A Charter Lesson for The Seattle Schools: Huge Success by Lebron James?

James, having grown up in Akron, struggled as a student due to unstable conditions at home. His mother was unsuccessful in finding a permanent job, forcing the family to move multiple times.[ James was absent for 83 days in fourth grade, resulting in a substantial lack of education. James says  “I know these kids basically more than they know themselves. I’ve walked the same streets, I’ve rode the same bikes on the streets they ride on, I went through the same emotions, the good, the bad, the adversity. […] Everything they’re going through as kids I know and for me to be in a position where I have the resources, the finances, the people, the structure, and the city around me, why not?”,  READMORE

The Promise School (IPS),  a public elementary school aimed at at-risk Akron, Ohio, opened in 2018.  Funds from the Akron Public Schools are augmented by a contribution from Lebron  James.  Both Lebron and other programs in Akron collaborate to guarantee IPS student tuition to attend college!

The preliminary results for the starting class of 240 kids in grades three and four are outstanding.   

In reading, the 3rd and 4th graders had initially scored in the lowest percentile — the 1%. Now, the 3rd graders JUMPED to the 9th percentile and the 4th graders moved to the 16th! In math, the 3rd graders jumped from the 1% to the 18th percentile — and 4th graders moved from the 2% to the 30th!!!!

Some of this success is due to the adoption of a program like the individual progress program now abandoned by the Seattle Schools.  The idea of individual progress was pioneered by Hal and Nancy Robinson at the Univerisity of Washington as a way to encourage students to learn.  The reward offered by Hal and Nancy was the opportunity to learn more. .. a reward they believe all kids could use.  Unfortunately, the District took that idea, limited it to the top 1% and then after decades killed the very successful program by refusing to work with the parents to recruit more underserved kids.

IPS in Akron sounds very much like the ideas of the Dr.s Robinson at UW.  Every child in IPS learns in a different way. Kafui Amissah, father of a third-grader in IPS siad of his daugther, “She wants to learn and play at the same time. Here, they do that. She’s doing a lot better.” IPS uses this model to help all students succeed, especially the ones with learning differences or emotional baggage.

IPS school will be fully operational by 2022, eventually teaching grades one through eight.

Like all charters, IPS is a public school.  The Akron School District bears 75 percent of the costs,  out of the district’s regular budget, covered mostly by shifting students, teachers, and money from other schools, the district says.  Nonetheless, presumably for political reasons, IPS is not called a charter.

Part of the success so far is that James has focussed beyond the usual purview of a School District. The kids wear uniforms.  Lebron James’ story is woven throughout the fabric of IPS. A pair of his sneakers is on display.  The super star writes letters to the students.Ethnic pride is encouraged.  Teachers help the kids learn to learn how to regulate emotions, develop self-awareness and cooperate with others. The IPS has a garden and a mindfulness meeting to start every day.

IPS also reaches out to its community.  We Are Family” is the motto of IPS and students hear the song being played on the speaker system.  Remembering Lebron’s mother and her struggles, IPS Parents are helped to acquire GED’s and complete ESL classes.  There is even a shame-free resource room with a food pantry, clothing, and school supplies.  Services like childcare and access to a hair salon are offered.



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