Lerbron James catching basketball

In July of 2018, professional basketball player, Lebron James, launched the I Promise School in Akron, Ohio. At that time, it was regarded as little more than an experiment.

In July of 2018, professional basketball player, Lebron James, launched the I Promise School in Akron, Ohio. At that time, it was regarded as little more than an experiment.

Now, the aptly named school is indeed showing promise. Supported by the LeBron James Family Foundation, the school is enjoying success in many areas. In their very first set of district assessments, test scores of 3rd and 4th graders were very high. In the subjects of reading and math, 90 percent of students met or exceeded their individual growth goals, surpassing their peers throughout the public school district.

About the School

In spring of 2018, the students now attending the I Promise School were identified as having behavioral problems and were flagged as the poorest performers in the Akron Public School District. It was believed that some of the students as young as eight years old were at risk of flunking their grade entirely. The district identified prospective I Promise students as those performing in the 10th to 25th percentile on their 2nd Grade assessments. A lottery was then used to select the students who would attend the new School.

A private math tutor in Irvine commented “I really admire how Lebron continues to give back to the community he grew up in, and I hope more stars will follow his lead”.

Public Not Private

Unlike other learning institutions associated with celebrities, the I Promise School is not run by a private operator as a charter school. Rather, it is a public school run by the Akron School District.  According to an article in the New York Times by Erica L. Green, Mr. James stated that the students are doing much better than anyone expected, and that people in the community will now understand the lack of education these students were receiving prior to transferring to the I Promise School.

The school’s initial budget was two million dollars, and is funded by the district. However, Mr. James’s foundation has provided approximately $600,000 to help reduce class sizes, increase teaching staff, and add an extra hour of after school tutoring or mentoring for students who need such services. Additionally, all students attending the I Promise School–as well as students attending other schools in the Akron district who are enrolled in the I Promise program–will receive scholarships to the University of Akron if they meet certain academic criteria.

The Culture

“Habits of Promise” is the motto on which the culture of the school was built. The specific promises to which the motto refers are “perpetual learning, preservation, partnering and perspective, and problem solving.” The school also uses the slogan “We Are Family,” which is printed on walls and emblazoned on T-shirts.

Nataylia Henry, a 4th grader now attending I Promise School had 50 absences during her last school year. She was quoted in the aforementioned article as stating she would rather sleep than face school bullies. Her overall attendance rate at I Promise is now 80 percent; a significant improvement.

Lebron’s Continued Involvement

Mr. James has visited the institution twice since the school year began, and he also sends video messages and is featured on wallpaper and murals throughout the building. By 2022, the school is expected to serve over 700 children in 3rd through 8th grade. According to USA Today, Mr. James stated that the opening of the school was the greatest moment of his life. Critics are waiting excitedly to watch how students will be served in the future by the I Promise School and its staff of educators.