Program Success August 2018 - Page 3

LeBron’s ‘I Promise School’ Offers a Few Important Lessons in Education Reform Last week, President Trump scoffed—albeit passive aggressively—at basketball icon LeBron James’ intelligence in a tweet, stating, “Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon,” Mr. Trump wrote, “He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!” But it looks like LeBron is the one taking Trump to school. In the same week, LeBron announced the opening of his I Promise School. It is open to 240 low-income, at-risk third- and fourth-grade students in his hometown of Akron, in northeast Ohio. Each year, the school will add grades, expanding to first through eighth grades by 2022. Outstream Video I Promise is a public-private partnership between the Akron School District and the LeBron James Family Foundation, a unique model that exemplifies LeBron’s exceptional abilities to see the bigger picture in the role education plays in community development. The new school is open for more days than the traditional school year, provides parents with job placement services, has a food bank on site, gives each kid a free bicycle and helmet, guarantees college tuition for every student who graduates and offers social and emotional support and other wrap-around services, something researchers and practitioners recognize as important. The school accounts for and addresses the structural discrimination that has long hurt black families - and black school districts. In a way, by connecting social assistances to the school, I Promise is providing wraparound services for the entire district. Amplifying the school’s offerings so far beyond the curriculum certainly isn’t conventional, but LeBron is deliberately stepping out-of-bounds, and kudos to him for that. “Everything these kids are going through - the drugs, the violence, the guns, everything they’re going through as kids, I know,” said LeBron, the son of a single parent, during his remarks at the school opening. “For me to be in the position where I have the resources, the finance, the people, the structure and the city around me - why not?” Andre Perry Dr. Andre Perry, a contributing writer, is a David M. Rubenstein Fellow at The Brookings Institution. His research focuses on race and structural inequality, community engagement and education. Program Success 3 August 2018