By: Meg D.
Don’t get me wrong – I am beyond impressed with everything about LeBron James. He is a hero. The epitome of the American Dream. He raised himself out of poverty, overcame all odds, and became a generous and overall great human being. He has class. He is articulate. He has social awareness. And, the icing on the cake for me – he is helping to fund a school for at-risk youth in his home town. Or, is this the icing? As an educator for over a decade, I have mixed feelings about taking a group of high potential kids and separating them from the general population.
With all the controversy popping up on social media regarding this school, and hell, with the president even criticizing LeBron on a personal level, I started to think how altruistic gestures like this affect education. I teach at a school with a majority of low income students. There is currently a huge debate in our district with redrawing the school lines, which would send some more affluent students to my low-rated school.
Many parents are up in arms – I am sure you can guess which side of the line is most vocal. One side talks of the “physical danger” of sending their children to this supposedly “violent” school. The other side voices the argument that schools would be more integrated with this change, along with higher test scores at low-performing schools since, statistically, socioeconomics plays a role in success in school.
Many of the students who are zoned to go to my school leave – through magnet or private schools. This is essentially taking high-performing students away from our school – those who would raise the overall rating or cushion our numbers when we have low-performing testers. My school, an ESOL (English as Second Language) center, must legally include students’ standardized test scores – even if they do not speak English. Needless to say, they rarely pass. One solution to help eradicate this problem is to get rid of the ESOL center. By spreading out the low test scores to several schools, it will help raise scores at our school. Our ESOL staff has the training and knowledge of helping this demographic, both socially and educationally since these students need to be acclimated to both the language and the culture. This is one of many issues surrounding whether students should go to their zoned schools or have the choice to leave. It’s complicated.
So, what does this have to do with LeBron’s contribution to starting the “I-Promise” school? Are we not taking a single group of students, giving them a pedestal, and leaving the rest to struggle on their own already?
But, LeBron’s school is different than magnet schools in that low-performing students are given the extra opportunity. Maybe this could set a new standard – high quality public, non-charter school education, with an emphasis on having a future lined up after graduation. I-Promise is a novel idea, one that only someone with the character, compassion, and wallet the size of LeBron and his foundation would implement.
To those fueling the controversy – I hope they educate themselves that these federal dollars would be spent on these children at any school they attended. As for the president’s tweet – LeBron doesn’t need Don Lemon to make him look smart. The world knows LeBron can do that on his own. Now that is the real icing on the cake.