Despite the many challenges faced by a large urban school district, CPS is home to the two highest-performing schools in the state of Illinois.
The Illinois State Board of Education this week released its 2013 School Report Card, naming Walter Payton College Prep as the top ranked high school in the state. And for the second consecutive year, CPS’s Skinner North took home the prize for top-performing elementary school.
“Remarkable things occur when you combine the efforts of compelled and compelling students, an excellent faculty, and supportive parents,” said Payton principal Tim Devine, whose school is known not only for its rigorous curriculum, but for its laid-back atmosphere. “We give the students ample time and space to explore unique academic topics in a relaxed, creative environment, which allows them to hone their many skills.”
At Skinner North Classical School, Principal Ethan Netterstrom attributes his school’s success to inquisitive students, engaged, collaborative parents, and amazing teachers.
“I am so lucky to have an amazing staff that is so collaborative and works to meet students’ needs academically, socially and emotionally,” he said.
Many additional schools made significant gains in the ISBE rankings, with 19 CPS institutions among the state’s top 50 middle schools and 13 others landing within the top-tier elementary range. One such school was Coonley Elementary, which jumped from #388 to #102 in 2012 and from #102 to #21 in 2013.
“It’s not any one thing,” said Coonley principal Gregory Surawski when asked about his school’s success. “It’s a combination of our strong curriculum, an involved parent community, and a culture that encourages the development of our teachers, who are the change agents in our classrooms.”
Coonley believes in offering its students an eclectic array of experiences, the hope being that by the time they reach high school, they will have some knowledge of what they are interested in and where they excel.
“Our students study art, music, drama, Spanish and technology every week, and we have a robust after-school program with everything from Mandarin to robotics,” said Principal Surawski.
Despite their high rankings on the School Report Card, however, Surawski insists that this neighborhood school is more than just test scores.
“We’re proud of our scores and our kids, but we’re a lot more than test prep,” he said. “We believe in preparing students through the strength of our whole curriculum.”
Payton principal Tim Devine echoed that sentiment.
“We believe in a simple formula,” he said. “CQ + PQ – IQ. In other words, a student’s curiosity quotient and passion quotient are far more important than their intelligence quotient.”