A Naperville high school is one of just 292 public schools in America named a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School Thursday by the U.S. Department of Education.
Neuqua Valley joins eight public and seven private schools in Illinois to be recognized as an Exemplary High Performing School. Only three high schools in the state earned the distinction; the other two were Lemont High School and Central Catholic High School in Bloomington.
“National Blue Ribbon Schools are active demonstrations of preparing every child for a bright future,” U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said to the honorees in a video message released Thursday.
“You are visionaries, innovators and leaders. You have much to teach us: some of you personalize student learning, others engage parents and communities in the work and life of your local schools, and still others develop strong and forward-thinking leaders from among your teaching staff,” DeVos said.
To be considered for the honor, a school must rank among the top in the state for assessments and graduation rates. Subgroups in the school must rank high as well.
Principal Bob McBride said the achievement “crystallizes the efforts of everyone” involved. Among those deserving praise are the staff, who strive to help students achieve to their potential; students, who come to school excited about learning; and parents, who send their kids to school motivated, are concerned about what happens at school, and “are constantly cheering us on,” McBride said.
When preparing for the application, he said he asked teachers and staff brainstorm about all the programs and resources available to students.
“It was an incredibly long list of things we’re doing every day,” he said.
McBride’s comments were echoed by Indian Prairie School District 204 Superintendent Karen Sullivan. “This award represents the hard work of our students, the dedication of our staff, and the support of our parents,” Sullivan said in a statement.
Neuqua Valley is the first Indian Prairie high school and the sixth District 204 school to earn National Blue Ribbon recognition. May Watts Elementary, White Eagle Elementary, Fry Elementary, Crone Middle School and Gregory Middle School, all of which are in Naperville, have been recognized in the past.
Other Naperville schools previously honored by the education department include Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic School and Naperville District 203’s Highlands Elementary and Meadow Glen Elementary.
Since 1982, the U.S. Department of Education has bestowed the award on more than 8,500 public and private elementary, middle and high schools based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.
In the application, McBride wrote the school believes in fostering a climate that “encourages learning and personal growth. We value a commitment to excellence, active involvement and positive relationships between one another.”
“The people, not bricks and mortar, earned Neuqua Valley’s accomplishments. Our school’s founding staff members opened a high school committed to a humanistic approach and individual compassion. Putting students first has been and continues to be the core DNA of our school,” McBride wrote in the application.
Representatives from Neuqua Valley will join other honorees at a November awards ceremony at the Omni Shoreham in Washington, D.C.