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LeBron James' I Promise School sees 'extraordinary' test score improvement after first year

Ninety percent of the students at LeBron James' I Promise School met or exceeded individual growth goals in recent district assessments, outpacing students across their Akron, Ohio, district and marking "extraordinary" test-score improvement from when the school opened in July 2018.

That's according to The New York Times' Erica L. Green, who reported Friday that the third- and fourth-graders at I Promise School "were, by many accounts, considered unredeemable" upon their arrival -- "identified as the worst performers in the Akron public schools and branded with behavioral problems." Now, with the inaugural 240 students finished with Measures of Academic Progress testing, the school is "helping close the achievement gap in Akron."

The 90 percent of I Promise students who met their goals exceeded the 70 percent of students districtwide, and scored in the 99th growth percentile of the evaluation association's school norms, which the district said showed that students' test scores increased at a higher rate than 99 out of 100 schools nationally.

As Keith Liechty, an Office of School Improvement coordinator within the Akron public schools system, told the Times, the I Promise students are not "out of the woods" and have a long way to go in comparison to non-urban education students. But Liechty also said "your percentile doesn't move that much unless something extraordinary is happening."

"These kids are doing an unbelievable job -- better than we all expected," James said. "When we first started, people knew I was opening a school for kids. Now people are going to really understand the lack of education they had before they came to our school. People are going to finally understand what goes on behind our doors."

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Opened to serve the at-risk youth of James' hometown, I Promise School is an accelerated program that will offer free tuition at the University of Akron to its graduates starting in 2021. It currently houses a free food pantry for students and their parents, and it's also hosted a number of celebrity visits -- by Justin Timberlake, Jessica Biel and James himself, among others.

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