By Michael Mazurkiewicz
Payton has always been recognized for its outstanding achievement. It is consistently ranked as one of the top schools in the city, state, and nation. While these honors come due to the school’s habitually high test scores, it is seldom seen where Payton is presented with an honor for its outstanding quality as a school that nurtures and develops leaders within and outside its walls. That is, however, until Payton was awarded the National Blue Ribbon Award.
The National Blue Ribbon Award is presented to schools that either progress towards closing achievement gaps between student subgroups or for a school’s overall academic excellence. Payton was given this award for the latter category, being recognized as an “Exemplary High Performing School.”
But why does this award even matter? Everyone in the Chicagoland area knows that Payton is a top high school where many talented city kids want to go. One important detail is that Payton never applied for the award itself. Instead, the school was recognized and nominated by the Illinois State Board of Education. Another significance comes in the prestigious nature of the award. In an email sent to many involved in the Payton community, Principal Devine states, “Today, the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, announced that Payton has earned the National Blue Ribbon Award…one of only 48 high schools in the United States (out of 27,789 high schools) and the only public high school in Illinois to receive the Award.”
That means that far less that one percent of high schools in the entire United States were recipients of the award this year, and Payton made the cut. Not only has the school won this prominent award this year, but had also been awarded it in 2008, an extremely rare feat for any school to receive the Blue Ribbon Award twice. This recognition is just another example of why Payton stands out from the standard high school.
In its 15 years of existence, Payton has quickly risen to the top of education standards on many levels. The school’s receiving of this award for the second time proves that it is an institution prepared to do whatever it takes to provide the best education and environment possible for its students.
Now, while everyone waits to see if Payton will win this award for a third time, students and faculty are able to bask in their accomplishment and continue to spread the traits most commonly associated with the school that no doubt played a role – courage, compassion, character, and curiosity.