We’re happy and a little amazed to welcome a superstar to the world of integrated student support: LeBron James.
This summer, James, the world-famous National Basketball Association player, launched the I Promise School in Akron, Ohio. It’s a collaboration between the LeBron James Family Foundation and the Akron Public Schools.
A key component of the school is providing students with services to mitigate the effects of poverty.
As an EdSurge article explains, “Social media lit up praising the litany of services the school will offer to students and families alike: among them, free uniforms, bicycles and helmets, transportation, breakfast, lunch and snacks… It will also serve families with supports like a food pantry and GED programs and job placement service for parents.”
The school is starting with 240 at-risk third- and fourth-graders and will grow over time.
One important focus is building strong relationships.
“I think that’s what kids ultimately want, they just want to feel like someone cares about them,” James says.
Will this approach work?
EdSurge points to evidence-based results and to City Connects:
“National data showing improved test scores and graduation rates has begun to emerge supporting the wisdom of models like I Promise. By executing targeted poverty relief in tandem with academics, integrated supports can drive breakthrough results that siloed systems can’t. For example, one of the most promising providers, a program called City Connects, has posted improved test scores and down the line students graduate at nearly double the rate of comparison peers.”
Just as City Connects relies on coordinators to forge strong relationships with students and families and connect them to school-based and community services, the I Promise school will develop similar connections. As EdSurge notes:
“Truly integrated student supports, in other words, hinge on facilitators actually knowing each student and his family. They are engaging in and brokering the same authentic relationships and resources that LeBron James is passionate about delivering to Akron’s students.”
“I think the missing link in public education is that family wraparound support,” Brandi Davis, the school’s principal, said in an article on the sports website SBNation. “Because our students come to school and they’re worried about things at home,” she adds, “We want to create that safe, that secure and that caring and loving environment for our families and our students so that our kids can focus on education.”
The I Promise School is also providing support for teachers. According to the Los Angeles Times:
“To truly provide emotional and psychological services for at-risk children and their families requires well-trained and supported teachers. The I Promise School gives teachers access to psychological services. Every Wednesday afternoon will be reserved for career development. James even hired a personal trainer to work with teachers who want a guided workout.”
One more thing that the I Promise School and City Connects have in common is our mutual desire to help more children. City Connects continues to expand into new schools in new states. And Michele Campbell, the executive director of the LeBron James Family Foundation, has a similar goal.
“Let’s allow this to be a hub of learning for the rest of the country,” Campbell tells the Akron Beacon Journal. “Once things are settled, our goal is to bring other urban districts in… and help them create the same model.”
Bringing integrated student support to scale, so that every child in every school gets the right services at the right time, could revolutionize education and spark unprecedented success for the nation’s students.