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‘Unbelievable’: Eighth Graders at LeBron James’ I Promise School Are Struggling with ‘Discouraging’ Test Results After Failing to Pass State Math Exam For a Third Year, Board Responds

LeBron James’ experimental I Promise School, which serves the most at-risk children in Akron, Ohio, is struggling to help students achieve passing marks on the state’s standardized math exam.

According to the Akron Beacon Journal, not a single pupil of the inaugural class of third graders has passed the test in three years. The school, which is partially funded and operated by the LeBron James Foundation, opened its doors in 2018, and is part of the Akron Public Schools system.

LeBron James and I Promise School students (Photo: Ipromiseschool/Instagram)

I Promise School is open to children in grades first through eighth. The curriculum caters to youth who have academically fallen behind by up to two years. On Monday, July 31, the students began eighth grade as their low test scores, which fall well below proficiency, made the school the subject of widespread headlines.

“It is discouraging,” said Keith Liechty-Clifford, APS director of school improvement, at a July 24 school board meeting. As reported by the 2021–2022 Ohio schools report card, less than 25 percent of the students at I Promise School achieved basic and proficient scores on the math portion of the statewide exam.

Board members have spoken out to express their unwavering support of the school’s efforts. “When we started this work to wraparound students through education, we entered this partnership with Akron Public School for the long haul. Because this work requires a long-term commitment, hard work, and a lot of love and care,” a spokesperson for the foundation told Complex.

“We’re here for the ups and downs and will continue to wrap around 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,” continued the statement.

Public reactions to the news have ranged from criticism to an array of questions. Some remarks include:

“ZERO is genuinely unbelievable. They have to be teaching those kids legitimately nothing for not one of them to pass in 3 years.”

“Maybe they didn’t pass but was there growth? I’d be curious to see the numbers from year to year.

“…things that must be taken into account when dealing with this demographics in education; food security being one of them. Are these kids coming to school hungry? Home life, access to study material, including the Internet.”

The school is said to be implementing major changes as the school year gets underway, including a change in leadership with the hiring of Stephanie Davis as the new principal.

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