LeBron James’ I Promise School Faces Criticism as Eighth Graders Reportedly Haven’t Passed a Single Math Test in Three Years; School Responds


The LeBron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School in Akron, Ohio has responded to recent media coverage of “discouraging” test results.

As first reported by regional outlet the Akron Beacon Journal, soon-to-be eighth graders at the public school haven’t passed the math part of their state proficiency exam since the 2018/2019 schoolyear. At that time, the report notes, the students in question were third graders.

Of course, key to the time period in question is COVID-19. The impact of the pandemic was felt at schools nationwide, with many students and educators still adjusting to a changing landscape today. In fact, a source close to the situation tells Complex that reports focused on the available data from that time frame are, in turn, citing unreliable data.

LeBron James opens I Promise School for at-risk children - Sports  Illustrated

James’ foundation first launched the Akron-area school in 2018 with a focus on providing assistance to at-risk students. One year later, per reports at the time, test scores among students were shown to have increased drastically.

“We are reigniting dreams that were extinguished,” then-principal Brandi Davis said at the time. Tawanna Hamm, the school’s most recent principal, was confirmed last month to be leaving the position.

In response to the latest reports on test scores, a foundation spokesperson pointed to the long-term goals of I Promise and its team members.

LeBron James' I Promise School to Cost District Taxpayers Around $8M Per  Year | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors | Bleacher Report

“When we started this work to wraparound students through education, we entered this partnership with Akron Public School for the long haul,” a LeBron James Family Foundation spokesperson told Complex on Monday. “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 rep also said that the entire staff is “incredibly excited” about the upcoming school year under Stephanie Davis, the new principal dubbed as the “perfect person to lead” the school moving forward.

In a separate statement to Complex, Davis expressed similar optimism about what’s ahead.

LeBron James partners with company to help I Promise School - cleveland.com

“One of the things I’m most excited about coming into the I Promise School is the optimism and energy around getting our students to a level of achievement we know they’re capable of,” Davis said in an email. “At the recent Board meeting, our preliminary OST data was shared, but it’s important to note that proficiency is based on mastering grade-level standards. Our students have not yet met the grade-level mastery mark but they are demonstrating growth based on iReady scores. Of our incoming 8th graders, 32% met their annual typical growth in reading while 11% met their stretch goal for the year. Despite not mastering the grade-level standards, 42% of students demonstrated growth in iReady math across their 7th grade school year. When working with students who are achieving below grade level, growth is as important as a measure of progress as proficiency. And the type of growth that is important to us is not made overnight. It takes time.”

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