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LeBron's 'I Promise' School Put on State Watchlist After School Board Notices Downward Spiral

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The Akron, Ohio, school that is the brainchild of NBA legend LeBron James is reportedly falling short of meeting critical educational benchmarks.

To date, not one single student in any of the three cohorts of eighth-grade students in the school has managed to reach the level of “proficient” in Ohio’s math proficiency test, according to Ideastream Public Media.

The school has been added to Ohio’s Additional Targeted Support and Improvement list, a watchlist of underperforming schools, according to the report.

“Not one? In three years?” Akron Public Schools board member Valerie McKitrick asked after learning of the school’s record, according to the Akron Beacon-Journal.

The school is a hybrid, getting the usual fiscal support from state and local taxpayers along with money from the LeBron James Family Foundation.

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“It is discouraging,” Keith Liechty-Clifford, the district’s director of school improvement, said.

Board President Derrick Hall said he was dismayed that the array of additional supports designed to boost student performance do not seem to having an impact.

“For me as a board member, I just think about all the resources that we’re providing,” Hall said.

“And …  I’m just disappointed that I don’t think, it doesn’t appear like we’re seeing the kind of change that we would expect to see,” he said.

Should LeBron’s school be shut down?

“Where I’m coming from is that we keep talking about the resources, the resources, the resources that we’re putting into the I Promise School, and the kids at the other schools don’t have anywhere near the same number of resources, and yet that the difference there is not what I would think it would be,” Hall said, according to Ideastream.

Akron Education Association President Pat Shipe said a deeper dive into what’s wrong at the school is called for, according to the Beacon-Journal.

“I think that the red flags that are being thrown up about the IPS are concerning,” the union president said.

“I think there have to be much deeper conversations and more data looked at before we can really address some of the issues that we’re seeing,” she said.

Making the watchlist requires that the performance of at least one student demographic subgroup be in the bottom 5 percent of the state.  Black students and students with disabilities met that standard at I Promise. Those are significant populations, because the school is 60 percent black and 28 percent of students have disabilities. The school only admits students who are at least two grade levels behind their peers, according to Ideastream.

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Although the students get extra resources, the school has had five principals since 2018. Almost 20 staff members, including some teachers, left the school last year alone,  Shipe said, according to Ideastream.

The LeBron James Family Foundation said making the school a success “requires a long term commitment, hard work, and a lot of love and care.”

“And that’s what we bring each and every day because the I Promise School is more than a school. We’re here for the ups and downs, and will continue to wraparound our students and their entire families so they can be successful in school and in life, no matter the challenges and obstacles that come their way,” the foundation said in a statement.

The school’s website claims that it has “specialized programming – from a longer school day, to its STEM curriculum with a ‘We Are Family’ philosophy – tailored to these students that creates a culture conducive to social-emotional learning.” The school also said it “provides wraparound supports that educate the whole person – with a focus on both academics and character building.”

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Jack Davis is a freelance writer who joined The Western Journal in July 2015 and chronicled the campaign that saw President Donald Trump elected. Since then, he has written extensively for The Western Journal on the Trump administration as well as foreign policy and military issues.
Jack Davis is a freelance writer who joined The Western Journal in July 2015 and chronicled the campaign that saw President Donald Trump elected. Since then, he has written extensively for The Western Journal on the Trump administration as well as foreign policy and military issues.
Jack can be reached at jackwritings1@gmail.com.
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