LeBron James' I Promise School, located in Akron, Ohio, is currently facing severe criticism from members of the Akron Public School Board due to a troubling revelation. Recent reports have disclosed that this year's incoming 8th-grade class has not produced a single student who passed the state math test in over three years.
The shocking news left board member Valerie McKitrick astonished as she expressed her disbelief, saying, "Not one? In three years?" The data presented to her revealed that not a single student from the fall 8th-grade class at the I Promise School could achieve proficiency in the Ohio state math test, per the Akron Beacon Journal.
Keith Liechty-Clifford, the district director of school improvement in Akron, expressed his discouragement with the newly discovered information.
Despite substantial financial support from the James Foundation, as well as local, state, and federal funding, the I Promise School's performance among students has been deeply concerning. These students now find themselves testing in the bottom 5% in the entire state.
As a result of these distressing test scores, the Ohio Department of Education will be stepping in to intervene at the I Promise School. This intervention is a last-ditch effort to reverse the declining trend in test performance and address the challenges the school is facing.
Liechty-Clifford responded, "It is discouraging."
The Ohio Department of Education also issued a concern about the school because black students and those with disabilities are testing in the bottom 5% of students in the state.
School Board President Derrick Hall said Monday was the first time he had seen such an overview of the school in his almost four years on the board. He said, "For me as a board member, I just think about all the resources that we're providing." Hall added, "And I just, 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."
According to its website, the I Promise School, which operates as a public school in conjunction with the LeBron James Family Foundation was founded in July 2018 "with a mission to wrap around the most at-risk students and families in Akron." It offers students "free tuition, free uniforms, free bicycle & helmet, free transportation within two miles, free breakfast lunch and snacks, and a food pantry for families."
Students in the district who are in the bottom 25% of reading scores get entered into a lottery. Parents can choose to send their children to the I Promise School or keep them enrolled in their current school if picked.
On top of the standard state funding for the school, the LeBron James Family Foundation donates $1.4 million each year to pay for more tutors and teachers to lower class sizes.
The foundation said in a statement after Monday's meeting: "When we started this work to wraparound students through education, we entered this partnership with Akron Public School for the long haul."
It continued, "Because this work 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 report notes that kids at the school are typically two years behind their peers. Reacting to the findings Leichty-Clifford said, "If I could take kids who are two and three years behind, and get them on the level in one year, I'd probably resign and take my show on the road."
Stephanie Davis was appointed as the new principal of the school this year. The district said in a statement she "is the perfect person to lead the I Promise School and all of our families to the success we know they will achieve. Because we will do it together, as a family."
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