Multiple selective enrollment schools in Chicago named among best in country by US News & World Report

CPS says they will continue to receive funding amidst debate over their future

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For parents, having a child enrolled at Walter Payton College Preparatory High School has always been a matter of pride.

“My two girls go here, it’s the best high school in Chicago,” parent Julie Chen told NBC Chicago as she dropped off one of her daughters at the River North campus.

According to U.S. News & World Report, Payton College Prep, part of Chicago Public Schools, is one of the best schools in the country, ranking fifth in the latest Survey.

“We are just over the moon with the new results,” Payton College Prep principal Fareeda Shabazz Anderson said.

“We have been working really hard on our school culture and celebrations and keeping everything focused on student achievement,” Anderson said.

Joining Payton at the top of the list of best high schools in Illinois was Northside College Prep, Whitney Young Magnet, Jones College Prep and Lane Tech, all of them selective enrollment or magnet schools.

Becky Vevea, the bureau chief of Chalkbeat Chicago, which reports extensively on education, said students walking through the doors at such schools are already high performers.

Vevea said they tend to come from better socioeconomic situations than many schools across the city.

In December, a school board appointed by Mayor Brandon Johnson put forward a five-year strategic plan that prioritizes neighborhood schools and changed school funding formulas.

While embraced by the Chicago Teachers Union, it was met with resistance from some parents and state legislators.

In a statement, a Chicago Public Schools spokesperson said in part, “selective enrollment and magnet schools will continue to receive the funding to support the robust and rigorous teaching and learning offerings that have led many of them to land among the state and national top school rankings.”

“This new budget model,” the spokesperson said, “will not disproportionately impact selective enrollment or any other type of school.”

“I think the idea is to bring up and help some of the other schools that have been struggling rather than diminish or disinvest from those selective schools,” Vevea said.

Lawmakers in Springfield last week passed legislation to blocking major changes at selective enrollment schools. They drafted the bill so that it coincides with the transition to a fully elected Chicago School Board, which will happen in 2027.

In the meantime, Payton remains proud of its students and 100% graduation rate.

“We have a really strong college going culture here at Payton,” Anderson said.

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