Cheers and huzzahs! Some wonderful schools are getting it right – and Intel is celebrating their success

Wow. OK, so Walter Payton Preparatory High School of Chicago, Illinois, is the new Star Innovator – the tip top, best-of-the-best and most innovative math or science school in the US, as announced by yours truly at this evening’s 2010 Intel Schools of Distinction Awards Gala. Cheers and huzzahs!!

This year we brought not only the six schools that won – one in each of the six categories (Elementary, Middle and High School in the subjects of Science and Mathematics) – here to Washington, DC, but the additional twelve finalist schools as well. These 18 wonderful schools came from all across the US. They include schools like Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology in Arlington, Virginia, that have set and exceeded a standard of excellence year after year that just blows my mind. But they also include schools that have turned themselves around from being the most dangerous school in New York – as was the case as recently as 2003 at MS 223, The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology in The Bronx – to being celebrated as one of tonight’s winners. Today, this school is an inspiration and a role model for schools all over the country – with test scores, achievements and student success that make your heart sing.

It is only too easy to point to the ways in which our schools in the US, our students, their teachers – and we, their families – are failing to rise to the challenge of the 21st century. We worry – rightly – that many of them are not ready to meet the demands for improved learning, especially in science and mathematics, the subjects at the essential heart of innovation and job creation.

Tonight, though, we got to step back and celebrate the schools, teachers, and school communities that are getting it right. The teachers and principal from Payton Prep showed up here with notebooks in hand. Novices at this competition, they were sure they would at best go home with lots of notes about the winning schools and how they might emulate them to return in future years with a shot at winning. It is exactly this humility, and this passion for learning from those who have something to teach them, that has made this school the tremendous success story that we celebrate.

Eighteen wonderful schools, six winners, and a Star Innovator that any of us would be thrilled to send our own children to: Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (Alexandria, Virginia); Roxbury Preparatory Charter School (Roxbury, Massachusetts); Westdale Heights Academic Magnet School (Baton Rouge, Louisiana); M.S. 223 The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology (Bronx, New York); West Elementary (Wamego, Kansas), and, of course, Walter Payton College Preparatory High School (Chicago Illinois).

I invite you to visit these schools at our website to watch the videos that tell their stories. I promise you will be inspired – with the work they are doing, and with the potential for other schools to learn from them. Help us to bring these terrific opportunities to schools in communities across the US – maybe in your own backyard?