Deerfield High earns third National Blue Ribbon

It is a confidence booster, most definitely.

On Sept. 16, United States Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona informed Deerfield High School that it was among 17 schools in Illinois and 297 nationwide to have earned a 2022 National Blue Ribbon School Award.

"It's a confidence booster. It is a way to acknowledge all of our students, our staff and our families that we're doing the right thing and that we can continue to support our students in all the ways that we know how," said Deerfield High School Principal Kathy Anderson.

Only two Illinois high schools earned the National Blue Ribbon in 2022, Deerfield joining St. Charles North. Deerfield also earned National Blue Ribbon School awards in 1993 and 2012.

Deerfield High earned the recognition as an Exemplary High Performing School, one of Illinois' top schools in terms of state assessments or "nationally normed tests," according to an announcement by Township High School District 113 Superintendent Bruce Law.

High-Performing schools own their state's highest graduation rates and the highest achieving students (the top 15%) in English and mathematics based on state assessments, according to the U.S. Department of Education program.

It said 421 schools may be nominated nationwide for the award program, which started in 1982.

The program also recognizes "Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing" schools, which are those that make the greatest improvements in closing achievement gaps in English and math over three to five years.

Three schools in Northbrook - Wood Oaks Junior High and Wescott and Westmoor elementary schools - also were named Exemplary High Performing Schools.

Test scores and graduation rates may weigh strongly into the Blue Ribbon program's considerations, but other aspects figure in.

Anderson, in her seventh year at Deerfield High School, said the program's application asks why a school may be deserving of recognition.

"They really want to hear that story, how we're excelling in all aspects of our school," said Anderson, who helped Lane Tech College Prep win a 2012 Blue Ribbon Award as an assistant principal there.

The principal was obliged to include information about Deerfield's Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) program, which has staff work with small groups of students to enhance academics, behavior and attendance; how it raises money for charity; how it "promotes student voice," she said, through leadership in the classroom and in extracurricular activities.

Anderson said last spring the Illinois State Board of Education had identified Deerfield High School as a top school, spurring her to complete the application for the Blue Ribbon program.

"Then we had to wait," she said. "It was really nice this fall to be notified that we had, in fact, achieved this."

To recognize the award, Anderson dedicated this week to "Blue Ribbon Celebration Week" at school. It included Blue Ribbon-themed desserts, music and popcorn in the school courtyard, "Staff vs. Students" games, and this Friday's homeroom celebrations.

Anderson and Nikki Lazzaretto, Deerfield High School dance instructor and co-director and choreographer of the Deerfield Dance Company, who in May received a 2022 Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching, will travel to Washington, D.C., to attend a ceremony and receive a National Blue Ribbon award.

The physical award is great. The message, Anderson said, is better.

"I think the greatest thing to us, is it really does help us with continuing our efforts, knowing that we're going in the right direction," she said.

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