2 city schools named to Top 100 list

  • By Paul D. Bowker
  • Education reporter
  • December 11, 2008 @ 12:00 PM

Two city public high schools are on a top 10 list of prep schools in the nation.

Northside College Prep High School, 5501 N. Kedzie Ave., and Walter Payton College Prep High School, 1034 N. Wells St., are ranked among the nation‘s top 100 high schools for the second consecutive year by U.S. News & World Report.

“What an amazing learning community,” says John Ceisel, chairman of the local school council at Northside Prep. “The teachers are outstanding. A number of them are Golden Apples (winners). We have faculty (members) that are at the top of their fields.”

Northside ranks No. 34 on the list, which is based on state standardized tests, advanced placement tests and International Baccalaureate tests.

Northside’s principal, Barry Rodgers, is one of the founders of the school.

Beyond the local school council, parents become involved through the Northside College Prep Parent Network, which hosts monthly meetings and other events.

Payton Prep also is a blue-ribbon winner in the No Child Left Behind competition, says Jim McVane, vice chair of Payton’s local school council and father of a sophomore attending Payton.

“We feel good about it,“ McVane says.

The Payton Prep experience extends to the local school council, McVane says, where the teacher representatives on the council are “proactive” about issues facing the school and communicate goings-on to parent and community representatives serving on the council.

Another parent group, Friends of Payton, raises funds for the school with a variety of events.

Academically, both schools are strong. At Northside, 98 percent of its students meet or exceed state standards, 96 percent score 20 or higher on the ACT, and 99 percent of its graduates attend college. At Payton, 95 percent meet or exceed state standards, 94 percent score 20 or higher on the ACT, and 94 percent of its graduates attend college.

“We are excited to see some of our schools recognized among the top schools in the nation,” says Arne Duncan, Chicago Public Schools chief.

Admissions to both schools include students passing an entrance examination, and the application deadline for the 2009-2010 school year is Dec. 19. Of the approximate 10,000 taking the entrance tests each year, about 2,500 gain admittance to one of the city‘s nine selective-enrollment schools.

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Paul Bowker, a Chicago-area journalist with 25 years of experience, covers Chicago Public Schools for the Daily News.