of joy and skepticism. The school is pristine, as are its resources, but many of the children admitted through a lottery were thought to already be a lost a cause. Early results, per the New York Times, show the opposite.
The NYT reports that 90 percent of the initial class of third and fourth grade students at the I Promise school “met or exceeded individual growth goals in reading or math,” a number that beats many of their fellow students in schools across the district.
The scores reflect students’ performance on the Measures of Academic Progress assessment, a nationally recognized test administered by NWEA, an evaluation association. In reading, where both classes had scored in the lowest, or first, percentile, third graders moved to the ninth percentile, and fourth graders to the 16th. In math, third graders jumped from the lowest percentile to the 18th, while fourth graders moved from the second percentile to the 30th.
The 90 percent of I Promise students who met their goals exceeded the 70 percent of students districtwide, and scored in the 99th growth percentile of the evaluation association’s school norms, which the district said showed that students’ test scores increased at a higher rate than 99 out of 100 schools nationally.
While James and employees of the school are thrilled with the initial results, they caution that this is just the beginning of a steep climb for the 240 students of I Promise. They kids are still a long ways away from coming to close to performing at their own grade levels. But the enormous leap they’ve made has teachers feeling like the school is moving in the right direction.
“These were the children where you went and talked with their old teachers, and they said, ‘This will never work,’” said Michelle Campbell, executive director of the LeBron James Family Foundation. “We said give them to us.”