Walter Payton College Preparatory
Walter Payton College Preparatory High School focuses on mathematics, science and language instruction. This Chicago school has been recognized for its in-depth curriculum, rigorous standards and commitment to comprehensive education many times. U.S. News & World Report named it one of the top 100 high schools in 2010. The school also received a Blue Ribbon award from the U.S. Department of Education. At a time when college degrees have become increasingly important, Payton graduates 98 percent of its students, and 95 percent of these students graduate from college.
Payton is housed in a state-of-the-art facility that includes smart desks, a planetarium and a video conference lab. The school believes in exposing students to a global perspective; as a part of this emphasis on international and language studies, students can study abroad. But first they must take a semester-long seminar on the culture, politics and history of the country they will visit. Additionally, students make use of Payton’s cutting-edge distance learning lab to converse with native speakers of their target language and “virtually” meet the students they will soon meet face-to-face. In fact, the school’s use of technology to prepare students for international travel has become a model for the Chicago school district; in 2008, Payton received funds to help other schools implement international studies programs. In 2006, it received a Goldman Sachs Foundation Prize for Excellence in International Education.
Payton also excels in science and mathematics instruction, for which it received the Intel Schools of Distinction "Star Innovator" award for 2010. The mathematics assessment Payton developed for incoming freshmen is used as a model districtwide. Students are exposed to advanced mathematics topics through teachers who practice the pedagogy of Japanese mathematics instruction. In June 2010, Paul Karafiol, chair of the mathematics department and coach of the math team, was one of 103 mathematics and science teachers to receive the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching from the White House. Payton also offers tutoring, summer courses and student mentoring for those who need extra support. For students who need additional challenges, the school offers even more courses through its partnerships with research laboratories, including Northwestern University, the University of Chicago and the National Institutes of Health.
Payton integrates English, mathematics, science and social studies instruction with the arts by having students apply lessons learned in core subjects to visual arts classes. In addition, each student learns photography, video techniques, and how to use design and presentation software. Among Payton’s artistic honors: The school choir traveled to Beijing in 2008 to perform in the Olympic Games ceremonies. Payton’s motto is “We nurture leaders.” By all accounts, the school certainly seems to be doing just that.
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