Is it ok that Lebron’s school chooses not to serve the most at-risk children in Akron?

I don’t have strong emotional attachments to athletes, but as far as athletes go, I like Lebron James.

Lebron got thrown into the spotlight as such young age, has accomplished amazing athletic feats, and is committed to trying to make his hometown better.

The New York Times recently wrote a piece on Lebron’s new public school in Akron.

Much could be written on how and why the school was covered, but I’ll stick to one point that I felt has not been covered: Lebron’s school refuses to serve students in the bottom 10% of performance.

From the article:

I Promise students were among those identified by the district as performing in the 10th to 25th percentile on their second-grade assessments. They were then admitted through a lottery.

Clearly, serving students in the 10th-25th percentile is not easy.

But serving kids in the 0-10th percentile is much more difficult.

A common critique of charter schools is that they don’t reach the very hardest to serve students.

There has not been a similar outcry against Lebron’s school.

Can you imagine the NYT headline if top charters had a formal policy about not serving students in the bottom 10% of performance?


On the substance of the issue, I’m sympathetic to Lebron’s approach. Serving students in the 10th-25th percentile well is both very hard and very important.

Also, starting without the hardest to reach kids helps reduce the risks of creating a new school.

I’ve seen new charter schools nearly collapse because of 5-10 kids who have severe mental health afflictions.

Of course, it’s not scalable for every school in a city to not serve the lowest performing 10% of students. And I also worry about segregating these students into separate schools.

But I think a reasonable policy would be to allow schools to get their footing and reach a bit of scale before having to build programs for the hardest to reach students.


1 thought on “Is it ok that Lebron’s school chooses not to serve the most at-risk children in Akron?

  1. Alex Medler

    Once schools are known in the community as not serving particular groups of students, that reputation makes it difficult to change enrollment later. The students you start with in a new school signal to the community whom it is that your school is designed and willing to serve. If you are o.k. with this to start, in practice it means you are o.k. with it for a long time. I am not o.k. with it in either. This can happen for schools that start with few or no students with disabilities, for example. Earning a reputation of not serving students with the highest needs, implementing a strategy to avoid such students early, and a failure to create programs that meet there needs, are not good strategies for anyone who hopes, one day, to welcome and serve them well. “I’ll get to it later,” is a reasonable answer when I ask my kids to clean their room. It’s a bad way to design policies for new schools regarding their obligation to serve all students.


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