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LeBron James’ STEM-Based School Is Showing Promise

Last year, NBA superstar LeBron James opened an experimental school that focuses on teaching a STEM curriculum to students who have a higher probability of failing academically or dropping out of school. The New York Times is now reporting that “the inaugural classes of third and fourth graders at [the I PROMISE School] posted extraordinary results in their first set of district assessments. Ninety percent met or exceeded individual growth goals in reading and math (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source), outpacing their peers across the district.” From the report: The students’ scores reflect their performance on the Measures of Academic Progress assessment, a nationally recognized test administered by NWEA, an evaluation association. In reading, where both classes had scored in the lowest, or first, percentile, third graders moved to the ninth percentile, and fourth graders to the 16th. In math, third graders jumped from the lowest percentile to the 18th, while fourth graders moved from the second percentile to the 30th.

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. The students have a long way to go to even join the middle of the pack. And time will tell whether the gains are sustainable and how they stack up against rigorous state standardized tests at the end of the year. To some extent, the excitement surrounding the students’ progress illustrates a somber reality in urban education, where big hopes hinge on small victories.


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