Want a model for Ohio? Look at LeBron James’ ‘I Promise’ school

LeBron James finishes a news conference in a classroom at the I Promise School in Akron, Ohio, on Monday, July 30, 2018. LeBron James partnered with the University of Akron to guarantee all of his school's students college scholarships. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

A legislative task force that examined perhaps the most systemic problem in education, the poverty achievement gap, has unveiled a list of recommendations, some of which would require lawmakers to pony up serious money.

Examining ways that schools can provide or expand wraparound health and social services to low-income students, expand quality early childhood education, and ensure access to career-technical education for all students are among the recommendations released Tuesday by the Speaker’s Task Force on Education and Poverty.

Student achievement results in Ohio consistently show that low-income students, and districts with higher poverty concentrations, fare noticeably worse.

“The information compiled, as a result of the work of the task force, will give the legislature a greater understanding of the effects that growing up in poverty has on student achievement,” said Rep. Bob Cupp, R-Lima, who headed the group.

“Going forward, these insights will be helpful as policy-makers work on effective ways to lift the academic achievements of all students, and thereby help provide a pathway out of poverty and toward economic and personal success.”

Có thể là hình ảnh về 17 người, đám đông và văn bản

But implementing the recommendations won’t be easy. Early childhood education aimed at getting kids ready to enter kindergarten, and more wraparound services to help them once they get into a school district, can easily run into the hundreds of millions of dollars annually. And that doesn’t account for any typical state funding increases needed for day-to-day school operations.

“The achievement gap is one of our top, most pressing societal problems,” said Howard Fleeter, top analyst for the Ohio Education Policy Institute. “I just hope they are going to commit the resources necessary to actually implement the recommendations.”

Fleeter said LeBron James’ new school in Akron is a good example of the kind of things Ohio needs to be doing to narrow the achievement gap. If that school isn’t successful, he said, then it’s really time to worry.

“We know enough to start moving on some of those issues,” he said, adding that it’s a good thing anytime lawmakers are putting a spotlight on the achievement gap issue.

Cupp also has been working on an informal group with superintendents, treasurers and Rep. John Patterson, D-Jefferson, in an effort to develop a new state funding formula that will seek to define what it costs to educate a child, and develop a fairer and more logical way to distribute that money.

Other task force recommendations include:

• Work with the healthcare field to create policies that maintain positive school climates and needed student supports.

• Encourage schools to use creative tools for behavior management.

• Hold districts accountable for recruiting and developing teachers who understand issues associated with poverty.

• Study state-supported interventions that show evidence of success in closing achievement gaps.

Shannon Jones, executive director of Groundwork Ohio, which advocates for quality early learning, said she is glad lawmakers took a hard look at the impact of poverty on education.

“Gaps between economically disadvantaged kids and advantaged kids emerge early, long before they enter kindergarten, and persist through their lives,” she said. “We hope that the General Assembly is ready to invest in the proven early interventions that make a dramatic difference in child outcomes before those gaps take hold…”

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