I Promise School

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I Promise School
I Promise School.jpg
Former administration building of Akron Public Schools
400 West Market Street

(Akron Public Schools)

United States
Coordinates41°05′29″N 81°31′51″W / 41.0912517°N 81.53095659999997°W / 41.0912517; -81.53095659999997Coordinates: 41°05′29″N 81°31′51″W / 41.0912517°N 81.53095659999997°W / 41.0912517; -81.53095659999997
Motto"Nothing is given. Everything is earned."
PrincipalBrandi Davis
Grades1 – 8
Color(s)Black and white

I Promise School[2] (IPS) is a public elementary school in Akron, Ohio, opened in 2018, supported by the LeBron James Family Foundation, and specifically aimed at at-risk children.

Opening with students attending grades three and four, the school will be fully operational by 2022, eventually teaching grades one through eight.[1]

The school deploys a STEM-based curriculum. "The Family Resource Center" and the school's "family plan" are aimed at the students' families to ensure a stable learning experience at home. Deviating from traditional timetables, school days last from 8 to 5. Summer vacation is shortened significantly and shorter breaks are scattered throughout the year instead.[3]


In 2011, head of the foundation and professional basketball player LeBron James was researching the high school dropout rate of his hometown Akron and decided upon review to create the "I PROMISE" initiative, focused on supporting the youth in his childhood community.

In November 2017, the Foundation expressed to the Akron school board their desire to create a school that aims to assist disadvantaged children with their studies. The plans were approved later that month and subsequent development of the school was initiated.

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.[4] During this time, James was absent for 83 days in fourth grade, resulting in a substantial lack of education. His upbringing served as a motivation to provide future generations of children with similar backgrounds with special support and care.[5]

"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?", he stated in a video released on Twitter.[6] James considers the school's founding as the most important professional accomplishment of his life.[7] The LeBron James Family Foundation is funding additional services for the children and families attending IPS. Some of these services include uniforms, food for families, career placement services, bikes and helmets for each student, transportation for qualified individuals, and GEDs and job placement services for parents according to Akron School District spokesman Mark Williamson.[8]

Free tuition to the University of Akron for every graduating student is covered under the pre-existing Akron I Promise Network Scholarship, which was developed between the University of Akron, the LeBron James Family Foundation, and JPMorgan Chase in 2015.[9] To qualify, Akron public school students must graduate high school with a 3.0 grade point average.[10] Additionally, the University of Akron provides eligible Akron Public School graduates full tuition under the separate Innovation Generation Scholarship.[11][12] The Foundation has contributed an estimated $2 million in start up costs, though the number will change annually based on community needs.[13][14] Students are selected based on test scores and other metrics and criteria, then placed in a lottery system.

Before the opening of IPS, the I Promise program had been in Akron elementary schools for more than 10 years. There are 32 elementary schools in the Akron Public School system and kids from all those schools will now be in one location rather than spread across all of them.[15] Prior to 2018, the IPS building had housed students in the school system that were displaced by schools which were being rebuilt.

The Akron School District bears more than half of the costs - presumably around 75 percent - once it is fully running. I Promise will eventually cost about $8 million a year to run out of the district's regular budget, covered mostly by shifting students, teachers, and money from other schools, the district says.[16]

Student body[edit]

The school is divided into "I Promise Elementary" and "I Promise Secondary", respectively teaching students from grade one to four up to grade eight.[17] As of the first day of school on July 30, 2018, 240 students are attending grades three and four. The school is set to feature grades one and two by the following year and eventually all grades by 2022.[5][3] The school is housed in the former Akron Public Schools' administration building and remains part of the Akron School District. Teachers are still on the district's payroll and curriculum is developed according to public school requirements.


While the school has garnered overwhelming support for its general concept, certain aspects have been criticized. Annual costs of the school reportedly amount to $8 million, which are by some perceived to be a burden on taxpayers living in the comparatively low-income school district.[18] Parents who meet the criteria to enroll their children at the school but failed to do so due to the school's lottery system are especially frustrated at the tax increase.[19]

Its untraditional approach has led to confusion surrounding the actual type of school of I Promise School. Many observers have mistaken the school for a charter school, a type of school that has been widely criticized,[20][21][22][23] based on the school's unique programs, way of student selection, and extended year, all of which qualities that differ from the vast majority of public schools in the United States.[24]


  1. ^ a b Dator, James (July 30, 2018). "LeBron James opened a public school in Akron for at-risk kids". SBNation. Vox Media. Retrieved July 31, 2018.
  2. ^ "I Promise School profile at Akron Public Schools". Akron Public Schools. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Lindsay, Maria (July 26, 2018). "I PROMISE School focused on success for students, families". Akron.com. Leader Publications. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  4. ^ "LeBron James Biography". JockBio.com. Retrieved July 31, 2018.
  5. ^ a b Zillgitt, Jeff (July 30, 2018). "LeBron James opens new public school in Akron: 'One of the greatest moments' of his life". USA Today. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  6. ^ "UNINTERRUPTED on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  7. ^ Singer, Michael (November 30, 2017). "LeBron James: Opening school is my most important professional accomplishment". USA Today. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  8. ^ Lybrand, Holmes (August 9, 2018). "Fact Check: Is the 'Lion's Share' of the New LeBron Affiliated Public School Covered by the Taxpayer?". The Weekly Standard. Retrieved August 10, 2018.
  9. ^ "University of Akron's pledge to offer free ride to Akron students similar to one made three years ago". cleveland.com. Retrieved August 10, 2018.
  10. ^ "LeBron James' big gamble on a big idea for kids in Akron: Brent Larkin". cleveland.com. Retrieved August 10, 2018.
  11. ^ "University of Akron aims to offer free tuition to qualified graduates of Akron schools". cleveland.com. Retrieved August 10, 2018.
  12. ^ "Akron Public Schools' Innovation Generation Scholarship (IGS)". www.uakron.edu. Retrieved August 10, 2018.
  13. ^ "Fact Check: Is the 'Lion's Share' of the New LeBron Affiliated Public School Covered by the Taxpayer?". The Weekly Standard. August 9, 2018. Retrieved August 10, 2018.
  14. ^ "LeBron James' big gamble on a big idea for kids in Akron: Brent Larkin". cleveland.com. Retrieved August 10, 2018.
  15. ^ "LeBron James's Akron school won't cost taxpayers more money". @politifact. Retrieved August 10, 2018.
  16. ^ O' Donnell, Patrick (August 7, 2018). "Who's paying for LeBron James' new I Promise school? LeBron or Akron Public Schools?". Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  17. ^ "Official website of LeBron James Family Foundation". Retrieved July 31, 2018.
  18. ^ O'Donnell, Patrick (August 7, 2018). "Who's paying for LeBron James' new I Promise school? LeBron or Akron Public Schools?". Cleveland.com. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  19. ^ Dimon, Melissa (January 29, 2019). "Here's Everything LeBron James' 'I promise' School Will Offer". UniversityMagazine.ca. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  20. ^ Chen, Michelle (January 4, 2018). "Charter Schools Are Reshaping America's Education System for the Worse". The Nation. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  21. ^ Jason, Zachary (Winter 2017). "The Battle Over Charter Schools". Harvard.edu. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  22. ^ Greene, Peter (September 28, 2018). "The Promises Charter Schools Don't Make". Forbes. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  23. ^ Strauss, Valerie (May 20, 2014). "A dozen problems with charter schools". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  24. ^ McShane, Mike (August 6, 2018). "Three Questions About Lebron James' I Promise School". Forbes. Retrieved February 6, 2019.

External links[edit]